Posters are a great method to showcase design work. It is easy for the audience to process concepts when it is a literal image on paper. It is a presentation form that all people are familiar with and can easily identify its function. I chose to create posters for my thesis because it allows viewers to visually understand concepts I was illustrating in a two dimensional manner. The third dimension to my posters was the invisible dimension- the audiences interpretation and understanding of Hangul Proverbs.
These posters illustrate a series of traditional Korean proverbs. Hangul, the script of the Korean writing system, is typically manifestedeither in type or calligraphy. This project interprets hangul characters through a series of hand-lettered posters that fuse text and illustration.
Proverbs are an integral part of all cultures, especially in the East. They are passed down through generations to teach lessons about all aspects of life. Proverbs may seem unfamiliar when heard in a different language, but at the core, they all hold similar messages. I grew up hearing different proverbs from elders around me. In my youth, they just seemed like weird stories, but as I grew older they became more clear and I started to realize the invaluable message behind proverbs. Proverbial stories are what comprise of the content and focus of my design. These proverbs reflect the different aspects of my design journey.

THERE IS NO TREE THAT CAN’T BE FELLED AFTER TEN STROKES

This proverb tells me that no matter how impossible a task seems, if you try hard enough, there is nothing you cannot overcome.
Before I started in graphic design, I was just an ordinary art student searching for a field in art that would allow me to earn money on a steady basis. That is when I first found out about graphic design. It was a field in the arts that was creative but structured at the same time. It made a slacker like me to want to become a better person by learning more about design and the processes involved. It was then that I realized I wanted to pass on what I learned to the next generation. I wanted to help current slackers, who were in the same situation I was in when I first started to learn graphic design. I realized I wanted to teach design, but I didn’t even know where to start. I was more worried about getting my degree and earning a living wage. After graduating, I still had teaching was still in the back of my mind as I was working and trying to earn a living doing design. I was jaded at times and thought design was not a good career path for anyone. But as I struggled, I held onto my dream. I overcame the thought of giving up on numerous occasions and decided to take the next step and apply for graduate school. I was rejected from MICA at first but got the chance to follow my dream when I was offered the opportunity to attend the Post-Bacc program. I knew it would take me one step closer to my dream. After the Post-Bacc program, I faced another stumbling block as I grew tired of school and just wanted to go back out into the world and pursue a career. Once again I fought off these thoughts and applied for the masters program. To my delight and surprise, I was accepted and knew I was one step closer to achieving my goal of becoming a design instructor. Now as I graduate, I am one step closer to achieving my dream. My alma mater even wants me to teach some classes if I end up back at home. This goes to show no matter how daunting my dream may have seemed to me when I first started, with dedication and hard work I am closer to fulfilling my dream.

EVEN A WORM SQUIRMS WHEN STEPPED ON

This old Korean proverb may mean that even when a little guy seems so helpless, he will, when pushed to the edge, struggle to fight his circumstances.
In my limited time as a designer, I have found that being the little man has always been my fortune. Having graduated from a lesser known school and having little experience in the field, I found that no one was willing to give me a chance to prove myself. Therefore, I worked as a freelancer for a couple of years just to get more experience. However, I was getting nowhere. I would interview with agencies for a full-time job, and it would always end in rejections or the run-around. I was fed up with waiting and wanted to prove to them and myself that I was better than this. So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I applied to the MFA program at MICA to see if I really was meant for greater things than this. Now as I am getting ready to graduate with an MFA degree, I can proudly say I am the little man no longer, and I am better than I have ever been. They can no longer keep the little man down.

AN ANT HOLE CAN COLLAPSE A DAM

This proverb shows that even the insignificant things can overcome what seems to be an impossible obstacle.
As a designer, I am often forced to tackle a variety of impossible problems. By “impossible,” I mean that, at the time, there seems to be no way to find a solution. I was faced with this impossible situation when starting my thesis. Before I left for summer break my first year, I thought I knew what my thesis was going to be: an illustrated storybook of old Korean folk tales. I imagined that I’d return to school after summer, finish my thesis quickly, and enjoy the rest of my graduate experience in cruise control. But nothing in life goes so smoothly. When we had our first critical review, the overwhelming consensus was that my thesis idea was not good enough. I had come face to face with my dam, and I was just an insignificant ant. I felt as if I had run into an unbreakable wall. But like any underdog story, there was light at the end of the tunnel. I realized I still had the core of my thesis that I could go back to. I wanted to represent Korean culture through a different method than what the general public was used to. If I couldn’t illustrate characters, I was going to illustrate Hangul, the national alphabet of Korea. With that in mind, I pushed forward and decided that just illustrating words was not good enough. I had to make the work more personal. I realized I grew up listening to proverbs, and they would pop into my head from time to time. I had made a breakthrough! I was going to make illustrated Hangul proverbs in the form of posters. A semester later, I have completed my thesis and am the proud creator of Hangul Proverbs, an illustrated look into Hangul using Korean proverbs. As an ant, I was overcome with the sheer impossible task of creating a thesis, but with a little hole (idea), I had built a series of holes (solutions) and collapsed the dam (thesis.)

EVEN A MONK CAN’T SHAVE HIS OWN HEAD

This proverb tells me that no matter how perfect a person is on the outside,no one is perfect at everything.
Designers are known for having big egos. Designers tend to turn their noses up at others and ignore the opinions of others as insignificant. As luck would have it, I am one of those designers. I like to think that I am a humble person, but in the end I am no different than others in my position. I find myself judging others’ opinion about a lot of things, especially aesthetics. People give me the benefit of the doubt when it comes to design, and I tend to let that go to my head. I think that I can and have the right to critique others in everyday life. I let my education and experience be the battering ram in all discussions and arguments. I sometimes let it all go to my head. Even when it comes to design, I tend to want to have the last word, even when I am wrong. I want the design to look good even if it may not work for the people using or interacting with the design. I recently worked on a poster for my girlfriend. She is a social worker for a middle school and wanted a poster to tell her students that there are three secrets that she had to share with authorities. The three secrets were if someone was hurting them, if they were or planning to hurt someone else, and finally if they were or planning to hurt themselves. In my head, I knew what it should look like and how good it would look if I designed it the way I envisioned. I even had the wording that would go on the poster, and it all seemed like I would create the perfect poster. However, to the user, which happened to be my girlfriend, it was not clear enough to understand and needed to be changed. Because she was so close to me and I felt I knew better than her, I fought her on everything from the colors to the wording. In the end, she was the expert in her field and knew what would and would not work. I had to concede and make the necessary changes to make the poster that would work for her and her students. This showed me that no matter how good a person may seem for the job, taking in all the variables are important, and no one is perfect in all aspects.

I would like to give a big “thank you!” to Ellen Lupton & Jennifer Cole Phillips for being the best directors that any student could ask for. I would like to give a “special thank you” to Abbot Miller, Andrew Losowsky, and David Barringer for great insights. I would also like to give a hand to my classmates for always being there for each other throughout the past two years. We have bright futures ahead of us.
© DANIEL KHANG