Yooin Cho
Feb 21, 2024

Lost in translation, found in design: How language, love and motherhood help define Yooin Cho's career

A senior UI designer at MediaMonks Korea reflects on the connections she crafted through design during her transcultural adventures across Korea, the Dominican Republic, the UK, China and the US.

Photo: Yooin Cho, MediaMonks Korea
Photo: Yooin Cho, MediaMonks Korea

It didn’t make things any easier that I was terrible at languages growing up—even my native Korean and my frequently used English were marred by imperfections. Until one day, I managed to find a way to communicate ideas when words failed me.

As means of communication, design and art enable people to connect without elaborate explanations. Visual arts can transcend words, facilitating communication on a deep and meaningful level. Just imagine the immense satisfaction this discovery gave to someone who constantly struggled to find the right words. It granted me a sense of empowerment that I had always longed for. What’s more, my life experience in between languages was not a disadvantage when it came to creating art; rather, the exact opposite.

To this day, my ability to navigate diverse cultural landscapes, coupled with a keen awareness of global design trends, allows me to bring a fresh and dynamic perspective to my work. Whether translating concepts across languages or adapting designs to resonate with diverse audiences, my experiences have strengthened my adaptability and fueled my passion for pushing creative boundaries. So much so that I frequently find myself purposely stepping away from cherished roles to spur myself toward new experiences.

I crave change and continuously seek thrilling experiences where I can evolve creatively and personally. As a child, the reasons I moved continents were beyond my control. However, as an adult, I’ve chosen the same path repeatedly chasing a new job, navigating life events like reuniting with my family, meeting the love of my life, or giving birth to my children. Beneath it all, the reluctance to become too settled and complacent and the fear of losing relevance and not experiencing further growth are strong motivators for me.

Undoubtedly, this has become more challenging now that I have a family. However, I firmly believe that my fear of stagnation has made me a better designer. Even switching between languages helps me stay creative. In most of my roles, I’ve worked quite consistently in English. Designing in Korean poses challenges as the language appears formal to me. The nature of Korean glyphs, being geometric and uniform in size, is an excellent element in design to make them look organized and neat, but it also makes it challenging to achieve a diverse range of looks and tones. In English, I find more flexibility; the language allows for snappier expressions with shorter words.

Additionally, I’ve found that each language reflects a cultural aspect. Korean designs often require a courteous, polite, yet trendy touch. English designs, particularly for a US audience, provide room for a more casual, bold approach that can also exude sophistication. I create my design concepts in English since that’s the language in which I learned my craft. Interestingly, there are some design terms that I’m not even familiar with in Korean.

The ability to work for different cultures is only one of the skill sets that I’ve developed through my life experiences. My professional journey has seen me contribute to various projects beyond traditional design boundaries—from collaborating on international campaigns to spearheading innovative initiatives. However, I didn’t do it alone. Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to receive training from remarkable professionals such as Julia Hoffmann, who has been a continuous source of inspiration.

I was particularly grateful for female mentors like her when I became a parent. Learning how to juggle the dual demands of motherhood and an active professional life has uniquely equipped me with a holistic perspective. Believe me when I say raising twins is a masterclass in crisis management, conflict resolution and leadership. With precious little free time, I have become exceptionally skilled at making the most of what I have, assigning priorities with precision (as well as handling drama). As I continue to evolve as a professional and a parent, the synergies between these roles contribute to a well-rounded approach that fuels my passion for design and leadership.

What’s more, my journey through motherhood has heightened my sensitivity to the diverse needs of people, cultivating a more empathetic and inclusive lens through which I view my design work. Balancing the intricacies of family life has instilled in me a deep appreciation for user experience in design. Whether creating visually compelling graphics or shaping user interfaces, I strive to infuse my work with a human touch, understanding the nuanced perspectives that resonate with a broad audience. This intersection of personal and professional growth continues to shape my design philosophy, enriching my creative process with a depth of understanding beyond aesthetics.

Overall, the interwoven roles of being a designer, a mother and a professional have crafted a rich tapestry of experiences that continually inform my approach to creativity and leadership. From invaluable insights gained under the guidance of extraordinary mentors to the transformative journey of parenthood, each chapter has enriched my skill set in myriad ways. As I look to the future, I am fueled by my belief that integrating these experiences will elevate my design prowess and inspire others to appreciate the richness of embracing diverse facets of life. With an unwavering commitment to growth, innovation, and a deep understanding of the human experience, wearing multiple hats has helped me refine my aspirations and comprehend what I truly desire.

Yooin Cho is a senior UI designer in MediaMonks Korea

Campaign Asia

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