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[Interview] Design Start-up Joguman Studio October 19, 2018

Interview with almuni Hongu and Jody, co-founders of design start-up Joguman Studio

Introductory illustration of Joguman Studio

Interview with Hongu and Jody, the two founders of Joguman Studio

- Sung-yon Hong (“Hongu”), Underwood International College, Information and Interaction Design graduate 

- Hyunji Kang (“Jody”), Underwood International College, Information and Interaction Design student

“Make sure you jot this down,” says Jody, the founder and creator of Joguman Studio. “We are tiny little beings, but that doesn’t mean we are not important.”

Joguman Studio, which literally translates into “small” studio, is run by two Yonsei University (located in Seoul, Korea) classmates with the belief that our tiny existence in the universe can make an impact. Frustrated by the corporate world, Hongu (Entering Class ’12) quit her 9–5 job at a design company to start her own with friend and fellow Underwood International College (UIC) Techno-Art Division major, Jody (Entering Class ‘12). The duo has been creating, drawing, and telling their own stories ever since.

In a country that reinforces a Pali-pali (“hurry, hurry”) culture, it is easy to follow the herd and immediately land a corporate job after graduation. How did you start Joguman Studio?

Hongu: I graduated without taking any leave of absence and worked in a design company for a year. However, since I worked at an outsourcing company for top Korean conglomerates, it always felt like I was doing someone else’s work and not truly my own. Around December 2016 I met up with Jody, who is one of my classmates from college and whose artwork I’d always admired. I even bought her graduate work. Anyway, when I confided to her about my non-fulfillment at work, she passed me a tissue saying “Quit!” — and that is how we got started.

What are the most rewarding experiences and challenges of starting your own company?

Jody: I think the most rewarding experience is when our sketches become a reality. It’s fun to create something that never existed before, and you get to make each and every product with great care. Also, it’s great when people with similar tastes tell us they are fans of our work.

As for challenges, the fact that we have to do everything by ourselves is a challenge. As a timid person who couldn’t even order jjajangmyeon (noodles in black bean sauce), now I have to design, produce, check, wrap products, contact manufacturers, and manage social media. While at a company you might have some times when there is no work at all, we are busy the entire day.

Hongu: One of our biggest challenges is inventory. If we make too little of something, it feels as if we’re missing out; but if we make too much, we constantly have to worry about whether anyone is going to buy them. While you get regularly paid in a company even though a plan might flop, you simply don’t receive anything in the case of a start-up. Another issue is taxes; there’s a bunch of accounting documents that we have to go through (note: we are currently hiring an accountant)!

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

Hongu: We thought having a strong online presence on Facebook and Instagram was enough, but later on realized the importance of offline. When we go to markets, there are lots of people who buy our goods after directly seeing them.

Jody: It’s important to record whatever comes to your mind. Later on, you’ll find out that this idea becomes an actual product. Each and every idea is important, and I remember a marketer saying that a vague sketch is much better than a clear memory. Also, all the little dots connect together. I’m incorporating what I’ve learnt at school to my job, and my part-time experience at Hollister taught me the proper way to fold clothes. Here I am now, folding clothes.

Hongu: I used to sell churros at Lotte World, the theme park, and I remember enjoying the exchange of churros for cash. But who knew I would be running a lifelong business? (laughs)

Both of you are Underwood International College (UIC) students at Yonsei University. What is your most memorable experience here?

Hongu & Jody: The dorm life during our freshmen year. At that time, the building was not segregated between girls and boys, so everyone got together in community rooms to watch movies and chill.

Did your UIC and Yonsei experiences prepare you for Joguman Studio?

Jody: We received a lot of help from our professors. They know each and every one of us, are well aware of our strengths, and match us up accordingly for team projects. Even when we contact them late at night via e-mail, they send us a text message straight away. It’s definitely a horizontal relationship, and in fact, three professors are coming to our studio tomorrow to chat about the future of female designers.

Hongu: Not only professors, but also our classmates are a huge help. Our major does not get divided in the first year, and people from different majors and countries come together. So there is always someone who is good at something. Since we are a design major, we have a lot of team projects and presentations. Unlike other majors where the homework is to read something and find the answer, we have to find the problem ourselves and solve them. For instance, we had to design a 1000-story elevator and through this process we gained inspiration from one another. If we had to take photos or videos, our friends either helped us film or acted as models.

Any favorite spots in Seoul you want to share with us?

Hongu: The Gyeonghui Line Forest Park is great to walk along at night.

Jody: My friends’ house.. Our house’s rooftop.. We even have a couch up there.

Jody posing on rooftop of Joguman Studio

Any advice for current and future Yonsei students?

Hongu: My recommendation is to take classes that you are interested in, instead of the ones that give easy As. In fact, I often received higher grades because I’m studying something I am passionate about. Also, take classes from different majors as they become an inspiration to your other work.

Jody: Choose friendship, love, and club activities over your GPA.

What’s next for you?

Jody: Our motto is to sneak into people’s everyday lives little by little. Also, both of us love amusement parks, so our long-term aspirations include creating “Joguman Land”, which is a theme park with our design characters inscribed on the rides.

Hongu: We really want to introduce our goods into the university souvenir shop so that international students and families alike can further enjoy their trip at Yonsei!

* Author’s Note: About Underwood International College, Yonsei University

Underwood International College (UIC) is a selective, English-language, four-year liberal arts institution within Yonsei University, combining the intimate learning environment of an American-style liberal arts college with the faculty and resources of Korea’s leading private research university. UIC is the flagship international undergraduate degree program of Yonsei University.

The mission of UIC is to bring together students from a diverse range of national and ethnic backgrounds, providing them with a rigorous, world-class education that emphasizes the following three core values: 1) Creative and Critical Thinking, 2) Democratic Citizenship, and 3) Global Leadership. UIC focuses on ensuring that its outstanding students have the intellectual foundation to become exceptional leaders capable of changing the world for the better.

UIC’s distinctive organization encourages interdisciplinarity and vibrant intellectual exchange by bringing together students and scholars from different fields together in one program. During their first two years, UIC students take a carefully designed sequence of required courses in a variety of disciplines in the liberal arts called the Common Curriculum (CC) courses in order to develop the ability to think creatively and critically, appreciate the complexities of human history and culture, and communicate in a clear and compelling manner. Almost all CC courses are taught in small “seminar-style” classes in literature, philosophy, history, critical reasoning, and research methods with a strong emphasis on written work and discussion.

UIC students choose from 16 majors under five divisions in the three main fields: 1) Underwood Field/Division, 2) Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Field, and 3) Integrated Science and Engineering Field.

Founded in 2005, Underwood Field/Division (UD) is the oldest division at UIC with five specialized majors combined by a rigorous common curriculum program, emphasizing core reasoning and communication skills. UD students may choose from five majors covering humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. During their first-year of study, all Underwood Division students will be involved in a residential college life at the Yonsei International Campus, where they will take common curriculum courses with students from other UIC divisions, introductory courses to majors and various electives. Starting from their second year, students will move to the Sinchon Campus, where they will take the courses of their respective majors, electives, UIC seminars and other common curriculum courses.

The Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) Field encompasses all courses in the Asian Studies, Techno-Art, and Integrated Social Sciences divisions. All divisions and majors of HASS focus on interdisciplinary approaches covering various field of interest from regional studies, art, business, social sciences, to humanities. Students not only specialize in their respective fields, but also learn to explore and utilize the broader perspectives and framework that are requisite in today’s workplace, whether it be the public sector, multinational corporations, NGOs, or academia.

In particular, Techno-Art Division (TAD) was founded to pioneer new interdisciplinary undergraduate program that brings together instruction in Design, Culture, Technology, and Management. The division’s goal is to educate global leaders who will translate creativity into innovation by conceptualizing, designing, and managing new products and services for innovative user experience and value creation based on Information & Communication Technology. TAD also aims to educate students in creative leadership and entrepreneurship so they become experts in the convergence and integration. TAD students acquire the managerial skills that will allow them to become creative innovators in design, culture, and technology. TAD currently offers three different majors: Information and Interaction Design, Creative Technology Management, and Culture and Design Management.

The final field is the Integrated Science and Engineering Field (ISED), which is designed for students who seek to pursue careers in the natural sciences and engineering, and for those who also wish to gain an interdisciplinary perspective on their chosen specialization that is not available in a typical natural science program. ISED students gain a thorough understanding of subjects including biotechnology, nano science, energy and environmental engineering by rigorously studying theory and application in both the classroom and through hands-on experience in the laboratory. At the same time, students gain a solid understanding of the ways in which science and technology affect our society, politics, and economy. ISED’s three majors are Nano Science and Engineering, Energy & Environmental Science and Engineering, and Bio-Convergence.

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