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Time, Illusion + Politics: the Research-driven posters of Ted Hyunhak Yoon

For graphic designer Ted Hyunhak Yoon, research is as integral to his process as form-making. Hailing from Seoul, South Korea, Yoon recently graduated from London’s Royal College of Art with a Masters in Visual Communication, where his thesis analyzed the historical statues of dictators from current and former socialist countries like China, North Korea, and the Soviet Union. By cataloging the similarities between each statue’s visual components (the gesture of a hand, the tilt of a head) Yoon’s posters and publications explore the nature of propaganda and how art, design, and symbolism are used for political control.

He’s currently expanding on this project during his residency at Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, Netherlands, while also creating work for cultural clients locally and abroad. Though his taxonomic poster of propaganda monuments garnered plenty of online attention, the bulk of Yoon’s portfolio is far more enigmatic, relying instead on abstraction and custom typography to drive the narrative of each composition. We spoke with Yoon about some of his recent poster designs, primarily those commissioned by contemporary art gallery Interaction Seoul.

Time Lapse Time

Interaction Seoul, 2017

Yoon explains that his recent work avoids any direct imagery associated with the event he’s promoting, opting instead to re-interpret the theme of the show through the letterforms he creates. In the exhibition titled Time Lapse Time, Yoon evokes artist Jiyen Lee’s use of light and long exposure photography by mirroring the typeface to create a sense of, “folded space, like an eternal moment that the artist was attempting to capture in her work.”

The Shadow of Mirage

Interaction Seoul, 2017

The Shadow of Mirage was a group show last spring that connected artists with the theme of “illusion.” Much of the meaning behind the work drew inspiration from zen buddhism, and the nature of reality; Yoon explains that he wanted to express those elements through a graphic designer’s visual language. He cleverly reveals hidden vector shapes and Bézier curves by making their selected outlines the focal point of the composition.

Yoon says, “The artists’ work centered around revealing things that can’t be seen. I wanted to approach this idea through the lens of a designer, exposing the parts of our design process that no one ever sees based on the tools we use everyday like Photoshop and Illustrator.”

Make a Pinky Wish!

Interaction Seoul, 2017

For Jeongbin Seo’s solo exhibition Make a Pinky Wish!, Yoon applied the artist’s playful blend of whimsy and eroticism to create a custom typeface for the graphic identity of the event. Fleshy, bulging letterforms reflect the artist’s suggestive foam sculptures as well as the cluster of soft pink bean bag chairs that patrons could view the work from in the center of the gallery space. “The show is overtly sexual, but in a relaxed and friendly way. I tried to capture that in the typography,” he says.

Abnormalising the Normal, Normalising the Abnormal

Royal College of Art, 2016

Abnormalising the Normal, Normalising the Abnormal is a speculative poster series Yoon began developing while in graduate school, and it’s based on the South Korean government’s decision to rewrite or “re-nationalize” the country’s history books for future students. Yoon says, “The notion ‘re-nationalization of history’ means that under government supervision, a new history textbook will be drafted and Korean secondary schools will receive uniform, biased history education.” For the poster, he re-contextualized a typeface used during a 1970s festival celebrating the country’s dictator to draw parallels between South Korea’s authoritarian past and today’s rewriting of history.

3 Drifts

Asakusa Gallery, Tokyo 2017

Yoon’s most recent work was for an art exhibition in Tokyo that explores the virtual space within classic and modern video games. Drawing inspiration from the 1988 film Akira, traditional manga layouts, as well as the “blue screen of death,” Yoon structured the layered typography as the focus of the composition, keeping the poster’s aesthetic from becoming too referential or retro. 

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