By Kim Se-jeong
The blue oval shape and white letters of the SAMSUNG logo is a global icon ― but how many know who created it?
The logo was the brainchild of Shin Ji-won, the founder of Firefly Branding of which she is creative director.
It was a joint project between her team at Dookim Design, one of the very first branding firms in the country, where she worked for nearly six years and the American firm L&M.
"The blue oval signifies to the world where the company aspires to reach," Shin said in an interview with The Korea Times at the Czech Information Center in Seoul, Monday, where she had just opened her exhibition "Connecting Seoul and Prague" with prominent Czech glass designer Rony Plesl.
"It was when the new heir Lee Kun-hee rose to the throne after his father Lee Byung-chull was retreating due to illness in the early 1990s," she said. "Branding is the DNA, which will determine a company's personality."
Shin still remembers having numerous interviews with the CEOs of Samsung affiliates, executives and other people who were directly and indirectly involved with Samsung.
This was in order to get an idea of the company's longer-term goals and vision.
In 1994 the designer left Korea for New York with only her portfolio in hand, where she managed to find work for several companies.
"I was courageous," she said in retrospect.
From 2001 she worked as design director at FutureBrand, before setting up her own firm three years later.
Among her clients were international package delivery company UPS; MSN; Amtrak, the U.S. national railroad company; Japan Airlines; and the Marriott Hotel.
With Amtrak, Shin was involved in not only creating a logo for the company but changing the entire interior of Penn Station in New York ― new ticket booths, themed coffee shops and the decoration of train carriages among others.
Shin is currently living and working in Prague, where she moved in 2006 to set up a European branch of Firefly Branding.
Firefly Korea, which opened in March this year, covers Asia.
She had a few comments about the Korean government's recent endeavors to enhance the image of Korea around the world.
First, Korea's approach as being a dynamic, colorful and passionate nation carries a strong enough impact, she thinks. Yet, looking at South Korea from the outside, the priority shouldn't be that.
"When you talk about South Korea abroad, it's all about North Korea and nuclear-related issues that dominate. You need to get rid of those first," she said.
Second, Shin suggested developing means of applications. Branding isn't merely about inventing a nice logo and a catchphrase. "It comes as a package," she said.
Firefly branding is currently in discussion on re-branding the Pusan International Film Festival. In addition to changing the logo, she is brainstorming for a mascot, like the polar bear for the Berlin International Film Festival.
"How about a butterfly or a dragonfly?" she said with a laugh.
The subject of national branding has taken up much attention in Korea, with the President Lee Myung-bak administration inaugurating a special committee dedicated to enhancing the country's image.
Shin said she'd be happy to take Korea as a client.
Having connections here wouldn't hurt in doing the job, she added.
She wrote an autobiography that was published Tuesday, to encourage young female professionals in Korea to "think bigger," she explained. She is returning to Prague today, though her exhibition will continue through June 20.