YouJung was born and raised for the first half of her life in Seoul, Korea. Though her parents were fairly traditional, they supported her desire to study abroad. Her parents were believers in that the experience would provide her a chance to look at the world from a broader perspective and beyond Korean cultural norms. Starting in the 9th grade, YouJung’s journey as an international student began. By the age of 15, she had developed an early artistic talent. Four years later she continued on receive a BFA in Graphic Design at SVA in New York City.

Through her design journey, today YouJung is one of only 200 eyewear designers in the United States and is working with Genusee Eyewear, the first circular economy eyewear. This is her story.

Q | Tell us why design is your passion.
To me, art is destiny. In Korea, a child’s first birthday is a huge family celebration. One tradition is placing a series of objects in front of a child and letting them choose one. Each object has a different meaning and the one those picked represent the child’s fortune. When I turned one, I picked rice and a crayon. My parents always joked that I’d be an artist, but not a starving one!

My parents always knew that I loved the arts and the act of creation. As a child, they were supportive of me going to exhibitions and taking art classes outside of school. Eventually, when I first started studying abroad at the age of 15, my parents suggested me I attend a high school dedicated to the arts. I studied at Walnut Hill Arts High School in Natick, Massachusetts for 4 years and moved on to studying Graphic Design for 4 years at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

If you say the average person’s lifespan is 74 years old, I’ve only lived about 1/3 of my life time. To be honest with you, I don’t have a specific way of defining my passion towards design but it’s just has been part of my life ever since I was young and I’m still exploring.

Q: What situation or moment in your life has impacted you deeply that put you on this path?
During my third year at SVA, I had a hard time choosing between Graphic Design and 3D Design. It was like a question you get as a child, “Who do you like better, mom or dad? “ Eventually, I chose Graphic Design and had a great experience. In my junior and senior years at SVA, I interned with Biggs&Co to design beauty product packages and rebrand some of their existing companies. After I graduated from SVA, my very first job was at Good vs Evil, where I worked as a lead designer and had a chance to work on all different kinds of the projects from website design, deck design, book design, presentation layout, packaging, and branding. I was eager to learn and design anything that was in front of me, but always wanted to do 3D design one day.

So, when I was first introduced to Selin by my creative director/ employer, Alex from Good vs Evil, it was another moment of destiny: I discovered the eyewear industry, where I could apply my expertise in graphic design and 3D design.

Q |We understand that you design for Genusee Eyewear, the first circular economy eyewear. Can you tell us about your experience designing for them and talk about their environmental impact?
Selin and I was first introduced to Genusee eyewear brand in Flint, Michigan through an Instagram message, because at that time they were looking for an eyewear designer. When we met at our Brooklyn office, our team was very excited about Genusee’s story and their social impact on the community in Flint, Michigan. We decided then and there that we wanted to help them create an amazing eyewear collection that would bring more impact to the environment and society.

Genusee’s first eyewear style is called “Roeper” and it comes in two colors: Crystal Fog and Classic Black. The eyewear is made out of recycled plastic water bottles leftover from the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. When each Roeper is sold, they’re able to upcycle 15 water bottles. Also, Genusee is a major contributor to the Flint metro-area as they are creating jobs for the community through local manufacturing.

For the second collection, we designed more trendy and stylish shapes that could catch people’s attention and give customers more options to choose from. We are also exploring some new colors to incorporate into the second collection.

Q | What advice can you give designers working in social impact?
Many people have the same issue: they know exactly what the problem is and want to help, but they’re waiting for the right moment or the right fit. If you know the problem and have the knowledge, don’t hesitate. You never know what your design will bring to the society. As they say, “A good start is half the work”.

Q | What projects are you excited to pursue next year?

  • Genusee’s second collection is still in the discussion of finalizing the shapes and hopefully we will be able to launch the new styles shortly.
  • We’re hoping to work more with companies like Genusee who are creating products that are contributing to society and solving environmental issues.
  • We are in the learning stage of Rhinoceros, a 3D design and production program that allows the direct manufacturing of products. Our goal next year is to master this program and take advantage of the latest 3D printed software and printing processes. This will not only reduce time of the first proto sample timing but also be little bit more environmentally friendly, because we are not left with acetate scraps that are cut from the slabs.
  • We are also looking to work closely with Wearable Technology start-ups so that their technology can be embedded into highly aesthetic eyewear designs for mass audience adoption.

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