Young Guns 19: Dani Choi

By Alixandra Rutnik and Brett McKenzie on Oct 27, 2021

Featuring the creative stars of Young Guns 19

A year and a half of uncertainty across the creative industry and beyond has finally given way to a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel — a spotlight with a great big "YG19" standing in the middle of it. After more than 70 acclaimed creatives from around the world and across a multitude of disciplines reviewed hundreds of submissions, whittling them down to a formidable finalist list, we can finally reveal the phenomenal winners of Young Guns 19!

This year, we welcome a diverse class of 32 inductees into the exclusive Young Guns family, a collection of young creative talent that is already near the top of their game — and will only get better. These are the designers, the art directors, the illustrators, the filmmakers, the animators, the multidisciplinary artists whose names you'll want to know — if you aren't already following their every move, that is.

Ahead of the Young Guns 19 Ceremony + Party taking place on Wednesday, November 17 — our first in-person event since the pandemic began — we are featuring the future legends who will be stepping into the spotlight that evening.



Brooklyn, NY


Seoul, South Korea


When did you first hear about Young Guns?

I first learned about Young Guns while doing research of artists that I liked in school, and I realized a lot of them had won the Young Guns award in the past. I also wished to be part of this amazing group of creatives and joining the class of Young Guns was one of my goals as a professional illustrator.

What made you enter this year?

Starting this year, Young Guns initiated a wonderful program called COLORFUL which exclusively gave a grant to BIPOC artists. I'm one of the beneficiaries of this opportunity and I received a free ticket to enter Young Guns this year.

Winning a free entry through COLORFUL was perhaps the biggest reason why I entered this year, but if I hadn't won this year, I would've tried again next year as well. It's been a year since I started working as a freelance illustrator and I had built enough work in my professional portfolio to enter. I was also very curious to know how the juries of top creatives in the industry would judge my work.

Since you are only allowed to submit six projects, how did you decide which pieces were best to enter and truly reflected you and your work?

When curating which projects to enter, I chose ones that best reflect my voice and taste as an artist. I came to realize while working on commissions with clients that sometimes you end up going in a different direction from your vision because your client has very specific ideas for the project. So, I didn’t have difficulty choosing which commissioned work to submit, but I was quite torn when selecting personal work.

How did you celebrate when you found out you won Young Guns?

I have a strange habit of staying calm when something extreme and unusual happens to me. I was alone in my room on my computer when I received the announcement, and I just kept on rereading the email trying to digest it.

If you had to pick one of the six projects that you entered as your favorite, which one would it be and why?

I enjoyed working on all six, but if I had to choose one, I'd pick the Atomix menu card series because this was my very first commissioned work and when my career took off.

I was fresh out of school, and a couple of months had passed since I claimed myself a freelance illustrator. One day, out of the blue, Atomix reached out, offering me to work on their menu card series.

I’ll always remember the elation I felt when I got the job offer from them. This project was also especially meaningful because I had the opportunity to show off my Korean background by presenting the beauty of Korean culture in my drawings next to the amazingly delectable food served at Atomix.

If you had to describe your creative style, the part of your work that’s most distinctively “you,” what would it be?

I’d say my work can be quite enigmatic and surreal. I never intended my drawings to look surreal, but perhaps my process of layering images with hidden meanings, lingering thoughts, and narratives led to this dreamlike quality.

Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career– people who may have had a hand in mentoring and supporting you?

When I was still a student, I yearned to be a professional artist, but was unclear about the path to becoming one. I'm sure a lot of people in the illustration industry are nice enough to happily answer my questions if I ever did contact them, but I was too bashful to reach out.

So, I read a lot of interviews and found them extremely helpful. Most interviews were filled with information about how they first stepped into the industry, and the challenges and pitfalls of it.

As for personal support, I got a lot of it from my peers and professors at school who encouraged me to keep on going whenever I’d get discouraged and lose confidence in myself.

Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners you look up to and admire?

I've been a huge admirer of Yann Kebbi's work since I first laid my eyes on it. I love the crazily hectic, mysterious aesthetics of his images. I hope to see one of his works in real life one day.

I first fell in love with Roberts Rurans' cover art for the 2020 New York Times holiday book review, and his recent collaboration with Hermes looks incredible.

Braulio Amado's cover art, poster designs, and illustrations are so fluid and beautifully odd.

The pandemic of 2020 is slowly starting to taper a bit, so do you have any big goals moving forward into 2022?

Moving forward, I plan to keep on doing what I do and spend more time building a more personalized portfolio outside of commissioned work.

Professionally and personally, I’d also like to broaden my spectrum of work by learning and using a new program or technique.

Name a professional dream that you have yet to fulfill — hey, maybe Young Guns can help propel you in that direction!

There’s a lot that I hope to do in the future! First, I’ve always wanted to create a design to be printed on clothes and accessories. It’s a dream of mine to collaborate with a high-end clothing brand and see people wearing my design.

I also wish to see my work on a huge screen or a wall of a building. So, hopefully I’ll get a chance to work on a project where I can see my work on a larger scale.

Lastly, I haven’t been involved in any exhibitions yet, so I’d love to be part of a group or solo exhibition.

Any thoughts on how you are feeling about winning YG19?

I used to be distrustful and doubtful about having wild dreams and goals. As I grow older and see myself checking things off my list, I'm coming to realize that it is in fact possible to achieve most things in life if you keep on trying with a clear intention and goal in mind. As humans, we are very determined, and we make things happen.

"I'm coming to realize that it is in fact possible to achieve most things in life if you keep on trying with a clear intention and goal in mind. As humans, we are very determined, and we make things happen."




Go check out all the Young Guns 19 Winners in the archive!

Young Guns 19 Archive



Fire + Fragility: Zuzanna Rogatty's YG21 Cube Design
Young Guns 21: Max Amato
Young Guns 21: Justin Au
Young Guns 21: Tess Ayano







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