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Pieces of You:
A Memoir

Sep. – Dec. 2020, 15 weeks

A two-part project about my father who died when I was seven years old.

My dad died of a heart attack in 2008, when my older sister was eleven, I was seven, and my younger sister was three. Ever since then, I grew up without a significant male figure in my life. I did not fully register his absence in life until I came to college and realized that I was walking through the same buildings he once did. I miss him even if I don’t remember him at all. This self-initiated project was for my family to externalize the complicated emotions we have toward (or against) the man who left us. 

Skills ✨
Expressive typography
Traditional book design
Interaction design
Tools 🖇
Adobe InDesign, Figma
Collaborators 💖
My mother and my older sister for the content.

Project Concept

I like reading memoirs in the form of books, like The Tattooist of Auschwitz or Educated. So for the one-semester project, I decided to visualize the strange relationship I have (or the lack of) with my father. Initially, I had multiple ideas on how the design could be executed. Is it only going to be told from my perspective? Do I remember enough about him to actually write a book? My decision was to create a series of stories told from my mother, older sister Bonnie, and myself. The younger one, Mia, could not participate because she does not remember anything about dad.

I used expressive typography to tell our stories and convey the loss and sadness. The design was executed in two parts: a 32-page book on our memories and an interactive figma file about the day I learned that dad is no longer alive.

Part 1: The Book

The Structure
This 32-page consists of three components:

  • An introduction about my dad
  • Our memories with him
  • My personal relationship with him

I have structured the book into these parts to aid the reader have a better understanding of who this man is, what kind of life he lived, and what type of relationship he had with his daughter. The second section, which is has the most pages, is noticable by its distinct holes. The holes in the book are intentionally designed to visualize the sense of loss.

The Language
I grew up speaking both Korean and English with my parents. When I asked my mother to write down her memories for this project, she initially hesitated because English is not her first language. So I requested her to write in whatever format that may be comfortable for her to keep the content and tone as honest as possible. I did not want to adjust the way we would tell the stories for the reader who may not read Korean. I wanted to keep the stories as personal and authentic as possible for us to reflect on in the future.

The Photos
About 150 photos from my childhood are in the book. They act as a mixed timeline from me and my sisters’ memories, illustrated by the photos from my older sister Bonnie’s first birthday to my younger sister Mia’s days at the kindergarten. These images are drizzled across the pages like confetti and add a visual effect as they are contrasted against the black text.

Full Book PDF 
Click here if you are interested in reading the entire book. If you enjoyed the reading, please let me know; I would love to hear your thoughts!

Due to the limited resources during the pandemic, I have not had the opportunity to print the book yet. If you are interested in obtaining a copy in the future, let me know and I will be happy to print (and ship) yours when I am on campus. :)

Part 2: The Digital Interaction

The Digital Experience
After finishing the book, I created a digital experience piece that accompanies the stories told in the book. For this specific interaction, I illustrated the morning that I learned that dad died.

(For those who are unfamiliar with Figma, click the prototype and press Z to adjust the screen proportion of the prototype — press the key repetitively until you achieve the desired proportion — and R to restart the interaction.)

The Language
While I wanted to tell the narrative mostly in English, I did not want to completely remove Korean from the digital experience. So I added hidden hover features within the narrative: When the viewer hovers over specific words, it would trigger my recollection of the event in Korean. The feature has intentionally been hidden, as most of the audience probably do not speak Korean and not knowing this part of the story would not affect the way they understand the narrative.

The Photos
Similar to the photo treatment in the book, I have added small photos for the digital interaction piece to mimic the photos to move with the scrolls. 

Final Thoughts

I am happy that I crafted the memoir of my father because the project acted as a conversation starter for the family. We avoided talking about dad for the past thirteen years because the topic would never make us happy. But through the tears and laughters during the phone calls, we were able to share the pain we long forgot. These conversation would not have happened if it were not for this project.

I cried a lot while working on this project. It is hard to verbalize the emotions I was going through, but spending hours on crafting a story about my dad was a therapeutic and powerful experience. I personally have a long way to go to fully process the things that have happened in my life. But this was a beautiful first step. I am grateful for this opportunity and the available resources.

Special thanks to professor Brett Yasko for guiding me through this project.

Thank you for visiting ︎ Have a great day