Emerline: If you’ve been following along with these Seoul Tribe posts, you’ll know that I planned to share more about the behind the scenes of the research and writing process. This will still happen, I promise! I’m in the trenches a bit with producing it so in the meantime, I thought it’d also be exciting to give a background on the design and branding aspects of Seoul Tribe too. I hope you enjoy it!
I’m so happy to invite Kim to the series. Kim is a designer and close friend of mine. She’s been there from the very beginning of this project and has been an integral player in making Seoul Tribe a reality. She was kind enough to do a brief retrospective, talk about how she’s approaching our branding, and what she’s excited about.
The Shift: Timeless vs. Trendy
Kim: I want to start with talking about this one conversation we had at a local coffee shop. That afternoon, Emerline and I had a long discussion in which we dug deeper into Seoul Tribe's brand and visuals. We also had a great retrospective of what Seoul Tribe was when we first started it.
A QUICK RETROSPECTIVE
Back then, Seoul Tribe's look was cool and very trendy. The graphics were high quality, but Emerline and I now both agree that they haven’t aged well. They're basically now archived relics of that moment in time. Of course, the "me" then wouldn't have known because I was so obsessed with making something cool.
Fast forward a year later, we found ourselves reflecting on how we both had matured a lot. I especially experienced a significant amount of growth within design which made me realize that we needed something timeless (something a lot of brands strive to achieve). Brands are always trying to create something where they're remembered and their presence is very clear.
When we started talking about what Seoul Tribe really is now, we made an important shift. Instead of Seoul Tribe being literally us (the team), it was more about the conversations we'd have about artists and the people listening.
It hit us that Seoul Tribe's branding was supposed to be a frame.
The Frame: Canvas vs. Artwork
The new look is being built on an understanding that it needs to feel editorial, fluid, and be more of a container than the design itself being the branding. We want it to function as a canvas because it's the canvas that provides the necessary structure for which the art can sit and be its best form.
On our homepage design now, what you see visually is the album or episode art. It pushes the episode's content forward while everything else is deliberately stripped down to what it needs to be —lines and text. There's no flourishes, random sketches, or illustrations. We're letting the content itself be the voice. Our branding is to be the blueprint serving the main thing.
It’s actually been pretty fun diving into these new stripped down visuals. I personally feel more joy when I’m making structured and concrete designs. I don't like it when people take a well thought out design and they re-do it so much that they lose the initial function.
The funny thing is that this was exactly the problem with Seoul Tribe's old designs! I was so caught up in making things… that I sort of lost the point to it. I never stopped to ask, "Who is Seoul Tribe?" Instead, I was so busy trying to say, "Look! Seoul Tribe's cool."
I don't regret that that phase happened. I think it was necessary to get to where we are now. (It's like when you look back at your middle school pictures and in that moment you thought you looked hot, haha.) But it’s a great thing that we learned, pivoted, and got past that.
The Progress: Together vs. Alone
Even though this is just the beginning of the new Seoul Tribe, it already feels like we've gotten really far. The fact that the design now exists in a form other than just a flat 2-D state is exciting. This is possible because Emerline and I recently teamed up with my friend Jerry who is a frontend developer. He's helping us bring the website to life. Kudos and shout out to Jerry!
Our current working website prototype.
For me, this is the first time that a personal project has gone past its toddler phase! It's not running yet, but it's crawling. It's wobbly, but it's moving.
The other day, Emerline and I were discussing why and how Seoul Tribe was finally able to get to this point. Emerline said, "It's because I finally learned how to forfeit and delegate tasks to other people. The work is so much better when you rely on other talented individuals."
It's true! Things get done when other people are involved. With Jerry now bringing our work to life, it's brought a new wave of energy to the project.
The Plan: Movement vs. Elements
When I think of the brand Balenciaga, I think... young, fashionable, and maybe high-end. You get this feeling because of the brand's history. Seoul Tribe has no history yet. My next visual challenge will be around how we'll elicit a feeling of our story and new community without a legacy.
This is why I'm already excited to finish up our website and move on to designing for our social media because it's where most of our growth will happen. It's the space where our listeners can gather and see the experiences we're designing around the podcast’s commentary and music!
As of now, I can see us utilizing movement to express a type of feeling without introducing more elements. It's a very sophisticated way of communicating. Because our design is so stripped down now, it's going to be interesting to develop an identity based on that.
Emerline: Thank you so much Kim for taking the time to answer all my questions and sharing your brilliance! Until next time…