Digital Media Major Plies Her Trade @ RISD Museum

Headshot of Jiyeon Johnston

“Everything she did for us was above and beyond,” says RISD Museum digital initiatives director.

“I’m not exaggerating. She’s definitely one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with,” says Jeremy Radtke, director of digital initiatives at the RISD Museum.

Radtke is referring to 29-year-old Jiyeon Johnston (pictured above), a native of South Korea, who earned her B.F.A. in studio art this May, with a concentration in digital media.

For those who don’t know what digital media designers do, basically they use the same tools as graphic designers only they apply them to digital spaces and include in their toolkit a variety of media like audio, video, animation and interactivity, creating a more dynamic experience for the viewer.

At RIC, the digital media curriculum at RIC is fine arts-based. That is, students use advanced digital visual tools to create artwork. The curriculum includes 2D animation, 2D video editing and video production, 3D modeling, 3D animation, 3D rapid prototype printing, virtual reality environments and interactive art.

“The Memory of Sancheong,” 3-D Model, 2022
Here, Jiyeon Johnston employs 3D modeling to create this piece in her exhibit titled “Symbiosis” at the Chazen Family Gallery. The work is titled “The Memory of Sancheong,” 2022. 
“Delusion,” 3-D Model, 2024
In this piece, a stream of words with no context are projected across a human head that dons a virtual reality headset. The theme of the exhibit is the relationship between humans and technology. The piece is titled “Delusion,” 2024.

A multi-tooled and multi-talented artist, Johnston’s B.F.A. in digital media isn’t her first arts degree. She earned her associate degree in culinary, bakery and pastry arts in New York at the age of 23. Burnt out from baking and shut out of restaurants by the Covid pandemic, she enrolled at RIC in 2021 at age 26.

“As soon as I arrived on campus, I began actively looking for a graphic design internship,” Johnston says.

She wound up with two – a graphic design internship at Del’s Lemonade, headquartered in Cranston; and a digital media internship at the RISD Museum.

At the museum, they had just launched a new website, she says. Her project was to create a clear identity for the website. Along with pointing out issues with the current website, she generated ideas for improving it and then carried them out.

Both Del and the museum ended up hiring her when her internship ended.

“She’s so talented it’s hard to let her go,” Radtke says.

Johnston was made a part-time employee at Del’s and a work-study student at the RISD Museum. RIC paid 80 percent of her work-study wages through federal work-study funds and the museum paid the rest. 

Her first project was to re-envision the museum’s lobby space. Johnston created motion graphics for the large video screen that welcomes visitors into the museum.

“I had so much fun on that project and I learned so much,” she says.

Her work is now a prominent and permanent part of the museum’s lobby design.

Lobby of RISD Museum
Image on video screen in lobby of RISD Museum
A still shot from the screen in the lobby of the RISD Museum.

“And she kept asking for more complicated work,” Radtke says. “She wanted as much experience as she could and was hungry for opportunities. One of her side jobs was assisting the museum videographer on photoshoots. She got a lot of time behind the camera.” 

For one, she made a video for a PBS trailer on the Nancy Prophet exhibition, a collaboration between RIC and RISD. This show was the most comprehensive exhibit of artwork by Rhode Island-born sculptor Prophet and included 24 items from RIC’s Special Collections at Adams Library.

“For that exhibit, I also got practice with public speaking because the museum asked me to sit on a panel, explaining what shooting the video was like,” Johnston says. “Throughout my time at the museum, they included me in every meeting on every project. All of that inclusion was very meaningful.” 

“Overall, working at the RISD Museum provided me with insights into the operations of an art museum,” she says. “Weekly seminars during my internship enabled me to discuss current issues in the art industry and interact with various individuals contributing to the museum. The entire experience not only helped me enhance my graphic design skills but also expanded my capabilities in photography and video editing.”

Since graduation, Johnston has relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where her husband’s family has roots. She continues to work part time for Del’s and is completing a digital publication project for the RISD Museum. Her aspiration is to continue to work for museums in Minnesota.

Of course, Radtke is sure she will excel no matter what she does: “This is the first time my team has worked with a RIC student,” he says. “Everything she did for us was above and beyond.” 

For more on Jiyeon Johnston’s graphic/motion designs, visit her website at