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Seven Question for Rad and Hungry Founder Hen Chung


Hole reinforcers and pencils from Costa Rica, and Hen Chung in Istanbul.

Around the world in 80 writing utensils? That’s one way to describe Rad and Hungry, which aims to take lovers of interesting office supplies on a “world tour of limited-edition goods with lo-fi style, pushing design through travel and travel through design.” Founded by former graphic designer Hen Chung in collaboration with fellow globetrotters Sam Alston and Laura Dedon Oxford, the online shop assembles an ever-changing selection of country-themed kits stocked with imported pens, pencils, stationery, and other exotic desk goodies, all beautifully packaged. A Rad and Hungry subscription is the perfect gift for the design lover who has everything—except thumbtacks from Lisbon.

“We really try to make each kit speak to our travels in that country–the people we met, food we ate, design we saw,” Chung tells us. “As each layer is unwrapped, people share in our low-down travel. The whole experience transforms the lo-fi, often overlooked daily-diet goods into something sacred. Our ultimate goal is to connect far-flung groups of people who love style, design, and travel as much as we do.” She made time between scouting trips to answer our questions about creating the company, her favorite finds, and what’s currently on her desk.

What led you to create Rad and Hungry?
I was a graphic designer for ten years and it became time for me to move on. I knew I wanted to combine the things I love most—travel and design. One day I was sitting in my library room thinking about what my next move would be. I was staring at a section of shelves that store journals that I collected from my travels. They were all untouched–they were inexpensive journals I picked up in places such as corner shops and pharmacies. Didn’t matter that none of the pages contained any words or images, they were all so sacred to me because they reminded me of each country. And then it hit me—create a company that allows me to travel and share daily-diet design through office supplies.

You travel the globe hunting for new stuff to include in Rad and Hungry kits. What are some of your favorite finds of all time?
Probably my favorite item to date is the Soviet-era notebooks in the Latvia Kit. I love the yellowing pages, the faded mint covers, and the simple rubber-stamped logo. Close seconds are the copper-colored paper clips from our first Germany Kit and the flower-scented pencils from the Portugal Kit. I love the paper clips because they’re so opposite of what people expect of German goods—they’re delicate and not uniform in shape. And the pencils from Portugal are amazing. Their smell is unreal. Super fragrant but not in the cheap perfume sort of way. They’re made by an old pencil factory that’s still in business after all these years. I’m always stoked to discover a company with a lot of history ‘cause I’m a firm believer that old school is best!

You’re packing for a desert island and can only bring one writing utensil. What is it?
Hands down a goldenrod pencil. I figure I’ll be able to create a tool to sharpen it and find something to write on. But I don’t know what I’d do if I need a fire, hurting for wood and have to make the ultimate decision between fighting off the cold or having a trusty number 2 pencil.

What is your greatest design pet peeve?
Restaurant websites. It drives me crazy when I go to a site and I can’t find their address or hours on the landing page. It makes no sense to me that I have to click two or three different links to find that information. And if their menu is a PDF….oh hellz no.

What do you consider your best or most memorable design-related encounter?
The Liquid Stone Exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C., back in 2005. It’s the only museum exhibit that got me so whipped that I flew cross-country multiple times in one year. Every time I’d visit the exhibit my heart would race—I had to take regular breaks and pull out my journal and pencil so I could write about all the intense emotions I was feeling. I’ve always been a big fan of concrete architecture but the exhibit blew me away—it was beautiful, the education component was integrated so well, every detail perfect…I even stalked the bookstore for over a year! I called them non-stop asking about the release date for the exhibit catalog.

What is the most unusual thing currently on your desk?
A plate of pencil shavings. I sharpened a few pencils from our first kit, STMT X Colombia, back in October 2010. The reddish tint of the wood shavings and the form they created as they dropped out of the sharpener are really beautiful and yeah…I can’t get myself to toss them. They’ve sat untouched for almost three years and now there’s a thin layer of dust covering them!

What sourcing trips do you have planned for this summer?
Well…we keep the sourcing trips a secret until The Hunt. It’s a contest held the day before we announce each kit. People get a chance to win a special bundle of goods by guessing the upcoming source country. So I don’t want to name any specifics, but we will be hitting up countries that are new to our World Tour!

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