History and Development of Hangul Typography

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The Development and History of Hangul Typography 한글 타이포그래피의 역사와 발전


Hangul is the official alphabet and language of Korea. The Great King Sejong(세종대왕), invented Hangul in 1443 and officially released it to the public in 1446 through a document called Hoon Min Jeong Eum (훈민정음). His intention in inventing Hangul was to decrease the amount of people who were unable to read Hanja(한자), which was Chinese letters. In addition, education was very expensive. Due to King Sejong’s good intention UNESCO awarded Korea with having the lowest rate of illiterate

of inventing Hangul and that Hangul is easy to learn and adopt.

Ga Lim To (가림토) also known as Ga Lim Da (가림다)was the Korean language first created by the Dan Dynasty 2000B.C. Hangul was based on the shapes of Ga Lim To, however there is not certain proof that the Ga Lim To was used by the people of the Dan Dynasty as a national language. The number of letters became less and the shapes were more adjusted to the needs of Hangul and it is still used as a national language.

A page from Hoon Min Jeong Eum

A page from Hoon Min Jeong Eum

The Great King Sejong on a Paper bill in Korea

using Hangul. This proves that King Sejong had succeeded the purpose

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The geographic anatomy of Hangul comes from the philosophy of Chun Ji In(천지인). The meaning of Chun Ji In means everything of the Universe. Chun means the sky, represented by a circle, Ji means the ground, represented by a square, and In means people, represented by a triangle. Hangul uses these three basic shapes making it more familiar and easier to learn.

There are 24 letters in Hangul and out of these fourteen are consonants and ten are vowels. Each of the consonants were designed and assigned to imitate the shape of the tongue and mouth when pronouncing the sound. ㄱ(gi-yuk, ) and ㄴ(ni-eun) are the primary letters. It is the shape of the tongue when pronouncing the letter when a person is on its side. From ㄱ transforms to ㅋ(ki-yuk). From ㄴ comes ㄷ(di-geut),ㅌ(ti-eut) and ㄹ(li-eul). ㅁ(mi-eum) is the shape that comes from the mouth. From ㅁ follows ㅂ(bi-eup) andㅍ(pi-eup). The vowels are using long and

one or two consonant(s) with a vowel. Using the consonant and vowels you create a syllabic, which is a system to create one character.

ㄱ,ㅋ,ㄴ,ㄷand,ㄹ

ㅁ,ㅂ, and ㅍ

Chun-Ji-In used in modern medium such as the keyboards on cell phones.

Chun-Ji-In(천지인)

short strokzes. A letter cannot stand by itself so it must be combined with

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Korea was already advanced in the use of the metal type letterpress and Hangul was first developed through metal type letterpress. The first document, Hoon Min Jeong Eum and other earlier documents were based off of Ge Mi Ja(계미자) and Gop In Ja(갑인자) which was the refined version of Ge Mi Ja. Both of these metal type styles were invented before Hangul was born. King Se Jong created the very first metal type that was designed for Hangul. He created Eul Hae Ja(을해자) which was based off of his assistant artist and writer Hee-An Kang(강희안). Eul Yoo Ja (을유자) was made afterwards, however Gop In Ja and Eul Hae Ja were

Ge-Mi-Ja

very popular and Eul Yoo Ja did not recieve much attention.

Im Jin Wae Lan(임진왜란), the war between Japan and Korea delayed many things. However, after the war publishing became popular again and the influences of the pragmatic culture that developed after the war demanded changes to the appearance of Hangul. The letters aesthetically adjusted to focus on legibility. The small dots that was used to add variation for the vowels was replaced by shorter stems on a longer stem. This change

Writings of Hee-An Kang

Artwork by Hee-An Kang

Gop-In-Ja

made it more clear legibility wise.

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Vowels used today.

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Vowels used before with dots.

Eul-Hae Ja by King Sejong


The King of that age allowed the loyal family and those who served the loyal to have more freedom when it came to their hand writing in calligraphy. Still very elegant, the calligraphy style had very lively characteristics that came from the flow of the brush. This calligraphy style became a typeface that is still used nowadays called Goon Chae (궁체) also meaning Loyal Type. Based off of Goong Chae, Batang Chae(바탕체) was born. It is a typeface with an angular stem arranged into geometric forms with generic aspects of a perfect circle and triangular shapes. This was the face where the small dots used for the vowel changed into small stems/lines. Batang Chae is revolutionary in type form transformation of the Hangul typeface history. It is more visually balanced and takes less of the organic calligraphic form of the movement of the brush and into more generic forms. It is still popularly used and it may be compared to serif typefaces among the roman alphabets. Ba Tang Chae could be called

Example of the appearance of Batang Chae strokes

Characteristics of serif type

Characteristics of Batang Chae (바탕체)

Goong Type (궁체)

the Helvetica of Korea.

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As publishing daily newspapers grew the trend of using Hangul grew as well. Hangul used to be used with Hanja and Han Sung Soon Bo(한성순보) was one of the first newspapers that used both Hangul and Hanja together. With the use of Hangul growing, Dong A Il Bo(동아일보), which is one of the biggest daily newspaper, decided to hold a typeface design competition. The winner was Lee Won Mo Type(이원모체). Through the competition, one entry brought the first born sans serif type to Korea, the Gothic Type(고딕체). The Gothic type also known as Dod Eum

Han Sung Soon Bo

Type(돋음체) was inspired by the Japanese Gothic Type and would have similar characteristics to the roman sans serif types.

As Hangul stepped onto the stage of further type design development the Japanese Invasion happened. Because Japan required and enforced people of Korea to only speak and write in Japanese no further development happened during those times. However, as a rebellion people secretly published newspapers and wrote poems and literature in Korean. This movement helped to preserve Hangul and to continue its’ usage after the

Comparison between Japanese and Korean Gothic style.

Yoon Gothic

Dong-A Daily

occupation by Japan ended.

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After Korea had achieved independence from Japan the United States and other Western countries brought a lot of the western influences Incorporating Roman Numerals

to Korea. Two big influences that affected the anatomical features of Hangul was adopting the roman numerical symbols (1,2,3…0) and writing from left to right. Because Hangul was used with Hanja and Chinese numerical symbols the big round and bulky shapes of the Roman numerals did not look good with Hangul. So the numbers were always rotated 90 degrees on the side to fit the space. This brought a lot of confusion and mess to legibility. Through this experience Korean typographers were encouraged to design Hangul and the roman numerals to work together. Writing left to right was new in Korea. The first introduction of writing left to right was in 1947 through the Korean textbooks. Choi, Jung Soon designed the first typeface for writing left to right for Seoul Newspapers. When writing from top to bottom Hangul was designed to be wider but adjusting it to fit within the horizontal line made the letters skinnier.

The western influence also brought technology and an industrial revolution.

Textbook in 1947

Everything in Korea developed rapidly. Many researchers find this period of rapid development interesting. One of the biggest things that developed fast and well was the Internet. Now South Korea is one of the countrieswith the highest Internet speed and usage. This brought “web font” developments. Many script and hand writing fonts were developed. However, these tended to mimic what humans did but did not have much in depth as in good design. However, Myungjo Type (명조체) a web based bitmap version of Batang Type was developed with

Variety of script and handwriting typefaces.

Textbook in 1948

great depth after the Macintosh revolution.

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Round Type

Variety of popular typefaces in Korea.


In Korea, sadly many graphic design and typography schools do not teach about Hangul Typography. Calligraphy is also very popular and as a result not many typeface designs were needed. Also, the use of English grew in Korea so the development of Hangul was slow. Now, many designers and typographers are starting to put their efforts towards developing Hangul Typography. Companies are hiring designers and type foundries in Korea to develop their own typefaces as part of their branding. Some examples would be Amore Pacific’s Arita Sans, winner of the typography category from the 2012 Red Dot Design Award. Olleh is another big telecom company with their own typeface called Olleh Type. The city of Seoul released two typefaces, both the serif and sans

Seoul Namsan Type/Serif version

Seoul Hangang Type/Serif version

Olleh type presentation

Arita Sans in Different weights

serif version putting their efforts into “branding” the city of Seoul.

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Seeing many designers such as Ahn Sang Soo, Chae Byung Rok, Jaemin Ahn, and Kijo Kim is very exciting as they are among the leading graphic designers in Korea. Ahn, Sang-Soo is very active in researching about Hangul and putting together graphic design exhibtions to Korea and growing the Korean graphic design community. Chae, Byung-Rok uses Chinese, Japanses, and Korean to design and is active internationally in the East Asian region. Ahn, Jae-min is one of the young designers who caught much attention on the Internet and he mainly designs posters and brands. Kim, Kijo is a also a young typographer who designs hagul logotype to design fore many musicians and installations. Yoon Design and Yoon Type Foundary also puts a lot of effort into Hangul, runing a website called Typography Seoul, publishing articles and reviews about Hangul and Korean Graphic Design.

Hangul has much potential and it will be exciting to see what it will become.

alphabet in 2010, however, to preserve the national unity the use of roman alphabets continues. The expansion of Hangul usage is exciting.

Work of Chae, Byung-rok

Ahn Sang Soo Type/ Mireu Type/ Mano Type

Ahn, Sang-soo

For instance, Bahasa Cia Cia of Indonesia chose to adopt Hangul as their

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Bahasa Cia Cia Textbok

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Ahn Sang Soo Type/ Mireu Type/ Mano Type

Work by Lee, Jae-min


Resources Won, Yoo-hong, Seo, Seung-Yeon. Typography, Arabian Night. Seoul, Korea. Ahn Graphics. 2004. Print

Choi, Yun-Jung. Hangul and Golden Ratio Design. Typography Seoul. Yoon Design. 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.

Choi, Yun-Jung. Batang Type or Gothic Type, That is the Question. Typography Seoul. Yoon Design. 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.

“03. Mast Quadrangle, Hangul’s Completion.” Font Club. Sandol Communications. 24 Aug. 2005. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.

“Myung Jo Chae.” Naver Encyclopedia of Knowledge. Naver. Dec. 1993. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.

Image From Web www.typographyseoul.com www.fontclub.co.kr www.sisapress.com www.superseries.kr www.daum.net www.naver.com www.va-mag.com https://www.facebook.com/chaebr?fref=ts http://nabee.tistory.com/631

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