Most of our features on Motionographer are commercials and shorts we fall in love with and want to share. To shine the light a bit brighter on the talent behind the work, we decided to interview Jungeun Kim about her 5 years behind the curtain at Psyop.
Jungeun’s designs have contributed to some of Psyop’s most iconic spots, and her innate curiosity with the world around her is reflected in many of her personal projects. Her story is one of determination and challenging yourself to take risks to do what you love.
Motionographer: You were born and raised in Korea and moved to the US to study. Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and how it led you to where you are now?
Jungeun Kim: I grew up in Seoul. Since I was young I had a deep passion for illustration, drawing and painting, and was very interested in animation.
The educational system is very different in Korea, especially when it comes to art. Following the text book is more important then expressing yourself. I felt like the world was too small for me there, and wanted to open my eyes and experience what’s outside of Korea. Once I finished high school, I realize I should come to America to pursue my dreams.
Moving to the US to pursue a career as a commercial artist takes a lot of guts and perseverance. Can you talk a little toward your experience and struggles transitioning cultures for the sake of your creative interests?
Moving to America took a lot of adaptation since everything was so different from what I was used to in Korea. At first, I really struggled with the language barrier and the cultural differences, and at times it was overwhelming, but it’s been a great ride. I was lucky to find very supportive network of friends that have been involved in the industry and in helping me every step of the way.
So, you’re in America and you’re working professionally as a 3D artist for some of the industry’s most influential studios. After working three years as a 3D artist, you decide you wanted to work as a designer. What led to this decision?
After majoring computer art and learning Maya and After Effects, I was able to get jobs at motion graphic studios and worked on many projects. But I felt like I could get more involved in the initial creative development. It was very cool to see where the projects were getting started, and I also wanted to try something different from what I was doing.
A lot of artists get pigeon holed into playing one role for a company. Can you talk a little bit about the challenges you faced when making this decision? How did you convince your employers that you’d be a great designer?
It was not an easy transition. At Psyop, designers take really big roles in the projects. Since they had known me as a 3D artist for a while, I had to prove to them that I was up to the challenge and could change.
I had a 3 month tryout as a designer. It was a very demanding task because not only I had to prove I was capable of designing, but also had to adapt myself to new work mode. Before as a animator, my focus was oriented to the production of the animation. As a designer, I doubled my attention into conceptualizing the animation as well as producing the look. It was very nice of them to give me the opportunity to try out. After proving myself as a designer, I was transferred to the design department.
How has starting as a 3D artist helped your design work as well as playing a role on a production team?
Knowing 3D helped a lot because most of Psyop jobs are done in 3D. I often use those skills to build the concept and idea. Also, it’s easier to work with other 3D artists and plan out the projects. For example, we began most of the Fanta Mime pitch in 3D.
Designing and modeling simultaneously makes the process more seamless from creation to final animation. There are less steps from translate the layouts to the 3D department.
You’ve been staff at Psyop for 5 years. One of the most notable projects you’ve played a key role in is the Fanta campaign where you were a lead designer. Can you describe a little bit about the design process, how you approached it, what were your key influences for the project?
There was also a lot of back and forth with us and the agency. We talked about every detail from their body types, clothes to having eyeballs or not. It was fun to create the whole new world. Since the characters are young grown-ups, to develop the characters attitude and styles, I drew from my experiences and influences from high school and college like being full of energy, being young and goofy, very expressive teenagers and even from reading lots of cartoons.
The whole concept behind Fanta spots (that Psyop did) was to create ‘how to escape the awkward moments’. For that, especially for Fanta Mime spot, we found Jack Black on Saving Silverman and Cameron Diaz on Charlie’s Angels (Soul Train scene) have the perfect quirky moves and personalities.
For me, the most inspired aspect of your body of work are your characters; cute, funny, and slightly sinister. Can you talk a little bit about your influences and process?
Old Eastern European animations such as Roman Kachanov’s Chebrashka and Mitten are amazing; They are great sources of inspiration. I also love the works of Heinz Edelmann, Aaron Augenblick, Jim Henson, Pixar. I enjoy looking at non-character such as Pushpin Studios, Tadanori Yokoo, Yayoi Kusama.
You work professionally as an commercial artist at Psyop, but, like many in this industry, work on non-commercial based works. Can you talk a little bit about this art, and how you see it playing a part in your future as an artist?
Commercial art definitely has its limits. We want to create something beautiful but still have to make the clients happy. It’s really important not to lose the motivation and stay active as an artist, not just as professional photoshop-er.
I make small sculptures and paintings outside of work. It’s really exciting to see them coming together. I recently watched Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo and it was like a punch it the face, I would love to make something personal and so out of the box like that someday.
What advice would you have to give someone who’s interested in exploring other roles in a company?
Motion graphics is a very demanding industry so you have to enjoy what you do. Push yourself to take different roles, even if it’s for smaller periods of time, it is great to build confidence and show to others your interest in changing.
What would you tell the 20 year old you who has just moved to the US and is looking to break into the commercial arts world?
Language is not so much of an issue, knowing what you want to say and expressing yourself is much more important. Don’t be shy. There are so many interesting people to connect with out there in our industry and they’re all from different backgrounds just like us.