Graphic design in
contemporary Korea:
an oral history project
by Zara Arshad
An incomplete,

Image captions:
1. Design FM, a podcast by the Feminist Designer Social Club (FDSC). Credit: Studio Melange.
2. Kim Somi at the FDSC Townhall roundtable. Credit: Studio Melange.
3. Graphic identity for the Korea International Accessible Dance Festival.

Interview details
Narrator: KIM Somi
Interviewer: Zara Arshad
Interpreter: LEE Sol
Date: Wednesday 26 June 2019
Location: nooNdesign (office), Seoul, South Korea
Length: approx. 1 hour, 1 minute

For someone like Kim Somi, who works in a design company, in many cases they don’t have a name [i.e. designers employed by agencies are not too visible outside of the company for which they work]. As a result, designers employed by large companies usually have low self-esteem [...] Somi has been working for many years now, so she has more experience or knowledge of the conditions in which graphic designers work [...] she thinks that maybe a designer working for a company experiences more discrimination and maybe worse working environments or conditions. And while the designer who works as a freelancer can speak out with their name, the designer in a company has little opportunity to do that, so Somi tries to speak out for them instead.


Somi herself experienced some problems in the workplace, but she didn’t think that that was related to feminist issues or gender-based discrimination. But in 2015 to 2016, she realised that these issues arose because she was a woman designer [...] in 2015 to 2016 there was a boom [...] many people were talking about feminist issues in South Korea, and there was a problem in the artistic scene regarding sexual harassment.* So uhm Somi started, participated in a group called Woo in 2016 [...] this was a one year project, where female designers wanted to prompt change at policy level. The group also organised an event called Woowho, where Somi delivered a presentation called ‘Just Korean Female Designer’, and from that presentation she came up with the idea of creating a podcast.


She thought that podcasts were a more adequate investigative medium because in podcasts one can literally speak out [...] now through the Feminist Designer Social Club (FDSC) podcast, called DesignFM, the hosts and invited guests don’t necessarily just show their works, but speak more about the process of a project, how women designers in Korea work [...] they discuss their daily lives as a designer. So that’s why she wanted to do the FDSC podcast, that’s how it started.


Somi’s work for KIADA, the Korea International Accessible Dance Festival, is both her personal project and a project of the company for which she works - nooNdesign. She was first working with a physically-disabled dance group or association called Light Sound Friends [...] they are a small dance group comparatively speaking and they don’t have much money, so Somi completes the design work for them (as an independent designer) [...] nooNdesign, meanwhile, are creating the identity design, including posters and banners, for the 2019 KIADA event.

* To find out more, please consult the timeline outlined on Shin In-ah’s page.

(b. 1988, Daejeon) Kim Somi is a graphic designer and co-founder of the Feminist Designer Social Club. She is currently lead designer at nooNdesign, a graphic design studio based in Seoul, and host of Design FM, a podcast launched by FDSC in 2019. Kim Somi obtained her undergraduate degree in visual communication design from Hongik University.
Feminist Designer Social Club Instagram
Feminist Designer Social Club Twitter
Design FM (in Korean only)