We had the good fortune of connecting with Heena Chung and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Heena, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Coming from a background of pulling all-nighters and working on projects all day, every day, from school, I could not imagine taking a break from working. So after I graduated, I took all the freelance opportunities possible. At one time, I was working on 5–6 projects at once — staying in front of the computer all day, getting up only to eat or stretch. I was used to this type of lifestyle from school, so it made sense to me. I was living a nonexistent work-life balanced life, and I thought this would keep my creativity flowing. But it was just the opposite. I loved working on projects, but I was not feeling the excitement and passion I felt during school.
After a few months of working freelance, I accepted a job in Korea. And to prepare for a full-time job, I slowly stopped accepting freelance projects to finish up the ones that I was working on at the moment. Then I got to take a real break from working for a month or two. And it was just what I needed. Because I was not working on any design-related projects for a while, I began to miss working again, which led me to plan self-initiated projects with friends — to work on things that I wanted to.
Now, I am working as a full-time Digital Designer, and I have the best work-life balanced lifestyle. I am more healthy — mind and body — keeping me working in my best condition. And the best part is, I also have time to work on personal projects on my own time, which helps my creativity flowing, and keeping me passionate about what I do for a living.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I started designing a bit later than others. My first University was UC San Diego, where I studied Communications. After I graduated, I worked in the marketing field, which I did not find too exciting. I was always interesting in graphic design so I self-taught myself Adobe programs. It took a lot of courage to make the decision to quit my stable job and go back to school to study design, but I think it was the best decision I made my entire life.
While at school, I gave my extra best. There were so many younger, hard working, and very talented creatives that — at one time — I did feel discouraged for starting so late. But because I tried the best I can, I don’t have any regrets about the projects I accomplished during school. And because I already experienced college life and the working environment, this set me apart from the other younger students and helped me overcome a lot of my obstacles.
I also went through a lot of questioning on what path I wanted to follow after I graduated. The thing I regretted most from my previous University was that I never thought of moving out of Los Angeles — or my comfort zone. So this time, I studied abroad in Berlin for three months, and also took up an internship in London. I think this opened up my eyes more in helping me decide what kind of designer I wanted to be. The experience that I gained from learning about other cultures from studying and working abroad led me to realize that observing my cultural background as a Korean American was important to me as a growing designer. This led me to step further out of my comfort zone in to moving across the world to South Korea as my next steps as a growing designer.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would spend a day in Highland Park, and another day in Downtown and Koreatown, Los Angeles. I would just walk around with them, go to random stores around Highland Park, grab a coffee from Civil Coffee, and at night, would go to Good Housekeeping HLP — where I used to go weekly to grab a drink when I was still at school – to get a few gin and tonics.
Another day, I would take them to Maru Coffee in Downtown Los Angeles, which is my favorite coffee spot, to drink the Cream Top coffee. After walking around, looking at shops like Dover Street Market and Departamento, I would take them across to Koreatown and take them to Sake House where I’ve been going to ever since I was in my early 20’s.
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 would like to dedicate a shoutout to my friends from school that gave me support. I especially want to thank Sunny Li for being the best – friend and design partner. I would also like to thank Bryon Panaia, whom I met as a client but ended up becoming a mentor to me, for giving me advice and support during my next steps as I left the U.S. to gain experience working in Korea.