Hezin O + Hyojun Jo

12.12 2015 INTERVIEW DATE

Oye + Corners, Graphic Designer

Huam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

Hyojun Jo and Hezin O are graphic designers. Jo runs Corners, a graphic design and risograph printing studio in Euljiro, while O runs a small shop and design studio Oye in Haebangchon. Both born and raised in other cities, the two opened up a map of Seoul and brushed through the unfamiliar, gigantic city and found their eyes resting on a place that goes by the name Huam-dong. It was a rather simple reason—it was the middle of each other’s studio. The newlyweds went straight to find their new home there, after coming to a conclusion of it being an earthy and pleasant neighborhood as they made an actual visit to the area. We were unable to put down all the giggles we couldn’t resist during the jolly interview, so instead we hope you could ‘read’ our laughters through their off-the-wall, earthy space. 

 

Yoojin Jung

Please introduce yourselves.

(O) We are graphic designers Hezin O and Hyojun Jo. I run studio Oye(o-y-e.kr) and Hyojun runs Corners(www.corners.kr). We’re both involved in a very similar field of work, working in two different studios and Corners doubles as a risograph printing studio. We first met as I went to Corners to order some printing and apparently we got married in 2015.

 

And you found your new home in Huam-dong.

(Jo+O) We both dislike sophistication and prefer earthy and old-styled things and thankfully this neighborhood has a lot of those aged stores among the alleys. And when we were searching for houses here we were more attracted to the old buildings rather than the ones built recently. At first we chose to look around the neighborhood lightheartedly simply because it was in the middle of our two studios apart from each other, but we loved it and soon we found ourselves settled here.

What did you consider most when you organized the house?

(O) In the beginning we both agreed to fill the house only with furnitures that were most necessary and to add slowly, one by one. It was the largest house to settle myself into since I left my family to live on my own, so filling it with only the basic stuff still required quite a number of furniture purchases. And you’ll notice that our house is yet a bit empty but at least the living room depicts the majority of our touch. Uniquely a common living-room-like-room, with a TV and sofa, lies in a normal bedroom so it acts like a living room and bedroom at the same time, which gives a more cozy feeling. It’s where I spend most of my time.

Are you a Seoul-born?

(Jo) I was born and raised in the outskirts of Seoul, Gwacheon. It’s a city where the nostalgic air of the 80’s and 90’s prevails pleasantly. I left to study graphic design at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in London and so I naturally became to live on my own since then. And as soon as I came back from my studies I went straight to serve my assigned years at the Korean Army so I’m not that familiar with Seoul.

(O) I was born in Iksan city located in Jeolla Province. I moved to Seoul to attend college and started living on my own near the school in Hongdae. Since the mid-2000, during my college years, Hongdae began to turn into a busy downtown area. The basement level of a flat that I once lived became a chicken place. It was really strange to see my old bathroom refurbished into a store restroom.

 

You both moved to Seoul in your 20’s. What were the first impressions of the city?

(O) Iksan is a rural city that pretends to be urban. Well of course, it should’ve changed a lot by now. My first Starbucks experience was during college while my husband’s was during high school. I never understood what Starbucks was like until I moved to Seoul. My high school years were unfamiliar even with the word ‘café’ so obviously, as a teenage girl living in a countryside, I was curious to what Starbucks was. That’s how big the gap was between a rural city and a ‘real’ city. In the beginning I was quite shocked to see people getting coffees with a cost of some 3~4,000 won(laugh).

(Jo) After graduating from Saint Martins and before serving the Army, I worked as an intern at mmmg, a designed stationery brand, which led me to Anguk station for the first time ever. All I knew of Seoul were the English tutorial institutions spread out in the Gangnam area and Anguk was a totally different place. I realized then that Seoul is a great city in terms of diversity.

 

How did you get to work as an intern for mmmg?

(Jo) I wasn’t particularly interested in stationary or daily objects. When I first saw mmmg at the Garosugil store I thought it was a foreign brand since it had French and German written on their products. A friend of mine led me to their website and I noticed they were hiring an intern so I quickly applied for it. I thought the bookstore Post Poetics’ website was a foreign one too(laugh).

 

Hyojun, you spent the early half of your 20’s in UK.

(Jo) As an individual who resided in Korea for about 20 years, acquiring a Korean identity, the cultural differences I encountered were extremely large as I entered a country of a totally different soil. It felt so weird to look at myself listening to Korean pop. It wasn’t only because of the foreignness but more than that was literally just culture shock.

How did Corners start?

(Jo) I stepped out of mmmg together with a co-worker named Daewung Kim and as we searched for the kind of work we could do, the idea of a rithograph-stencil printing popped up, which I once learned about on a foreign website. And I also had chances to see friends in London purchase a risograph printer and use it for their studio practices. So I searched for one here and luckily found a pre-owned printer, for which I collected my savings to make the purchase. I started the printing part as an easy side-job but now it’s become one of my two majors, alongside designing.

How did you, Hezin, start to live on your own?

(O) After graduating from college I went to work for a company but I wasn’t the type that got along communal settings and I found myself switching job places threes times during a span of only a year and a half. To manage all the tedious works like answering phone calls, signing deliveries, cleaning up—jobs that obviously fall to the freshman—were too much for me. Then I was jobless for a while and somehow along the way I became a freelance designer. That went for about 3 years and since 2014, I’ve been working by the name studio Oye. Oye refers to the spelling of my name and also originates from my nickname ‘Oh yeah.’

 

Your studio is located near Haebangchon.

Frankly, I don’t remember how I got to Haebangchon. But I think it was because of the reasonable rent. Besides the hot place area in Haebangchon, beyond it lies the quiet Haebangchon part. That area is less frequently visited so it’s still quite cheap. And it’s pretty tough to access because of the steep hill. Well, they say it’s getting more pricier than before but compared to the average rent of Seoul, it’s still fair enough. I’m in preparation of opening a tiny shop located within my studio that sells stuff that we make along with ones from our friends. It’s called ‘Palm Shop,’ which relates to its palm-sized space selling palm-sized products.

Your current house in Huam-dong is also close to Haebangchon. What do you like most about the area?

(Jo) If we take walks down the allies of the neighborhood we often come across unique buildings built during the Japanese Colonial era. It’s a well-known place of concentrated houses that stand out, particularly for Japanese as they sometimes arrange architectural tours to the area, so I heard. I don’t have the eyes of an expert like them but I do find joy in discovering peculiar houses built in extra spaces, squeezed between the crowded houses.

Can you describe the charm of Seoul?

(O) We chose to live in Seoul because it provides best convenience out of all the places in Korea, but to be honest, we’re not that fond of Seoul. The city is just too busy and too fierce. And we think it needs more matured citizenship. But paradoxically speaking, the city also platforms great opportunities with an open mind to show things that are extraordinary. I can feel the city’s still desperate for things that are truly nice and cool since it lacks those. And by preserving the old along those authentically ‘cool’ scenes, we think Seoul could finally become an attractive city to the heart.

RECOMMENDED PLACE

Printing alleys of Chungmuro

Pil-dong1ga ,Jung-gu, Seoul
4 Chungmuro

“If you’re a designer, the area of Chungmuro alone should fascinate you.”


Circled around Jinyang Arcade in Chungmuro, areas that stretches out to Toegyero, Euljiro embrace a compact mass of aged and tiny, run-down printing places. The whole area is known as the Printing Alleys of Chungmuro. The streets are occupied with loud noises the crowded print machines make and trucks loaded with bundled blocks of print goods, driving in and out all day. The time it emerged into a printing street traces back to the days of the Japanese Colonial era, when a number of movie theaters were built in this area, thus requiring a number of stores to print movie leaflets. The print stores clustered together in the narrow alleys usually print small quantities and are responsible of producing 70% of all print orders made in Korea. Large quantity prints are made in Seongsu-dong, Seoul and cities Paju and Ilsan. For graphic designers, this magical, fascinating place should make your eyes wide open. But you don’t necessarily have to be a designer to find interest in searching and discovering historical eat-outs hidden inside the cobweb-like alleys. Jo recommends to start your discovery from Chungmuro station of subway line 4, exit number 7.