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South Korean Designer Soojin Lee’s Posters Mix Irony + “Look at Me!”  

And more often than not, they’re created straight into Illustrator

“A former baby, current graphic designer, future skeleton, and a distant future pile of dust” is how Soojin Lee describes herself (on Instagram, at least.) Clearly, this is a girl with a sense of humor. Lee is currently based in South Korea, having moved back to her birthplace after graduating from CalArts in 2016. Today, she works freelance on a mixture of print, UX/UI, and digital marketing projects for various clients, many of which are based back in L.A., with a few in Japan for good measure. “It’s pretty good being freelance, you can work for yourself with no stress from other people,” she muses. “But I do miss the feedback from co-workers. Sometimes I just want someone to ask, ‘Does this look ok?’”

Before settling into freelance life, Lee was an intern at Disney, mostly working on infographic designs and presentations and, despite not previously being one of those Disney-nut types with a Monsters, Inc. backpack, found herself loving it. “It was amazing!” she says. “I still miss my life at Disney. It was different to what I’d done in the school, but I learned a lot about how to design with detail and follow guidelines. Working for a big corporation was very different to my first internship, which was more like a creative agency.”

We’re going to leave the discussions about her former babydom and future dust for another time, and present a wee selection of her brilliant graphic design projects here.

Throat Singing from the Mongolian Steppe poster for the Wulf

“A lot of the posters on my website, like this one, are for the Wulf club in L.A. One of my friends who worked there asked me about designing a poster. They gave me the description of the show and who’s going to be there, but that’s pretty much it. I had no idea how to start or what to do, but at the same time I had more freedom in designing it. I was trying to convey the theme or vibe of the show from the description. I didn’t want to go down a traditional Mongolian-themed route, so I used a lot of posters and stickers together. I hadn’t expected this poster’s imagery would be those photographs of old guys smiling; so I was trying to make them fit in with a sort of retro style.

Throat Singing from the Mongolian Steppe poster for the Wulf, Soojin Lee

“I’m the sort of person who starts a project by making a Pinterest board and drawing together things I’ve seen online or on Instagram. You always see certain trends emerging: loud colors or scribbled lines. I like absorbing those trends and mingling them with my own loud style, which is playful, with strong typography.

“I jumped straight into the design by opening Illustrator and making a bunch of designs. Once I found the first draft I liked, I started working on it more.”


Koreatown Run Club poster

“This wasn’t an official poster. I once saw the Koreatown Run Club poster and liked it, so I made my own. They have a really good aesthetic in general; it’s a powerful, sporty style but not an old style run club thing—it’s more trendy and new. I was following that aesthetic and made it my own and luckily they found it on Instagram and liked it. Blackletter style fonts have been coming back for a while, and the modern take is to combine that with other sans serif or serif typefaces together.

“Generally I like to use black, red—all those strong colors—and white together. I like it when everything says, ‘Oh, I’m here! Look at me!’”

Koreatown Run Club poster, Soojin Lee

Jaap Blonk Represents Yappiscope for the Wulf

“Sometimes I just start designing without any thinking. I try to use Google fonts for a lot of these posters; some of the fonts I use are Mabry, Americana BT, ITC Clearface, and Work Sans. What’s nice about designing for Wulf is that they don’t have any guidelines to follow, so I have more creative freedom than I usually do as a freelance designer. I’m often working more on digital marketing stuff, but with this I can do pretty much whatever I want. I can try out an aesthetic I’ve wanted to try, and I have freedom to design more on the creative side.

“Having no guidelines helps to work more freely, but at the same time I worry about whether the posters turn out to have a totally different aesthetic than the show. What if the show is very experimental and my design is too simple? Of course, I listen to the music first, and look at the other artwork that the [musical] artists have used before.”

Jaap Blonk Represents Yappiscope, for Wulf, by Soojin Lee

Personal project

“This whole project is about the reinterpretation of symbols or store stickers or everyday advertisements that you can see on the street or on buildings. Those sort of commercials are often so over-exaggerated; I wanted to view them with a kind of sarcastic, anti-capitalist humor, and play on all the weird tricks they use, like when I put “randomly accepted” insurance.

“This is part of a personal, self-initiated project. These sorts of things are so important to keep on track as a graphic designer after you finish school. At school, I learned how to be a creative graphic designer; after starting work, I sometimes feel like I forgot how to be my own graphic designer. These sort of projects help keep me motivated and get creative.”

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