MIN JI LEE — Interview
New York based graphic designer.
Hello Min Ji Lee, how are you?
Hello, I am doing well. Thank you. It’s been very cold here on the east coast, but I enjoy a brisk winter.
Can you introduce yourself? Tell us more about you.
I am a graphic designer based in New York. I am originally from Seoul, South Korea. After studying graphic design at Seoul National University, I worked as an interface designer for 3 years. This experience affected my work, since I often use interactive elements.
In 2011, I came to the United States for graduate study in Graphic design at RISD. I met great advisers and friends there, and they have been great supporters. After graduation, I moved to New York, and have been working at Pentagram as well as freelancing on different projects.
Where does your interest in graphic design come from?
What makes me interested in graphic design is that I can get to know different aspects of each project. I have to fully understand the content in order to situate it within a medium; if I were not a graphic designer, I would have never had the chance to work with text and images so thoroughly.
Also, it is intriguing that I can directly produce the final form. I send files and instructions to printers, fabricators and developers, but I also hit the print button or publish things to web from my own computer. Of course, there are technical constraints I cannot manage by myself, but in most cases, production in graphic design is quite transparent and easily accessible.
What was the idea behind Transtype?
Transtype is an interactive typeface that changes its form from abstract shapes to letterform according to the volume of input sound. While doing some research for my other project, I found Underweysung der Messung by Albrecht Dürer. It was fascinating how he tried to modularize and standardize the stroke of hand written letterforms. I suppose, in a way, he recognized the attributes of type in digital age before his time. He constructed the letterform using one module—a square. Transtype deconstructs the letterform by adding an additional variable on the module through a current technology. This variable, sound, corresponds to the angle of each square, transforming the abstract shapes to typeface.
Can you tell us more about your work at Pentagram?
Yes, at Pentagram, I am currently working on Rockefeller Center; designing printed-matter and digital assets for their promotions. What I like about this project is that I can work on all different types and dimensions of medium, from flyers to websites to bus shelters.
Working in a large design firm is quite different from working independently. There are pros and cons. For example, I can learn a lot from many other designers, from small software tips to ways of handling client relationships. On the other hand, sometimes, it is not easy to develop my own individual approaches compare to working independently. At this point of my life, working at Pentagram has more pros than cons in terms of opportunity to build my ability and experience for my next step.
We would like to know your thought about the meaning of what is a designer and what is his role?
I think, basically, a designer visualizes or materializes a message, an object, or a place. In this process, numerous factors and limitations are interrelated: client (sometimes not), contents, technology, tools, media, audiences, etc. In this sense, I believe a designer is not only a person who makes the end-form, but also a person who is deeply involved in the process of planning, producing, and distributing it. Modern way of involvement can be my answer for his role.
Is there any designer you appreciate a lot?
There are so many designers that I appreciate in different ways, but I would like to mention Richard Hollis. I admire his work, approach, and attitude.
The last word…
Interview : Dennis Moya & Tiffany Baehler – 02.14
Credits : Projects by ©Min Ji Lee, “Death to dead space” with Wael Morcos.