My first Fulbright award in 2007 was a research grant encompassing a three month stay hosted by Hong Ik University in Seoul. As I drove into the city of Seoul from the airport, the cityscape, especially the street graphics and signboards, attracted my scholarly attention. With collected photos of the intriguing signage on stores and other buildings, I employed to interpret the unique and contemporary cityscape of Seoul. I discovered that the signage not only reflected but shaped the sentiments, aspirations, and ideologies of the people who produced and consumed them at that particular point in time. I produced research papers on cross-cultural understandings of the Seoul cityscape that I presented at international conferences on arts and design.
I was motivated to pursue more in-depth research on signage and the cityscape, and I received a second Fulbright grant in 2013 and taught and extended my research at Kyung Hee University’s Yongin campus. This 2013 award presented many more opportunities for me to share teaching philosophies, curriculum structures and design trends with colleagues. In my classes on the international campus of KHU, I thoroughly enjoyed my encounters with international students from varied countries such as China, Indonesia, and Romania. My interactions with the students in Korea reintroduced me to both the academic environment and the popular culture of Seoul.
My research on signage continued using data, 2009 through 2013, from the Seoul Good Sign Contest (SGSC). The contest was created to encourage more aesthetically interesting and pleasing signboards as a means of coping with the graphic pollution on the streets of Seoul. Signboards in Seoul certainly reflected major cultural transformations and an exciting, new, emerging culture, there. The best of the contemporary signboards embodied a system of meanings in which messages were woven together and layered with the history and culture of the people who produced and used the signs.
My paper titled “Creation Of Visual Culture In Seoul Business Signboards: The Seoul Good Sign Contest, 2009 ~ 2013” was printed in the British publication, The Design Journal 20:2 (March, 2017), 199-217. I am grateful to the Fulbright Foundation for the opportunities and I will never forget those 7000-mile journeys across the Pacific Ocean.
Sang Young Yoon – Fulbright to South Korea 2007 and 2013