In Conversation: Yoon Mingoo

Yoon Min Goo is a graphic and typeface designer who dabbles on the playful side of Hangul with a style ranging from fun and whimsical to refined sophistication. With a major in communication design at Konkuk University and having worked as a graphic designer at Studio Nontoxic, he turned his talents into webfonts like Bareun Geulggol and other typefaces such as Young-Hunminjeongeum, Ganal-buri, Yoonseul and received the “Great Memorial of King Sejong Society” award at Korean Typeface Design Exhibition Contest. His main interest is the modern dinosaurology, the universe, hangeul(korean alphabet) and typography. Read on below to find out what keeps the designer motivated.

Tell us about yourself.
I am a graphic designer based in Seoul, Korea who loves typography and dinosaurs. I am a member of the Korean Society of Typography. My current job is to do research and develop type in Korean typography at Ahn Graphics Korean Typeface Development Department. I also participate for the 1717171, a space for the cultural community.



Can you explain about the dinosaur or an episode about it? Do you have a favorite dinosaur?
It started out since I was a kid as an obsession. I started collecting dinosaurs. Even after I grew up the obsession went away but the habit of collecting did not go away. My favorite is the T-Rex and some of the dinosaurs I collected sit next to me at work.

If there is one thing you must know when designing  a Korean typeface what are the stuff you must know?
First of all, the amount of knowledge in Korean is important. Personally, I am very sensitive about the grammar and spelling check since those elements are very tricky when it comes to Korean.

You have a mix of different Hangul treatments that you’ve done like hand-lettering, just strictly typographic work, more illustrative type, experimental type. Is there one that you found was more fun to work with and why?
I enjoy drawing when I work. Traditionally you would draw first then transfer the image digitally then manipulate or add touch ups with the computer but, I draw my own typefaces on the computer directly skipping the analog steps. I enjoy designing the letters needed for a project but also creating a whole set of a typeface family.


Tell us about your experience at Ahn Graphics so far. Is it different from other places?
It would be easier to introduce you to my department at Ahn Graphics. Ahn Graphics consists of four business departments: Design team, Publication team, Media team, and the Digital team. The Typeface Research Department that I am part of is within the Design Business Team. Our team consists of five members including designer Ahn Sang-soo as the head chief and four designers who design and research. We usually work on updating designs that were developed by designer Ahn and also designing typefaces such as the Arita Type Family. Due to the size of our department we focus more on research projects more than typeface developments.

Do you have any fun episodes you’d like to share?
I’d like to share a story of the type of work I feel the most enjoyable rather than an episode. This type of work is to collaborate with other designers and artists. When I work alone I have control from start to finish of the outcomes of my work and it is easier to do. On the other hand, when I collaborate with another artist, the project tends to lead into unexpected directions. For example, in 2014 I collaborated with illustrator and designer OYE studio to create a New Year’s Greetings card that resulted in the below image.


In some of your pieces you mix English and Hangul. How do you find the balance between combining an English font and a Hangul font together? Since the weights are always a little bit different between two fonts it’s difficult to make them work sometimes.
Some say that Neu-Sin-Myeong-Jo and Garamond is the standard combination and I believe that there is a standard to everything. Back when I was in school, I used to think Roman characters and Korean characters should couple together seamlessly and follow a certain standard but my thoughts have changed on this. Before, I used to be more attracted to subtle and sophisticated typefaces but now I love to try new and fun typefaces even if the look of the two languages don’t necessarily meld well together. As long as it goes well with the content.

What do you think is trending among young designers in Korea?
I think a lot of the young and new studios create their own letterings. All they need to do is create the words that they need for their content so it is easier to create. Overall a lot of the designs feel free and stylized.

If you have a favorite designer/design studio or a design style you follow what would that be?
My favorite designer is Ryu, Yang-hee. You can see her own personality and style through the typefaces that she designs. Even from the recently designed Arita-Buri. This is what I idolize as how a designer should be. I believe that when someone views my work they can tell that it was designed by me. 

I see you participated in the S&C Found in Translation exhibition, how does the increasing popularity in Hangul typography make you feel?
I feel honored to participate in such event. As a young designer thinking about my work being exposed to New Yorkers in the middle of Manhattan with twenty fellow Korean designers is a very exciting experience for me.

How do you feel about the interest in Korean Typography and Korean graphic design from abroad? Do you think you see cultural differences from a native Korean designer and a Gyopo Korean designer in their work?
Korean may be a new and refreshing subject matter to foreigners. On the other hand perhaps Arabian Characters may be new and refreshing to Korean designers. I see the reactions as the same thing. I don’t personally propose that Korean is the most beautiful language in the world and that it is the best among all the other languages. I am more attracted to designing in Korean because of it’s familiarity. I also think we can use more well designed Korean typeface as we already have an abundant amount of Roman Typefaces compared to Korean typefaces.


Do you have a plan for the near future?
I would like to study abroad in Europe to obtain my master’s degree. The reason why I chose the Western continent is because I want to study and discover the possibilities of typeface designs and encounter a variety of design elements through other languages.

Are there any comments or suggestions you would like to give to young designers or students?
The modern day we live in offers many possibilities to expose your work with growing numbers of portfolio websites and social media. So I would suggest to young designers and students to start posting their work instead of piling them in the corner collecting dust. I think this is an easy way to get your name out. However, due to the easy access a big number of people are doing the same. So I believe designers and students should work harder to find their own style in order to stand out.