Zero Per Zero grew from a collaboration between two university students in Korea: Kim Ji-Hwan and Jin Sol. Operating with an experimental approach to creating information design, illustration and animation, Kim Ji-Hwan talks to Caroline McCurdy about the ideas behind their award-winning designs.
After meeting at university (they studied Visual Design together at Hongik University, Korea, and at Tama Art University in Japan) Kim Ji-Hwan and Jin Sol decided to start a design studio where Kim would take on the role of art director and Jin as illustrator. Kim explains, ‘there aren’t many small design studios in Korea but we believed a small studio would be the right place for experimental design work.’
They found that although their work styles differed – Kim’s interest was in information design and Jin’s in illustration – ‘we thought we could produce good results through our differences. We are both graphic designers…we both found graphic design very interesting with great future potential’.
The aim for Zero Per Zero is to present ‘the world [with] an exciting, new, and happy place with our designs, which are concentrated on graphics’. Specifically, Kim explains, ‘we tend to focus on the city…we want to make products that all people can appreciate and enjoy but that people can also feel a personal attachment or attraction to’.
Such an example of personal attachment and attraction can be seen in their animation for the KrispyKreme advertisement. The animation is composed of 3 parts: ‘(1) The search for delicious ingredients, (2) Making the doughnuts, and (3) Showing various kinds of doughnuts.’ The bright and often cute imagery used creates an alternate world of endless sugar-highs and disco dancing farm animals contributing the necessary ingredients to the dancefloor of the mixing bowl. The overall effect of the advertisement is fun and interesting, engaging viewers of all ages, without over-symplifying any elements.
‘We think the dynamic motions and scene changes manifest the lively and diverse spirit and taste of KrispyKreme doughnuts,’ says Kim. ‘Based on the logo of KrispyKreme, we used red and green a lot in designing the characters. It was intended to increase familiarity with the brand’s image. Don’t you think that this clip makes you feel like eating some Krispykreme Doughnuts? Unfortunately, now our friend Ahn (a friend of Kim’s who enjoys KrispyKreme) is on a diet and can’t eat Krispykreme Doughnuts, anymore, but he still gets his fill from watching the clip.’
Zero Per Zero’s continuous display of creativity has won them awards such as Gold in the iF Communication Design Award and Grand Award in DFA in 2008.
‘We felt really lucky to receive these awards,’ Kim says. ‘We don’t really work with the intention of receiving awards, but receiving them certainly gives us some motivation. It’s also nice because it gives us more exposure and allows us the chance to meet other people in the graphic design field.’
City Railway System
‘I think with our subway maps we’re trying to bring graphic design to the general public in an easily accessible way’, is how Kim describes the City Railway System designs. The subway maps do exactly that. Each display the correct information pertaining to the particular subway system, but they also have included creative illustrative enhancements that show individual aspects of that city.
Kim explains that ‘the City Railway System is a new approach in projecting the identity of a city onto its subway map. Whereas standard subway maps are aimed at conveying information as clearly and concisely as possible, the City Railway System by Zero per Zero is distinguished by grafting symbolic elements of each city on to the map while preserving clarity. We introduced the traditional heart shape from Milton Glaser’s “I LOVE NY” logo as the symbol for New York City. For Seoul, we chose the representation of Han River as the curvature in the Tae-Geuk mark of the national flag of Korea, and for Tokyo, sun disc of the Japanese national flag. Targeting specifically tourists, we also marked major landmarks and attractions on the subway map, making it convenient for the tourists to figure out the fastest way to get to the destination with just a glance. The railway map itself is also a good souvenir’.
Kim takes us through the requirements and inspiration behind the representation of each city’s railway system: New York, Seoul, Tokyo and Osaka:
‘We thought that the shape of heart from Milton Glaser’s “I LOVE NY” logo might fit the overall shape of New York City. First we laid out five boroughs in the heart shape, and then mapped subway lines over it. Famous landmarks and attractions such as the Empire State building were added on the map at the end so that it would give a sense of New York City as a tourist spot. This intuitive layout is also convenient for travelers to find their way to destinations at a glance.’
‘Seoul boasts 600 years of history as the capital of the nation and the Han River, a river of such grand size that it is hard to find a similar river flowing across any major city. The Han River is the symbol of Seoul and Seoul is sometimes referred to as “the miracle in the Han” because of its rapid development. The representation of the Han River in this map mimics the curvature in the middle of the Tae-Geuk mark of the national flag of Korea. The overall circular shape of the map was also inspired by the Tae-Geuk mark. The brighter area in the center of the map shows the territory of Han Yang, the old capital of the Jo-Seon Dynasty. This was the old Seoul marked by the Four Gates, and the growth of the city becomes clear when compared to the modern metropolitan area.’
‘Tokyo owns the biggest number of railways of any kind, including subway, light rail, monorail, etc, with more than 1500 stations that cover the metropolitan area. In the center of the city lies the Imperial Palace, the residence of the current Ten-no (Japanese Emperor). Subway lines circumvent the expansive ground claimed by the Imperial Palace. This characteristic is visualized in this map by the concentric circles spreading out to the entire city, with the center in the Imperial Palace ground. This strong presentation of circles reminds us of the national flag of Japan (Hinomaru) and the Japanese identity expressed in the flag.’
‘Osaka is closely tied to the surrounding cities of Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, and Wakayama. Many people traveling to Osaka also visit the neighboring cities. We connected this concept with octopus as the main ingredient of Takoyaki (Tako in Japanese), the octopus dish Osaka is known for. In this map, the Osaka metropolitan is visualized as an octopus with the head being Osaka and the legs sprawling out to the other four cities.’