Soonduk is the founder of SK Designworks, a full-service graphic design firm in Center-City, Philadelphia (where she plans to remain post-COVID). A member of the city’s creative industry, the studio maintains a mission to view each project as a unique creative opportunity and, therefore, does not try to impose a set style or “look” upon all of their work. Over the years, SKDW has developed strong relationships with some of the region’s most important commercial, educational, public service, and not-for-profit institutions, using their experience to develop and deliver engaging, creative, and dynamic design solutions. Soonduk’s work has been featured in peer-reviewed publications, including Communication Arts, Graphis, Print, AR100, and How. Soonduk also teaches graphic design at Tyler School of Art and Architecture as an Adjunct Associate Professor.
Tell us about the type of work you do. Walk us through a typical day for you.
We do work in a variety of areas with many types of organizations, including commercial, educational, public service and not-for-profit institutions. Experiential design, branding, publications and event packages all included in our portfolio. Before the pandemic, I used to commute from Jenkintown to the studio in Midtown Village. My day would start with me reading my current book (unrelated to design) on the SEPTA train. My work day actually began upon my arrival at the studio where I would immediately start collaborating with my two designers, engaging with clients, seeking out opportunities, paying bills—everything that our design world requires. Since the pandemic, my commute entails a walk downstairs to the indoor garden (dining room) where I carry out all of the above.
What does your studio look like?
The studio is truly a stimulation hub. Filled with posters, signage, art, vintage design objects. The kitchen is equipped with French press for coffee and bottles of tequila and wine. Wall highlights include a wine rack, chalkboard, a window wall of plants. THE WALL OF FAME includes portraits of the designers and interns who have worked here over the years, many of whom are now quite successful.
What are your biggest obstacles in being creative every day, and how do you overcome them?
I am a business owner, art director and designer. As a designer first, all I want to do is to create but dealing with the business end takes a chunk out of my day and that can be frustrating. But I have learned to use different opportunities and surroundings to maintain creativity. Creativity applies to many aspects of daily life and not just the artistic aspect.
How does Philadelphia influence your creativity?
I have been working in center city Philly all my career and I have seen it change dramatically. Just walking around the city alone is super stimulating. People, museums, shops, restaurants, architecture and FOOD. My studio is in the 13th Street area and that is such an exciting part of the city. Running to catch train to my suburban home at the end of the day, walking by all the outdoor cafes always makes me feel I am missing out on the great vibrant urban culture.
What woman/women are you most influenced by?
I am so fortunate to be around so many awesome women, and they lift me up every day. My brilliantly intuitive mother built a successful business in South Korea during the time when that was not a norm for a woman. She always demanded excellence and honesty from people around her and she had great discipline to set an example and lead. And my actor/activist daughter who questions social injustice and who does not accept the status quo inspires me more than she knows.