We had the good fortune of connecting with Hannah Kwon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hannah, how do you think about risk?
Growing up in vastly different environments, from Korea, to China, to Germany, and to the United States, I constantly had to evolve and adjust to my surroundings. I had to courageously confront the unknowns every day. Many of these challenges forced me to switch into ‘survival mode’, when I had no option but to face my fears head on in sink or swim scenarios. This came with countless challenges of feeling unsettled, disoriented, and self doubt. From a young age, I learned to put forth the effort to meet the needs to survive the challenges set in my environments. The constant change helped me to understand the growth that results from stepping into an unknown. During my stay in Berlin for study abroad, I felt challenged as a foreign woman in a place where everyone seemed so strong and independent. In the beginning, I was in survival mode, navigating through each day. However, after a few weeks, I knew I had to get to the bottom of the loneliness and find community. I started meeting new people at cafes, churches, and bars, and to my surprise, Berliners are very accepting of new relationships. I was able to build deep relationships upon the opportunities I sought when I decided to take actions to thrive with what was given in my environment. From my childhood, I naturally developed the willingness to put in the hard work to meet the end of what I’ve dedicated to. I became familiar with stepping into an unknown with an excitement to see what unfolds. I have specific renowned architecture firms in mind that I have been applying to throughout my studies at ArtCenter College of Design. Finally after four years of constantly applying, I received an interview invitation. However, by the time I saw the email, the position was taken. Results aren’t always successful and they often include disappointments, but through this experience I gained countless valuable lessons and the additional self confidence that I will receive interview opportunities again when the time is right. I took the lessons from my upbringing, and learned to apply it to my career choices. I continue to practice risk taking in reframing my skills to create new opportunities by dipping my foot into different mediums to explore my creativity, including making music and producing videos and uploading content on YouTube platform, HOWHANNAH. I know that there are boundless additional options to explore if I am willing to identify and challenge assumptions, allowing me to break free of expectations. After reaching a certain threshold during survival mode, I started seeing the same amount of hard work leading me to the achievements that one would identify as thriving. Risk is when you step out of your boundaries to seize an opportunity. I find myself constantly putting myself in a place of risk taking because I know risk is the factor that opens up the possibility of my next milestone. There’s two very different outcomes from risk taking, success and failure. And the most challenging part for me is the first step, allowing myself to step into the unknown. Knowing that I need to embrace my vulnerabilities in the uncharted and expose myself to the challenges that will reveal areas of growth in my character. However I constantly find myself back at the starting line of risk because of the fact that whichever the end result is, I will certainly grow from the stepping outside of my comfort zone. Despite the challenge of vulnerability found in risk, I still find myself repeatedly taking that first step past the starting point, sprinting towards the unknown. whatever the end result may be is impertinent to this race; for the certainty of growth is only found outside of my comfort zone. With my inquisitive personality, I recognize the fact that the outcome of risk could be a failure but I am eager to see what the risk is going to unfold at the final destination. Becoming familiar with the unknown and after many failures from different areas in my life, I’ve found value in experiencing the growth that results. I’ve seen success only through endless risk taking which involves failures. But understanding that my biggest constraint is myself and identifying that I’m limited only by my imagination, I am able to more easily break free of my boundary.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My design process lies in the observation of communities across the globe. Adjusting to several vastly different environments, from Korea, to China, to the States, then to Germany, I learned to observe different lifestyles at a local level. This method has shaped the way I see the world and, in turn, design for it. I hope to explore creative problem solving for healthy communities, foster social encouragement, and deliver local solutions globally through design.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Los Angeles is one of the most visited places in the world. There are so much to see in city, but I definitely have specific spots to take my friends to that’s catered to my personal taste. In the mornings, I would take them to different hiking spots, including the Griffith park for the Hollywood sign, the trails in Malibu with the Ocean view, and Franklin Canyon Park with the calming scenery. For food, I would take them to restaurants that presents not only well curated food, but a refined experience, such as Destroyer that cooks with local ingredients, Bavel in the Arts District, and KazuNori in Downtown. For coffee, I like places that care about the craftsmanship of their drinks and the environment. Cafes like Maru, Laveta, and Bar Nine. And lastly and most importantly, for some cocktails, I like to take friends to boutique bars that have experiences none like other, which includes Apotheke in China town, Blind Barber in Highland Park, and Bar Calo in Silverlake. I would choose specific places that presents the most convenient route and what we are feeling for the day!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am fortunate to have the resources necessary to make the most out of the career I chose. The connections I’ve made through mentors from school and internships have opened doors for me in the industry. My director from my internship at Starbucks Concept Design at the Headquarters, Andre Kim made sure to be available when I needed guidance during the program. On top of his busy schedule with so many important meetings, upon my request, he agreed to meet with me every morning. To this day, we email back and forth whenever I have a question or an update in my career. Another mentor of mind, Alfred Byun who is a director at Boston Gensler, extends help, also during his packed schedule, to discuss different areas in my career that I need guidance on. Without the support of my mentors, I wouldn’t be here today. I realize the privilege I carry is built upon the collective of people supporting me.