Kiyoung An: Following the Emotions

Introduction by Keiko Caltagirone, Administrator, Headquarters for Strategic Management: Public Relations Division, Kindai University

Professor An is a great educator and also an astonishing designer. He is always busy working on projects since we, as one of the biggest universities in Japan, are requested to help with designs by both local and public organizations. He works on projects with our graphic art and design students as a team for educational reasons but also to showcase students’ perspectives according to their suggestions. We in the public relations department are very happy to work with him and promote his and his students’ work in order to not only improve society, but also to let others enjoy his and his students’ remarkable art and design.

What has inspired or motivated you in your career?

I have never been fully satisfied with my work and the results of competitions. I am always frustrated with my lack of ability. However, these frustrations inspire and motivate me to continue improving.

What is your work philosophy?

I do not follow any commitment or philosophy when I’m working. I just follow the condition and emotions at the moment.

Who is or was your greatest mentor?

I have not yet met someone who I can call my greatest mentor. However, I can probably say that my students’ ideas and art pieces are the equivalent of mentoring for me.

What is the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome?

Currently, I get confused with what art I would like to create, or what is right and wrong stylistically. I wish to overcome this challenge as soon as possible.

Who were some of your greatest past influences?

I genuinely look up to Moholy-Nagy and Max Bill, who were designers, artists, and professors at Bauhaus, an art school in Germany. I also admire Paul Rand, an American graphic designer, and Yusaku Kamekura, Diego Fukuda, and Ikko Tanaka, all from Japan.

Who among your contemporaries today do you most admire?

I feel like there are many talented contemporaries internationally, so it is difficult to name one specific person.

What would be your dream assignment?

I would like to create and leave behind designs that become internationally known, such as an arrow or a toilet pictogram.

Who have been some of your favorite people or clients you have worked with?

In South Korea, I enjoyed working with the Korea Institute of Design Promotion (KIDP) and Gyung-Jae Lee, the CEO and chairman of Samjin Lnd Co., Ltd. After moving to Japan, I worked with Leopalace 21 Co., Ltd., Hakuzo Medical Co., Ltd., Daiwa Package Co., Ltd., Kintetsu Department Co., Ltd., and the public relations office at Kindai University.

What are the most important ingredients you require from a client to do successful work?

I think the most important ingredient is to have a great relationship with the client.

Other than designing, you also teach at Kindai University. How did you get into teaching? How does being a professor influence your design work?

I mainly concentrated on teaching after I came to Japan. However, current universities are different from before because there are lots of requests from universities and companies for design work. I consider these requests to be valuable teaching moments to facilitate my students’ learning. Students are using their skills not only for classwork but also for addressing the needs of society as real designers in the field. Both my students and I struggle with these requests, but it is rewarding when the design gets recognition and becomes commercialized.

You work at the Kindai Graphic Art Laboratory. How does that connect to your teaching position at Kindai University?

The Graphic Art Laboratory is a seminar class. Students choose a seminar teacher based on their research interests and then work on projects with their teacher in their field of specialization. In my seminar, I work with students doing joint design research projects and design requests from within and outside the university.

You were born in South Korea and moved to Japan in 2000. What are the similarities and differences between Korean and Japanese design? How do you work to combine the two?

The history and experience of Korean contemporary art and design are short compared to Japan. Before I came to Japan in 2000, there was no original Korean art, and artists tended to copy styles from Japan and the US. However, various art styles that are considered to have been influenced by Korean styles have emerged recently. The main similarity between the two countries’ design ethos is that there is an oriental thought and sensation in art and design. Japanese art tends to be very subtle and often incorporates “silent expressions,” like a cat with a Japanese katana sword. On the other hand, Korean art tends to include tough and wild expressions, like paper being torn with our hands. Korean art also possesses more flexibility and allows artists to think creatively when faced with problems.

What is your greatest professional achievement?

My greatest professional achievement is my position as the Korea Institute of Design Promotion’s official artist and judge. Also, in Japan, I was awarded grand prizes for logo designs from competitions held in Etadashima, Hiroshima, and National Miyazaki University.

What is the greatest satisfaction you get from your work?

The greatest satisfaction is the adrenaline I get from overcoming tight time or budget restrictions and still designing something almost perfect.

What professional goals do you still have for yourself?

As mentioned before, I would like to create and leave behind artwork that everyone around the world knows and recognizes.

What advice do you have for students starting out today?

Don’t be harsh on yourself. Enjoy other interests outside of design, stay healthy, and exercise.

What interests do you have outside of work?

I’m interested in collecting antiques and dreaming while listening to jazz music.

What do you value most?

Achieving consensus and sharing results.

What would you change if you had to do it all over again?

If I could change something, I would hope for more stamina because it is essential when it comes to designing.

Where do you seek inspiration?

I used to get inspiration from artwork or books about great people, but now I get inspiration from my students’ stories and art. I teach students, but I also learn from them; they inspire me.

How do you define success?

Success is the feeling of relief when clients are satisfied with my designs.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

If possible, I want to be the owner of a small gallery with an ocean view.

Born in South Korea, Kiyoung An moved to Japan in 2000, where he graduated from the Tokyo University of the Arts after studying a doctoral course in design. He is now a professor at Kindai University and is part of the Department of the Arts. He is also an established designer and was a judge for the Korea Design Exhibition Award (KIDP). Other competitions he has judged include the Daegu City C.I. Design, the Daedong Bank C.I. Design, the Miyazaki National University Logo Design, and the Etajima City Logo Design. Recently, he has been busy preparing for the Osaka Expo 2025 Co-Creation Challenge and the Asia University Design Exchange Exhibition (they will be held in July and November 2024 respectively).

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Author: Graphis