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Bu-Yong Hwang

There are flowers that bloom in the spring,
in the summer, and in the fall. Occasionally, we have
flowers that bloom in the winter, too.

Interview = Eun-Mi Jung/ graphic designer
: Instructor at Kyoung-Hee University.

Jung = I believe you created an important chapter in the history of Korean modern graphic design.

Hwang = It is very flattering for you to say that I created a chapter in the history of Korean modern graphic design. It has been forty years since modern Western design arrived here in the 1960's. However, many Korean designers who received recognition in the field have done nothing more than imitation in a strict sense, which is why Korean graphic design is not well respected by the rest of the world. It is also frustrating to see the insignificance of the entrance of the new generation to the field. Even though they have earned a satisfying income and established social status with their work, it cannot be considered anything more than having graphic design as a job that brings in a paycheck. As one of the early leaders in Korean graphic design, along with them, I am very frustrated that this trend of imitation still continues. Modern Korean industrial design had barely started in the 1960's, when it reached its peak in western countries, which means we were behind about 80 years even from the start. There were many difficulties in overcoming inherent problems with international competition, and it will not be easy in the future, either.

Jung = Currently, I am studying pictograms and working as a freelance graphic designer. I also teach visual design at Kyung-Hee University. I understand that you have created "Graphis", a cyber academy web site, apart from your portfolio on your homepage, for younger designers. It is frustrating to see that some of the valuable documents that you have put up on the site are being reproduced with no reference to the source by some disrespectful and insolent

Hwang = I am glad to hear that cyber academy "Graphis" is helpful to the younger designers. I would like to spend the rest of my life sharing my knowledge and experience, though it is insignificant, rather than with an ambition to accomplish something for myself. In response to your comment about reproduction of the documents, I am open to the idea of making a link to the document, or introducing a small part of the work with the reference to the source. However, in the case that an entire course is reproduced, I believe it is necessary to have a written contract that states clearly what the terms of agreement are for both parties. All those documents are a product of a great deal of work over a long period of time. It requires a set procedure and much time, effort, and money. However, as you know, the infringement of copyright is prosecuted only when the plaintiff files a charge. In the cases that you mentioned, although it is true that it is disrespectful to use the work without crediting the source, it does not seem that there is any business motivation or intention to hurt me. Hwang Lee, who is regarded as the teacher of our nation, built Temple Han-suh, Gye-sang academy, and Do-san academy, after he turned 50. He focused on studying and writing books on metaphysics while he was teaching students who were gathering around him for the love for his virtue. Although the king kept appointing him as a high-ranking official, he refused. Even when he accepted out of obligation to the king, he would resign soon after, and return home. The reason behind this is not only due to his poor health, but also because he had no desire for political position, but only for the pursuit of knowledge. His important books were written after he turned 50. He started Do-san academy and devoted himself to his studies and taught new generations at the age of 60. His devotion continued until the month he passed away. It is a different time now. Also, it is not possible, due to the nature of the field of graphic design, to go into nature and devote oneself to meditation and writing books, while at the same time raising and teaching a new generation. However, it was out of my intention to emulate the one I admire that I started the cyber lecture hall three years ago when I turned 50. Even though I cannot see the faces and hear the voices of the people who enter the site, I hear that people from many different backgrounds, both designers and non-designers, as well as people from different places and from overseas come to the site.

Jung = When I think of you, the first thing that I remember is your pictograms for the Asian Games in 1986 and the Seoul Olympics in 1988, which are considered as your masterpieces. How did you enter the field of pictogram design?

Hwang = I understand that there were many designs during that time for the Asian Games in 1986 and the Olympics in 1988, including emblems, mascots, posters, signs, and so on by many renowned designers in the country, but the only work that is still being highly regarded internationally is the pictogram that I developed. I am very pleased with the work. At that time, Korean graphic design was heavily influenced by Japanese trends. As a result, most work was focused on glamorous output, such as emblems, mascots, posters, signs or environment design. The pictogram was developed by the design office of the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee, where I was the director at the time. I have a funny anecdote. Mr. Otl Aicher had bought the copyright of the Olympic pictogram of 1976 that he designed for the Montreal Olympic Organizing Committee. He had held on to the copyright and requested that the SLOOC repurchase the copyright from him. In 1985, there was a presentation of the pictogram for 1986 Asian Games, but the Montreal Olympic Organizing Committee disputed that the design was very similar. This is the reason why we decided to re-develop the pictogram from scratch. The result was that we took a fundamentally new approach to the sports pictogram development. Instead of changing some of the decorations on the movement positions of a sport, we created positions and captured a new pose.

Jung = What is your most recent project that you are focusing on?

Hwang = Most people will name A. M. Cassandre as the most respected graphic designer in the 20th century. In the 1920's, he created a simple and lucid poster that combined three-dimensional geometrical order and Art Nouveau's decorative style. He had the most influence in the field of graphic design in the 20th century as he was considered a genius. All he left was about thirty or so posters, but his works will live as a great inheritance to the world, and be used as the bible in the field of graphic design for their techniques and concepts. Cassandre was born in Ukraine, moved to Paris in 1915 and lived in New York for two years starting in 1936. He worked on paintings and stage art in his later years and died at the age of 67. Jean Michel Folon was born in Brussels, Belgium in 1934, but lived in Paris from 1960. He is famous for sketches that portray the irrationality of humans who are facing death. In his younger years, he did various works that are related to graphic design such as advertising, publishing, movies, display and environment design. Since the 1980's until recently, he has been working in the field of human rights, and he has been working on sculpture since then. The reason I brought up these two people is because for the past three years I have been working on three-dimensional model development for graphical exterior design that reflects human emotions. Those who are interested in the change of the trend in my work will be curious about it since it has not been presented.

Jung = I understand that your style in design is a conceptual design style that was developed in Germany in the 1960's. Do you still use that style? Also, I would like to ask who was the most influential designer or figure in your life?

Hwang = That is true. I enrolled in college in 1969. At that time, the trend that was becoming established among the graphic designers in Poland, the U.S., Germany, Cuba and Japan was creating a conceptual image, and that trend fascinated me. I was influenced by designers such as A. M. Cassandre, Jean Michel Folon, Jan Renica, and some other German designers, including Gunther Kieser, Gunter Rambow and Otl Aicher. My three-dimensional modeling projects for graphical exterior design are also an extension of my conceptual design research.

Jung = It is intriguing that you once said "graphic design is the literature modeling". Would you elaborate on the meaning of your comment?

Hwang = The graphic design that I have studied for the past thirty years of my life is visual communication design that utilizes symbols, signs, and color. That application is very diverse as it can be used for books, newspapers, magazines, posters, branding, and advertising as well as for television or movie titles, and website editing. The first means that humans developed for communication was sound. Sound became language, and over a long period of time, humans developed alphabets that would record words. During this evolution, humans started to draw on surfaces, and these drawings started to have graphical forms such as signs, symbols, pictures and words. The invention of alphabets brought humans the glory of civilization and enabled them to maintain ideas, knowledge, and experience. The history of graphic design starts with the evolvement of civilization. Even in this day and age of electronics, where computers and the Internet dominate the world, typography, which is the technique of handling characters, is the most important basis for graphic design. The first person to use the term "graphic design" was William Eddison Dwiggins, who was a publications designer in the U.S. in 1922. However, the history of graphic design started in prehistoric times. Humans have always persistently looked for ways of expressing their ideas and concepts in visual form and handling information in a clear way at a glance. Therefore, the history of graphic design is the graphic design of history. The beginning of graphic design started with the history of mankind, and evolved as a way of creating power, wealth and fame. Consequently, graphic design has been a way of expressing the spirit of the time more clearly than any other form of expression. Today, after eons have passed, humans want even higher level of graphic design to obtain more power, wealth and fame. In a strict sense, we use the term "literature" to describe the art of expressing our ideas and emotions in words, through such imaginative works as essays, poetry, fiction, plays, and critiques. In a broader sense, we aggregate all works of law, political science, science, and economics together as "literature". What I am pursuing is the literary trend of graphic design that reflects dramatic images of conflict, contrast and opposition.

Jung = Where do you normally get the ideas for your design work?

Hwang = In the past, I have devoted much of my effort to studying work from overseas. Starting 5-6 years ago, I have not used any new books. I try to create new unique techniques of my own through my past 50 years of experience.

Jung = What do you consider as most important when you are doing design work?

Hwang = The German religious reformer Martin Luther said "What makes this world go around is hope. If there were no hope of harvest, the farmer would not sow the seeds. If there were no hope of profit, the businessman would not do business. Having a hope is the shortcut to fulfilling the dream". As those around me know, I am an optimist. Whenever I am working on a new project, I renew my spirit with hope before I start the design work. I also often remember the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson "What is success? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived ? this is to have succeeded.

Jung = I originally studied pottery in college. Then in the past 10 years, I have had experience in various fields from advertisement to web design. Currently, I am debating whether or not I should pursue a Ph.D. What do you think the strengths and weaknesses are of a designer who is specialized in one area as opposed to a designer who works in many different areas? Also, what is your advice on what the attitude and functions of a designer should be?

Hwang = There are flowers that bloom in the spring, in the summer, and in the fall. Occasionally, we have flowers that bloom in the winter, too. There was a man named Abraham Lincoln. He did not give in to the obstacles in his life. He was born in a poor family, and had to face failure throughout his life. He lost no less than 8 elections. He failed in his business twice, and suffered from depression. There were numerous points where he could have just given up, but he did not. It is because he did not give up and kept going that he could become the most respected president in the history of United States. Lincoln was a victor. If I were to name the best movie of all the movies I have ever watched in my life, I would select Forrest Gump with no hesitation. Forrest Gump only had an IQ of 75 and his body was handicapped. He is always ostracized, but grows up with the love of his mother, who sacrifices everything for him. A kind and pretty girl, Jenny, who he meets in school also helps him and encourages him to finish school. After discovering his talent in running, he is scouted for high school and college for football. However, Jenny does not fulfill her dream of becoming a folk signer, and leaves Forrest Gump and wanders around the world. Thereafter, Gump tastes the sweet and bitter parts of life. He volunteers for Vietnam, rescues his colleague, and receives a Medal of Honor. He then becomes a ping-pong player and goes to China for a ping-pong tournament. He starts a shrimp fishing business with his senior officer Dan from the military as he promised his comrade Bubba, and becomes a millionaire. Gump returns home when he hears that his mother is sick. He donates the money from his successful business to various charities and waits for Jenny. However, as she has lead a life of poverty, Jenny does not accept Gump’s love, which leads to his three years of running. Jenny returns to Gump when she hears this news, but she does not have much time left anymore. When Jenny passes away, Forrest Gump spends the rest of his life raising her child. It is an absurd comedy, but it is a great movie with a profound meaning. I often remember the quote "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get".

Jung = Thank you for taking your time for this interview. This will greatly help me in planning my future.

Hwang = Thank you very much.

[April 22, 2004]

Eun-Mi Jung

Interview | Articles-1 | Articles-2 | Articles-3 | Illustrations-1 | Illustrations-2 | Logos-1 | Logos-2 | Pictograms | Posters-1
Posters-2 | Picture Books | Newspapers-1 | Newspapers-2 | Typefaces | Packagings | Environments | Profile

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Since March 1, 2001