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Unearthing the Roots of Hangul: Korean Woodblock Type and Their Digital Revivals

Korea’s native script Hangul was created by King Sejong in 1446, and was traditionally written vertically with modern geometric forms. We will first explore the history of Hangul since its invention, noting key characteristics with print examples of the brush calligraphy used by the members of the royal palace and the common people. The original vertical writing direction greatly influenced the rhythm of Hangul typography. Modernization after Korea’s liberation from Japan brought about the shift to horizontal typesetting, which affected modern Hangul design in terms of letterform structure. Design210, A Korean type foundry, launched a project called “뿌리깊은 프로젝트”, or “deep-rooted project.” This project aims to revive Hangul designs from a number of key books made with woodblock printing dating back as old as the fifteenth century up to the twentieth century. We extracted and analyzed the limited set of letters from our sources and created fully functioning digital fonts containing over 2350 glyphs—the minimum needed for modern typesetting. We took special care to make sure the fonts not only embodied the original spirit of the sources but also be appropriate for current use. We will explain our process of adapting letters originally designed for vertical typography into horizontal typography. We began launching these fonts in distinguished series since 2018, revealing a new font every three months. We wanted to provide an opportunity to educate the public about invaluable historical artifacts pertaining to Hangul, and freely distributed these fonts to the public under the Open Font License. We have received overwhelmingly positive support from users and compelling examples in Korean media.

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Speaker

Chae Young Lee

Type Designer Design210

Chae Young Lee is a Korean calligrapher and type designer based in Seoul, South Korea. Lee holds a bachelor’s degree in Korean calligraphy arts from Kyonggi University, and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in visual communication design at Kookmin University in Seoul. She is now director of type design and research at Korean type foundry, Design210. Lee designed many of the foundry’s most popular fonts and has worked on projects for multiple corporate clients. Lee continues to design typefaces and pursue her personal projects as a calligrapher.

Speaker

Jisoo Kim

Type Designer Design210

Jisoo Kim is a Korean type designer based in Seoul. Kim holds a bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science from the University of California at Berkeley. Kim has had a lifelong fascination for letterforms, leading her to pursue type design in her formal education. In 2019, she received a postgraduate certificate in type design from the TypeParis Program in Paris, France. Kim currently works at the Korean type foundry, Design210, researching and designing type for multilingual projects.