Good citizenship + a papaya tip

Alright, here we are in week three (or more) of social distancing. Can you believe that the beginning of March looked so different and yet all of April will effectively stay the same in our daily lives? (Is that too dismal to say? 😞)

My boyfriend and I have been staying with his parents in New Jersey for the past few weeks. I’ve seen a number of friends also leave NYC to be with family, which is a risky decision where you could be the one spreading the virus to less affected parts of the nation. This trend of privileged New Yorkers fleeing the city seems to be met with shaming on the internet, no surprise (just search “Hamptons” and you’ll see tons of complaints, though fleeing to one’s vacation home is not exactly the same). But the choice to be elsewhere can also bring us closer to our loved ones and help our mental health greatly (it definitely has for me).

Whether you’ve left your primary home or not, whether your town is critically affected or not, we can all choose to be good citizens and support with action. Some things you can do to help out from virtually anywhere:

  • Donate. Some options are the government emergency relief fund, NYC Health Workers, CityMeals, & Undocumented Workers Fund

  • Make sure to fill out your census!

  • Shop from restaurants, shops, and independent artists! Try your best to be mindful of where your money’s going—for example Everlane is running a 25% off everything promotion right now, but they also just laid off most of their customer experience team. You could spend the money on clothes to support laid off employees instead! Or buy local from places like Awoke Vintage who are doing their best to continue paying hourly workers. Note I say “try your best” because I am still ordering from Amazon sometimes... 🙅‍♀️

All things considered, I am doing incredibly well lately. It feels weird to admit but harboring guilt about enjoying this time doesn’t seem to be useful either, so I want to embrace feeling good.

I am very grateful that I have a job for which I was already accustomed to working from home and that I am able to converse, connect, and have a semblance of family right now. The best part has been having long, unplanned stretches of time in a sunlit room of my own. Creative projects, books, puzzles, and crafts that I’ve been putting on the back burner are reintroducing themselves as playful options to pass the time.

Some trivial discoveries that have been giving me life:

  • Have you tried papaya with lime juice? Delicious + zero smell.

  • Fiber artists Allyson Rousseau (those puffs!) and Mimi Jung (those landscapes!), my main inspirations for learning to weave.

  • Youtuber MadFit’s short and effective workouts. Love that she has “no jumping” videos for apartment dwellers.

  • This free Mindfulness for Uncertain Times course from Reset NYC. Each day has a different meditation technique, some reflection questions, and a daily focus. Makes a great intro to mindfulness and takes only thirty minutes per day.

  • Clairo’s music in general, but this SG Lewis x Clairo song especially.

Last but not least! I realized I haven’t shared my recent work via newsletter so here goes some shameless plugging:

How are you coping right now?

How people on the internet seem to be coping during a pandemic:

It’s rare nowadays to see a global crisis affect everyone so rapidly. Of course there is a wide spectrum in how much we are affected—on one end there is convenience, not being able to get toilet paper at a regular price or have your usual work setup; on the other end there is job loss, instability, health concerns.

If you are relatively young, don’t have kids or family to take care of, and are in somewhat stable financial circumstances (I think that is probably most of you): outside of work, how have you been spending time lately? I am genuinely curious and there is no subpar answer, whether you’ve been sleeping a lot or doing edibles or Marco Polo-ing your friends or trying a new video game or letting Youtube autoplay do its thing. Or maybe you’re legitimately “doing nothing” at all, in which case much applause for being on your way to a non-broken brain!

At the beginning of March I started publishing new interviews on Modern Doing every week. Though this is a passion project that I’ve been working on for months, my motivation has plummeted with the rise of coronavirus. The project is about meaningful work and purpose, situated at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and therefore the first to go out the window when our other needs (physical needs, safety, social/belonging) are at risk. I haven’t been wanting to promote any new interviews when it feels hollow to do so right now. Instead I have spent my free time playing like I’m a teenager again—messing around on Photoshop, starting a new puzzle, and watching the silliest of Korean dramas.

If during this time you’ve felt pressure to adhere to timelines, frustration that you can’t do what you want when you want, or guilt over lack of motivation and focus, the world is saying pretty clearly: let it go. It can wait. Things don’t have to make sense. You don’t always have to be doing and growing. You can just be.

These are strange times

2020 has been rough, to say the least. We started the year with devastating bushfires in Australia signifying drastic effects of climate change, then promptly transitioned to COVID-19 spreading throughout the world (every Asian mother’s worst nightmare!) Biden looks to be the clear Democratic nominee as of this week, and I don’t know a single young person happy about that.

Coronavirus has become the start and end of every conversation I’ve had lately. Workplaces, schools, and community organizers have been taking precautions, cancelling events and encouraging or mandating remote work. People are stocking up on groceries and goods (thread with tips on what to get). Suffice to say, the majority of us and our individual health will be fine, yet it is important for us to take this seriously and practice social distancing for the health of our community, especially the elderly.

In a conversation with a friend on coronavirus, we agreed that this does not feel like a time for hustling, but instead for survival. Lately my motivation to work, create, or play has plummeted. It feels easy to acquiesce to anxiety and boredom when I feel absolutely no semblance of control, as opposed to the illusion of it. Much of this is caused by many days working from home, only briefly leaving the house or seeing friends. While I’m doing my best to savor and extend the hours spent outside, I can’t help but be anxious for what’s to come in the following weeks.

But there is always comfort. Gu’s beautiful comic (preview below) shows the value of kindness for ourselves and each other during these times. When institutions fail to protect or save us, it is our neighbors and friends who can provide. Coronavirus memes on the internet have also been providing much needed laughter, and it is always inspiring to see people’s creativity arise from any situation.

Discoveries of the week:

The show must go on: how artists are performing without live audiences.

Generate hand washing infographics to your favorite song.

A Korean drama on making your own way towards a happy life (I binged this last week and it’s now among my top five K-dramas. Features Choi Woo Shik and Park Seo Joon of Parasite fame!)

K-pop and my family

Hi folks! I skipped sending a newsletter last week (I was in another post-vacation funk and my parents have been in town, so I’ve been prioritizing spending time with them). The upside of all these content platforms and media competing for our attention is that probably none of you noticed a missing newsletter, and for that I am honestly grateful. I know the fear of nobody caring can prevent us from sharing our work, but it can also be a huge relief. Nobody has any expectations, so we can experiment and have fun with it!

The new BTS album came out last Friday and it’s been amusing to watch hours of BTS content with my family. My mom, sister, and I are going to their concert in May, so we did some “studying” this weekend by watching their music videos (they have a LOT, my brain felt a clear excess of dopamine).

While watching, my mom mentioned that all the women on her side of the family are into celebrities. My grandmother would buy photo prints of actors she had crushes on and spent many hours watching Korean dramas and variety shows. My mom’s main pastime is to read entertainment news—she knows every single scandal to come out of Korea and updates me over the phone. My aunt has gone to idol concerts and my cousin and I would bond over K-pop groups. All of us grew up on a steady diet of ‘90s and early 2000s K-pop music until my sister and I split off, our tastes slowly replaced with American ones.

I flitted in and out of K-pop fandom during my college years, first with SHINee and then with EXO. I was bored and lonely, a perfect recipe to make a fangirl. The art and celebrity of these K-pop groups were the guiding lights but they weren’t the point; instead it was the friends I made online who shared struggles with mental health, funny dating stories, and everything in between. It was what so many people share online in the open in 2020, but within private Twitter and Livejournal accounts in 2010.

Being part of a fandom felt shameful. Making friends online was something to hide (this was life before dating apps). After graduating college I gradually spent less time online, just as fandom increasingly went mainstream. I shifted my musical obsession from K-pop to EDM/trance (the fervor that went into categorizing different performances of the same song now shifted to categorizing genre by BPM, ha!)

The first BTS song I heard was “Blood Sweat & Tears” in 2016. By then, Spotify became most of my friends’ discovery platform, and the song’s tropical house beats were alluring to friends who had probably never listened to a K-pop song besides “Gangnam Style.” I loved “Blood Sweat & Tears” but stopped myself from listening to more, in case I fell back into obsession.

Fast forward to 2019. My boyfriend and I went to Korea when “Boy With Luv” came out and they were smashing records left and right; we listened to a lot of BTS that trip. Many acquaintances who I wouldn’t have suspected to be into K-pop were posting about BTS on social media. Suddenly K-pop fandom was…cool?

Since my “ashamed to be in fandom” days, I’m thankful to have met a lot of people who also grew up “highly online,” casually refer to fanfiction without any semblance of judgment, and openly talk about their biases on Instagram. Part of me laments that my shame was self-inflicted, while another part knows that the judgment I felt was real and that I hid my fandom for legitimate reasons. If anything it’s a narrative that is seen over and over in culture—the othering of a concept or thing until it is appropriated or colonized and ultimately accepted.

This weekend, my “guilty pleasure” acceptance of K-pop started shifting into awe. Among the six different women in our matrilineage—me, my sister, mom, aunt, cousin, grandma—we are bonded in our love for pop culture (and also fashion, but that’s a tale for another day). Even though we grew up in America and had few similarities in our day to day, there were always fun entertainment topics to be talked about when we went back to Korea and met up with the rest of the family. We spent our nights watching dramas and music shows together.

In a way, K-pop has always been about forming bonds with others. First with my family, then with strangers turned friends, then with my family once more. I’m hopeful that in another twenty years, my family will still have these leisurely pleasures to hold onto and bond over when so much else in our lives will have changed.

Modern Doing: the genesis & branding

Hi friends! I’m excited to share the latest issue of Desk Lunch, a newsletter for creatives of marginalized genders, written by yours truly. 👋 In it you can read about my lifelong obsession with what to do in life and how that led to the idea for Modern Doing.

If the piece resonates with you in any way, please reply and share :) I love hearing from you all and this topic is forever fascinating to me.

Today I’d like to dive into building a brand for Modern Doing. After deciding to start an online magazine/interview series about work and meaning last summer, I signed up for a Branding class with Designlab.

After graduating and starting full-time work, I realized maybe I really did love school: the finite amount of work on a variety of topics with clear feedback and expectations. I have loved taking classes since then, so signing up for this class was a no brainer. I wanted to define the look and feel of Modern Doing myself but didn’t have brand design experience, so I knew the weekly check-ins with my mentor Peter would help.

What is the brand?

The first week of the course was all about clarifying what the company or project was. What is its name? What are the connotations behind it? What were the reasons for this name?

I landed on “Modern Doing” as the name for this project while walking around the city (walking is the best for brainstorming). There are still some days I am embarrassed by the name—it sounds like a furniture brand, it could be terrible to optimize for SEO. But overall it makes sense since I want this project to explore what "doing" means in our current landscape, considering how much keeps evolving with each generation.

After the name, I was tasked with writing a marketing strategy and creative brief. The marketing strategy made my head explode thinking about target market, positioning, and pricing/sales. I didn’t know if I wanted to pursue the ideas I was writing down (selling small group workshops and courses, coaching, adding advertisements) since it wasn’t my intention to create Modern Doing to be a business.

It didn’t end up mattering too much, though, since the creative brief is the real meat and potatoes for developing a brand. Here’s the one I wrote after discussions with Peter:


Making a logo is HARD. Peter really pushed me to create a logomark (e.g. the swoosh of Nike) as opposed to just a wordmark. We talked about how lots of millennial brands look the same nowadays (see: “Why Does Every Lifestyle Startup Look the Same?”)

Below are my logo sketches (first time attempting to create a logo please keep in mind!!) I thought of a wave motif to represent how doing is constantly in flux for the first round (top). Peter wrote back:

“Alone the wave might be enough as a representation of flux, but closing in to a square or a circle somehow doesn't fit right from the sketches, as these shapes are "blocking" the flow. It feels like there is a beginning and an end, meanwhile this is a continuous journey.”

For the second iteration (left), I kept exploring waves along with face outlines or infinity symbols. Peter told me to keep trying new ideas, saying “You really like the waves don't you huh? :)” Level of despair inside: 💯

Before my last iteration (right), Peter suggested I look at Logo Modernism, which had a crazy amount of beautiful, timeless logomarks. I focused on the wave (riding that to my deathbed), an eye for introspection and self-discovery, and embedded hexagons to represent many ways of doing.

Choosing type was an easier process. After a few explorations, we landed on Karla for its balance and friendliness.

Finally, time to refine the sketch digitally. I used one of the sketches from the third iteration. My sister had the great idea of intersecting the mark with the o’s in the name, so that the o’s represented different points in one’s winding path. I loved this suggestion and felt more confident that this was the right choice.


Now for the fun part: colors! I thought of the brand tone from the creative brief and chose muted colors to connote a calm friendliness.

Peter suggested I check color contrast for accessibility (I should have known this as a web developer 😞And yes, the choices above failed to pass) and that the "o" characters could be filled in instead of intersecting.

Filling in the o’s looked clunky, so I cleared the space within the o’s, making for a cleaner logo and wordmark! We landed on the blue and cream colors in the first option you see below.

Blue is an entire mood—one that is slow to grow but spreads with a measured pace and encompasses everything it touches…blue signifies a struggle, and one that is usually necessary on the path to enlightenment. —Allure

Really, what could be a better color for this project!

The last step was gathering all of the elements above into a brand manual for reference. Thinking about the brand design extensively and having the manual has been a godsend.

Not only was the class a great way to solidify the idea for my project, but I could also assign meaning to the visual beyond the aesthetic. Perhaps it’s not be the most groundbreaking design, but I’m really proud of what I could create on my own and I know that the brand will evolve as the project continues to grow.

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