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Towards a More Liberating and Creative Space for All
Towards a More Liberating and Creative Space for All

Directed by Director Soojin Jun of the Design Center: The Commons Rebranding Project

In 2023, our university completed the rebranding project of Yonsei's landmark, 'The Commons.' Since its inception in 2015, The Commons has been a crossroads for all who traverse Yonsei, and following the rebranding, it has evolved into a space where one can find both relaxation and inspiration, fostering a creative environment. We spoke with Professor Soojin Jun, the Director of the Design Center at our university, who spearheaded this project, to delve into the planning intent behind this endeavor and the expectations for The Commons in the future.

Crafting a New Identity for The Commons

Professor Jun has been the Director of the Design Center since March 2022. The Design Center is responsible for implementing and managing our university's UI (User Interface) and installing and maintaining campus signage.

"In modern society, design is regarded as the most effective and persuasive communication medium. Beyond the expressions conveyed through words and text, the role of design is increasingly emphasized in its ability to create moving communication. While past design primarily emphasized aesthetic aspects, we prioritize how design can shape user experiences nowadays. When designing various spaces across the campus, the Design Center considers not only aesthetic elements but also experiential aspects, aiming to create well-rounded experiences."

(Photo Credit: Design Center)

In the rebranding project of 'The Commons,' primary efforts were directed towards branding, signage work, and secondarily towards creating a cultural space. One of the critical symbols constituting The Commons' brand identity is the 'staircase.' Serving as a resting shelter and symbolizing a transition from one dimension to another, the 'staircase' intersects with the consonants of 'ㅂㅇㄴㄹ' to form the new brand logo. The design, shaped after the staircase, represents The Commons as an open space aiming for resonance with various generations, portrayed in a modern and simplistic form.

Moreover, considering the frequent events like conferences and concerts held at The Commons, ensuring user convenience to facilitate visitors, including alums returning after a long time, to find their way easily was crucial. Following this primary branding and signage work, efforts were made to create a more open communication space.

"At The Commons, there were various spaces, but there wasn't a place near the entrance where one could relax freely. There were makeshift tables, but we gathered opinions to create a more comfortable space where experiences could be remembered for a long time. Therefore, we expanded the space creation project from the entrance to indoor and outdoor spaces. With the arrival of the warm spring, we hoped it would become a space where students could freely communicate and share anything while sitting together. We look forward to it becoming a place of communication where new ideas and content are born."

Outside the entrance of The Commons, the existing sunken staircase connecting to the ground was redesigned. Tables were placed intermittently, allowing the staircase itself to serve as chairs, enabling individuals or friends to sit together for relaxation and communication. The pattern, depicting falling baekyang leaves, encourages freer imagination and inspiration. Inside the entrance, new tables and chairs were arranged.

The rebranding work, initiated last summer, was completed by the end of November 2023 after three months of work. The response from Yonsei students was enthusiastic upon the addition of comfortable yet elegant tables and chairs, alleviating the previous lack of seating in the spacious area of The Commons. Particularly noticeable were the flexible curves of the tables, intentionally designed to stand out.

"The ability to sit or stand depending on the table height, and the freedom to choose where and how to sit on the table and chairs, allowed for exploration of various communication methods and relationships, which some interpreted as interesting."

The Commons: Yonsei's New 'Sub-Character'

What prompted the Design Center and Director Soojin Jun to drive the rebranding of The Commons? Director Jun mentioned feeling the necessity for a suitable 'face' for The Commons, recognizing it as an already excellent cultural space lacking a fitting identity.

"The Commons serves as a fascinating space fulfilling various functions such as concert halls and exhibition spaces, yet it lacked a distinct 'face.' While there was official signage in line with the school's UI, they felt formal and traditional, limiting the expression of The Commons' free-spirited culture."

Preserving the university's unique traditions and history is essential, but pondering ways to express Yonsei's identity of freedom and creativity led them to the concept of 'sub-characters,' popularized in various media.

"At first, the idea of 'sub-characters' seemed questionable (laughs), but gradually, I found the concept extremely useful and necessary. I've been deeply impressed by the diverse activities of our alums in various fields, not only in academia, law, economics, and industry but also in music, film, art, and other cultural industries. To capture the diverse activities of our free-spirited and creative students and alumni, I thought it would be great to have another face, a 'sub-character,' besides the traditional logo. I hope many 'sub-characters' will emerge at our university in the future. From this perspective, the new The Commons could be one of Yonsei University's 'sub-characters,' maximizing freedom, creativity, and communication."

May The Commons become a space where Yonseians can forge more emotional and meaningful connections.

The rebranding of The Commons focused on the experiences students and visitors would have from the planning stage. For Director Jun, this journey was an opportunity to reflect deeply on Yonsei's unique values, meanings, and branding, considering how these values would expand and evolve through experiences.

"I hope this rebranding doesn't just end as a visual logo or decoration but leads to more active utilization and variations. It's possible to create souvenirs or merchandise applying The Commons brand or plan new activities and events utilizing the space. Furthermore, Yonsei University has other precious spaces and unique brands for Yonseians. I believe the brand value of these spaces can also evolve in various directions."

The Hidden Secret of The Commons' Sunken Staircase?

Lastly, Director Soojin Jun mentioned that there is a small secret hidden within the sunken staircase of The Commons.

"We've hidden the highlight of the entire space within the sunken staircase at the entrance of The Commons. The secret lies in the luminous stones and luminous paint. These stones and paint absorb light during the day and emit a glow at night. Those rocks that appear like marble are, in fact, luminous stones that store light. Similarly, the luminous paint used on the sunken staircase and sculptures sparkles when darkness sets in. It might be hard to notice during this chilly winter, but as the seasons change and students spend more time there, they'll discover it themselves. Though not immediately apparent, the gradual revelation of new elements through exploration is a crucial aspect of the space. Spaces with more elements revealed through exploration are far more engaging than those that show everything at once."

May The Commons become a space where courage, challenge, and freedom of creativity converge.

The brand that Director Jun envisions for Yonsei is one of freedom and creativity. She feels the essence of Yonsei whenever she encounters intelligent and vibrant students who aren't confined by conservatism. The Baekyangnuri(The Commons) project embodies the hope for these creative students to enjoy even greater challenges.

"As we began the rebranding process, we researched the meaning of the 'baekyang tree(white poplar)' and discovered it's a robust species that doesn't burn easily, and even if it does, it regenerates well. I believe it's important for students not to fear failure. I think resilience, the ability to bounce back from failure and rise again, is a far more critical skill than continuous success. I hope Baekyangnuri(The Commons) becomes a place where freedom, creativity, challenge, and courage meet. I hope it fosters interaction and communication, bringing together campus members, alums, and visitors as one. I hope many alumni visit and remember and experience Yonsei's new space."

Alongside the Baekyangnuri rebranding project, the Design Center collaborated with 'Joguman Studio' last spring to create dinosaur character installations, injecting brightness and warmth into various parts of the campus. Encouraged by the response from Yonseians, Director Soojin Jun plans to continue visualizing the unique identity of our university through multiple projects.

"Many Yonseians liked the work we did with 'Joguman Studio.' They responded not just to the cuteness and beauty of the characters but also to the messages of comfort, encouragement, and empathy within. The Design Center will continue to strive to create content that campus members can enjoy together in various ways."

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