We had the good fortune of connecting with Youna Jang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Youna, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
As a child, I was never one to go by the rulebook when it came to art, design, and creativity. I was curious about everything and anything. I allowed my imagination to run rampant, using it as a foundation for the things I found joyous in life. I created dolls made of tape, bags from old jeans, and even designed numerous typefaces (granted I didn’t know what that was at the time). From the very beginning, I knew my rightful place was within the arts. One thing led to another, and now I am blessed to be able to use my job as an outlet for what I love. Working as an art director, there is no such thing as a boring day. From the different artists I get to collaborate with on a day to day basis along with the variety of clients from the typical corporations, to the mom and pop shops, at first I used art and design as a way to express myself, but quickly realized I have much more to offer. Having the opportunity to grab a client’s idea and run with it, all the while creating something so beautiful, so meaningful, not only to myself but the intended audience is something I will never get tired of. As I look back at everything that has gotten me to where I am today, whether it be from my drive or just being in the right place at the right time, a lot of doors opened for me, and I can’t help but believe that someone or something bigger than me has been by my side all along keeping me grounded and on the right path. This career chose me through fate and all the good and bad that has come with it has made the journey that much sweeter.
We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Although my major was graphic design with a focus on branding at ArtCenter, I like to think that the breadth of my work exemplifies my ability to adapt under circumstances. When a client provides me with a project, I’ve learned that there are numerous ways to get from point A to B. Oftentimes, there is more to it than just a visual solution. You need to learn how to ask the right questions and at times, stray out of your comfort zone to bring the best product forward. One of my most memorable projects was working with 99 Cents Only Stores to build their brand awareness. This is where we came up with 9/9 Day. Each year on September 9th, we would celebrate 9/9 Day by coming up with a variety of special events to promote the brand ranging from shopping sprees to the celebration of 9 couples through a wedding on aisle 9. While this achieved the overall goal that 99 Cents Only Stores envisioned, we wanted to go bigger. So big, we set a new Guinness world record for the largest packaged product number by using over 12,000 packaged products sold through the retailer. From there, everything was donated to multiple non-profit organizations. Watching a simple idea grow into a project of this magnitude was something I had not even fathomed and to be a part of the process was extremely memorable for me. Above all, the most important thing is to have fun and love what you do. Having skill is one thing, but possessing the love and passion for the arts can take you from good to great.
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?
If you ever get the chance to know me, one thing you’d quickly learn is that I love to eat! LA is a ethnically diverse melting pot, and when it comes down to food, I can’t think of a better place to explore. I’d start the day with a breakfast burrito from Wake and Late in DTLA, lunch at Grand Central Market, and milk tea boba from the Boba Guys’ for a mid-afternoon pick me up. Red Bird or Moonshadow for dinner, and you definitely can’t forget to check out the Koreatown bars and maybe sing a song or two at the karaoke to finish the night. Oh yea, you can’t forget dessert! Tea Master Matcha Cafe & Green Tea Shop in little Tokyo has the best matcha ice cream around! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Thanks to Mrs.Bretzlaff who recognized my passion for art in high school during a time I spoke no English. We could barely communicate, but your actions spoke louder than words. Thanks to Heejoo Kim, you not only helped me prepare my college portfolio but also helped me see a better future during my lowest times. My ArtCenter professors Ania Borysiewicz and Gerardo Herrera, you believed in my abilities and helped me grow immensely in not only the technical aspects of being a great designer but in life as well. You both truly embody what it means to be a good person and it’s something I strive for on a daily basis. To Eric Boisvert, I am grateful for the faith and trust you gave me as a young aspiring designer out of college. You noticed my potential and taught me the ins and outs of being great in this industry. To Rudy Manning and Dan Kremsa at Pastilla, thank you for the opportunities to expand my skill sets in an industry I am unfamiliar with. I learn something new every day under your supervision and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for this team. Last but not least, to the most important figure in my life. My Mother. 삶을 늘 꿈으로 채우고, 어려움 속에서도 긍정적인 마음을 잃지 않았던 엄마의 딸이라는 사실이 난 늘 자랑스러워. 엄마 덕분에 나도 내 꿈을 향해 달릴 수 있는 사람으로 성장할 수 있었어요. 수많은 희생에도, 단 한번 힘들다 생각한 적 없다고 말씀하시는 엄마에게 늘 감사와 존경을 표합니다.
99 Cents Only Stores – Jason Travis, Photographer Youna Portrait – Mona Lee, Photographer