Behind The Scenes

Graphic evidence of great promise

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H07loOuiXyM

Editor’s note: This year, ESPN, Inc. has 52 Sports Emmy Award nominations. The winners will be announced Monday night in New York City. Front Row profiles a Sports Emmy Award winner in 2010, Heewon Sohn.

“Y’know, you’re probably all wrong for this department.”

That’s what I told Heewon Sohn in 2008 after she moved from Queens, N.Y. to take a temporary position in Creative Services. She had a master’s degree, a good design portfolio, an internship at a cool motion graphics vendor. And then there was her graduate thesis.

Poseur Exposer was an interactive video project in which viewers slipped on a gloved interface, and by flashing hand signals unlocked clips of one cultural group imitating another — Asians kids channeling African-American and Hispanic kids. It was ingenious, funny, and a bit baffling if you wanted to make TV graphics.

“I believe broadcast design is about visualizing concepts and selling the products to the audience,” Heewon said.

The subject matter itself was also tied to popular images of youth culture in mainstream media.

“Maybe someday even TV shows will be personalized and interactive,” she added.

How prescient Heewon turned out to be.

Since there are no subways in Bristol, she bummed rides to work from her supervisor until she could buy a car.

She cut head shots in PhotoShop, and built graphics for tightly-formatted studio shows like ESPNNews which help acclimate new designers to our look, pace, and work load.

After 14 months of extensions and uncertainty, Heewon was hired full-time, just in time to help launch SportsNation.

“It was exciting because it was closer to my personal style,” she said, “fun, dynamic, poppy.”

With SportsNation‘s deeply-integrated Internet videos and social media, you could say it was personalized and interactive, too: the TV show of the future.

SportsNation has been a hit with viewers and earned the show’s creative team — including Heewon — a Sports Emmy last April. By that time Heewon had a new assignment, having volunteered for the night shift to learn how to sweeten SportsCenter highlights with motion graphics.

“You can’t keep doing the same thing,” she said, citing what could be ESPN’s unofficial motto.

Despite her success, Heewon still faces uncertainty. She’s a Korean citizen, and visa requirements limit her options and, ultimately, her tenure in Creative Services.

Since she left Korea at 19, she has also lived in Australia and London.

“I feel very fortunate to have had amazing experiences from travelling and studying at a great design school in New York City,” she said.

“I’ve learned that you make the best solution with whatever you’re given along the way.”

Wherever she goes, she’ll bring that same mix of optimism, fun, and tenacity that has made her successful here. It probably won’t be “the same thing,” but you know what?

She’ll be perfect for it.

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