Graphic design in
contemporary Korea:
an oral history project
by Zara Arshad
An incomplete,
Image caption:
1. ‘#MeToo #WithYou’ signs at Doing Cafe (2019). Photo by Zara Arshad, taken during a research trip to Seoul, which entailed investigating new ‘safe spaces’ for women. Many of the stops I made are listed in this article by the New York Times.

On this page:
1) About “The Unheard Archive”
2) How to use this website
3) The people behind the project
4) Acknowledgements
5) Contact details

About “The Unheard Archive”
The Unheard Archive is the outcome of an oral history project initiated by Zara Arshad in May 2019. This project entailed reflecting on graphic design practice in South Korea today via conducting interviews with numerous locally-based graphic designers. It draws particular attention to the experience of women designers, those engaged or working with marginalised communities (e.g. LGBTQ+ and physically-disabled groups), emerging designers, and other underrepresented voices in design history. A more expansive summary of this project may be accessed here.

How to use this website
This website is a storytelling platform - an online catalogue, rather than a repository of oral history materials. It offers just a sense of some of the conversations that have taken place between the researcher and narrators.

Materials from each interview session (comprising audio files and transcripts) are in the process of being prepared. These resources will eventually be deposited at an institution that will make them available for public use. This will include material from interviews conducted with the following designers: Lee Jaeyoung, Lynn Kim, Shin In-ah, Yang Meanyoung, Kim Somi, Woo Yunige and Sunny Studio.

English-language transcripts of interviews arranged with Chris Ro, studio fnt, Workroom, Hong x Kim and Sulki & Min have been deposited at Asia Culture Center (ACC) in Gwangju, South Korea.

The Unheard Archive is a work-in-progress. Additional oral history sessions have been or are presently being organised.

The people behind the project
The Unheard Archive was created by Zara Arshad, a researcher, curator and design historian. Arshad has previously held roles at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), Design History Society, Beijing Design Week and Icograda Beijing. She is currently a PhD researcher at University of Brighton/V&A.

This project was facilitated by a number of interpreters, including:

SUNG Dasom, a doctoral candidate at Seoul National University (SNU), majoring in craft theory. Sung Dasom received her BA in Aesthetics, BFA in Design and Craft, and MFA in Craft from SNU. Her main interests lie in the history of materials, Orientalism and nationalism in the craft export policies of Korea and Japan, and East Asian modern design history. She completed a six-month internship at the V&A in 2018.

LEE Sol, an MA student in Design History & Cultural Studies at SNU. She completed her BA in French Language and Literature at the same university. Lee Sol’s thesis examines the social, cultural and aesthetic aspects of home decoration in modern Korea, as well as relations between the emergence of the professional interior designer and modern housewives assuming the role of domestic decorator.

AHN Mei, a junior graphic designer and a student at Rhode Island School of Design. Currently on an extended leave of absence, Ahn Mei is working on a number of projects with designers based in Seoul: she has previously interned at zerolab and now works as a part-time junior designer at Cheil Worldwide. Her interests include exhibition identity design and information mapping.

A number of other individuals - key commentators and critics in the field - have kindly set aside time and provided invaluable feedback that has helped to shape this project. I would particularly like to thank the following for their generosity, patience and advice: Jo Oknim, Helen Ku, Oh Changsup, Kay Jun, Na Kim, Chun Yongkeun, Kim Ayoung, Park Bona and Rosalie Kim. I would also like to thank ACC for supporting the first stage of this project.

Contact details
Please direct your inquiries to Zara Arshad via:

This website is independently funded. Please get in touch if you would like to make a financial donation.