Mina s. oh: Intern at kinfolk magazine
by Seiyeon Park '21
Meet Mina S. Oh. A MAS major and Korean minor graduate from Wellesley, she has the most aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed and a passion for art and design. In the summer of 2017, Mina took her passions to the professional field through an internship at Kinfolk Magazine, an independent slow-lifestyle magazine now based in Copenhagen, Denmark. W. Collective had the lovely opportunity to speak with her about the process and her takeaways from her time at Kinfolk. To learn more about Mina and what it’s like to work at Kinfolk, read on!
SP: How did you first get interested in art/design?
MO: For me, it started pretty late. I honestly think that I was one of the first people to ever discover Instagram - I started in middle school when no one else had it. I started taking pictures on my iPhone 3, and I also had a small digital camera, so I was taking pictures with that too. I initially just used it for the filter, but then people started following me, and I was like, “Wait it’s all public!” and freaked out. I think that was the first platform where I was sharing things with people. On Instagram, you can curate the way your feed looks, and I started getting interested in that and just visuals in general. I started taking a lot more pictures, and then I got involved in actual photography after getting a DSLR. I was connected with a photographer (through instagram!) who mentored me in photography during my senior year of high school and the summer after graduation. I never learned photography, I just kind of absorbed the process by doing it. He taught me the basics, and also what it looks like to be photographer for a living. It was interesting to know someone’s story like that. For a while, I thought I wanted to pursue it as well because I was so inspired by someone who was pursuing their passion and gift. And that was where it all took off. Coming into college, I was a prospective political science major- I was more interested in law and international politics. But when I came here and my first semester was all political science, I realized I hated it, I just didn’t fit in. During my second semester, I got to explore a lot more, and that’s when I realized, ‘Whoa, political science is not for me,’ and then I had to look inside myself, ask the serious questions..what do I really like to do? And I realized that I love taking pictures, I love sharing, visual storytelling, and just art-making in general. I love creating things. That’s when my path turned the other direction.
SP: What drew you to Kinfolk?
MO: I can’t pinpoint exactly the first exposure to the company, but I distinctly remember a trend that Kinfolk started- the flat-lays, with the perfectly arranged cup of coffee and stash of pens. No aesthetic photo was complete without a Kinfolk magazine. I think, like so many others, I was initially drawn to that layout and aesthetic. So I started looking them up, and I saw that Kinfolk did so many other kinds of things like gatherings, lifestyle curation, and apparel design. I liked how Kinfolk was about slow-living, being together, away from the digital world, spending time with one another, enjoying food, and just enjoying life. From there, I became a huge fan of them and started following what they were doing. I couldn’t afford a subscription because it’s costly, but from time to time whenever I could get my hands on one, I’d read. When I was planning to study abroad in Copenhagen, I saw that Kinfolk had moved their office there and had openings for internships. I couldn’t let such an opportunity go to waste. I thought, ‘Okay, might as well just try.’ I was kind of naive about it. I think that had the opportunity been here, I wouldn’t have applied, because I would’ve thought, “Oh I’m not qualified enough,” or “I can’t do this, there are so many better people than me.” But being in a different country and having the freedom to explore, it just seemed like there was nothing to lose, and so I applied for the internship, not hoping for anything. They took a long time to reply. I had almost forgotten about the internship and was already applying to other things back home. Out of the blue in April, I got an email saying that they’d love to have an interview with me, and if I got the internship, they wanted me to start working the following week. It was very sudden, and I was freaking out! The interview, if you can call it one, was incredibly chill- we just sat on the sofa, with the editor in chief next to me, and Nathan- the owner of Kinfolk- in front of me, and we were just talking, sitting comfortably, having a conversation. It wasn’t like an interview, they just really wanted to get to know me. I guess it went pretty well because that night they called and I got the internship!
SP: What was your role as an editorial intern?
MO: Kinfolk was going through a lot of transitions at the time. Because of all of these new changes, they had decided to cancel all interns, but because they knew I was committed to staying in Copenhagen over the summer for the internship they allowed me to stay. So though my title was editorial intern, I kind of became the “everything-intern.” For the actual publication, I transcribed interviews, made visual layouts for certain parts of the magazine, and researched for potential interview candidates. I sat right across from the editor in chief, so she would peek out from time to time, asking about tasks. With Nathan, I worked a little on the Ouur collection, which is their apparel line. For Ouur, I did a lot of mood boarding and also had the opportunity to create a concept direction for the new Ouur homeware products by piecing together inspiration, ways we could shoot, and choosing the photographer. I was also placed in charge of social media for Kinfolk, but mostly for Ouur. They have run-sheets, where you have to write the caption out, choose the image, get both approved, decide what time it’s going to get posted - everything is planned accordingly. We had to have all the images planned out for each month. It was my job to make sure the feed looked consistent and the image bank contained fresh images to choose from.
SP: So, I bought a copy of the Kinfolk issue that you contributed to (Issue 25) and saw that there was article about the Korean word ‘nunchi’- a Korean concept signifying the subtle art and ability to listen and gauge others' moods. Were you a part of the process behind this piece?
MO: I didn’t come up with the idea; I only found the picture that accompanied the article. But Molly Mandell, who wrote that, was one of the people that I worked closely with. When I saw that she was writing about it, we started talking a lot about the word and its prevalence in Korean culture. Little did I know that Kinfolk writes on these small cultural practices and facts all the time! I think one of my biggest findings from working at Kinfolk is that most followers only buy the issue to have it on their table, they don’t actually read the content. What they don’t know is that so much effort goes into each article and interview. All the writers and journalists there are writing substantial, really great pieces. Admittedly, I was guilty of that. But I realized that I need to encourage people to read it more and to make it known that there are so many intelligent and passionate people working behind the scenes to make Kinfolk a great publication, one that lives not only for its aesthetics.
SP: What was the process of finding an image for an article like this?
MO: For me, the clutch search engine was Pinterest. I would do a lot of searching on that and then try to trace down the photographer of the image that I thought would go well with the article. Then I would go on their website, find different images, put it all together on a doc, and then send it to the editor who would end up choosing the actual photographer.
SP: Did you see a big culture difference between Denmark and the United States?
MO: Being in Copenhagen, there are so many doors for creatives. The arts, in general, are so much more financially supported in Europe. You’ll find many designers making a living off of what they’re doing and starting new things all the time. When I come back here, people are like, “Oh, that won't work, you can’t do that because everyone’s trying to do that,”- you seem to bump into a much harsher reality here. But there, if you have a passion for something and you want to do it, nothing is stopping you. Because the creative community is so supported, it’s massive, and everyone knows each other, so if you just have a couple of connections, you can easily get connected with a different company. Copenhagen has this really big “3 Days of Design” event- I’m planning on going back to Copenhagen every year just for those three days because it was that terrific. The whole city comes together to celebrate every kind of design from furniture design to graphic design. Every designer and independent artist comes out to put together the work that they’ve been working on, and everybody visits one another’s studio. That day, the Kinfolk office was empty because everyone was out looking at everyone else’s work, connecting with them, networking with them. It was so beautiful. I thought ‘Why can’t we have one of these things back in the States?’ There’s just this sort of easy camaraderie- like oh you’re a design person? Me too! Let’s work together. It was inspiring to be in a city like that, where everyone was so friendly and open. The Danes definitely know what they’re doing in terms of design.
SP: How was your day-to-day life in Copenhagen and at Kinfolk?
MO: Since it was a part-time internship, I worked three times a week. The commute would take around 45 minutes from my host family’s home, so I would have to wake up early to take the train to the city center. The office is located in Central Copenhagen, a quaint building off the busy streets. Everyone works in a main room, and then there’s a visitors space and a gallery space. So I’d come in, people would already be working, while others wouldn’t have come in yet- it’s a at-your-own-pace kind of place. Usually, we take turns bringing coffee and pastries to work- although I never did- so you’d get your coffee and then start working. My tasks depended on what the editor or the assistant editor would tell me to do; sometimes they would give me a run sheet or things to check up on. I’d start working on that, and sometimes I’d greet visitors in the gallery space and show them around. Pro tip- if you visit the space you get a free Kinfolk magazine! That’s what I did before I applied for the internship. I attended the Kinfolk office, and the studio manager really encouraged me to apply. She was so lovely, and before I left she gifted me the fresh, most recent publication. Then you get a lunch break, and usually, we all go out to eat because the office is in the heart of Copenhagen. There are so many restaurants and people outside- it’s a beautiful area. We’d go out, eat lunch, and it’s all kind of at your leisure. There’s not a specific time that you have to be back, which I liked. If you wanted to spend more time eating lunch, you could, and as an intern, I had a lot more free time because sometimes there wouldn’t be much to do. During these times I would walk around Copenhagen, pick up flowers maybe, and then come back to do some work, ending the day around 5.
SP: What was the most significant challenge you faced during your internship?
MO: For me, it was my first ever internship, and my first time working in a professional space, so in a lot of ways I felt tiny and small. Being myself at the beginning of the internship was hard. I am usually shy, but I think I was even more introverted at work. Sometimes we would have lunches altogether, and I wouldn’t talk at all. I was just very intimidated. I felt like my differences stood out there because Denmark is already very homogenous, and in the office, there were no other people of color. I think being the only Asian added to my worry that they would perceive me as the quiet, submissive stereotype. And it was definitely hard battling that- it was all an inward battle. They probably didn’t know, and I was eventually able to get closer to my colleagues as the internship progressed, but in the beginning, I had to make sure that I was putting myself out there, and not feeling small or scared to ask questions.
SP: What was a highlight of the internship?
MO: I think it was coming into the office every day. The office space is so beautiful, I want my future home to look like that! It looks better than it does in pictures. The eye for design is so keen there, and anyone who comes into the office is immediately taken aback by how beautiful the space is. It’s also no surprise that companies rent out the office for photoshoots as it makes for a fantastic backdrop.
SP: Do you have any advice for students who want to pursue similar internships?
MO: One thing is to not limit yourself to what you think you can do. I think that’s what was keeping me from applying to all of these internships. I just thought they were too big for me, beyond my skill set, but it never hurts to try. It sounds so cliché, but after that wall of fear came down, I found so much more freedom to apply to things that are out of my comfort zone, and hey, it worked! I think it’s just about trying, even though you don’t think you qualify. A lot of times, employers will view such a move favorably, because they see that you’re excited and willing to learn. It was one thing I pushed: even though I don’t have much experience, I want to learn, and learn because I’m passionate about what this company stands for.
Thank you Mina, for your thoughtful insight and advice. We look forward to seeing where your creative path will lead to in the future!
All images courtesy of Mina S. Oh.