After designing his first bitmap typeface for web at just the age of 13, Mingoo Yoon now works between Seoul and Lausanne, two cities known for design excellence. His current interests lie in bi-scriptual type design, particularly Hangul (the Korean alphabet) and the Latin alphabet used in much of the Western world. His typefaces are both thoughtful and considered befitting the unique qualities of the two written languages. Mingoo is a designer who respects typography as if it were a living thing in itself.
“In general, many people think that type design focuses only on shape and form. But letters are also like living things that are influenced by the environment they were born and raised in,” the designer tells It’s Nice That. Like the Latin alphabet, Hangul possesses its own kind of serif known as “beaks”. Its shapes and angles differ according to the East Asian writing tool being used: the type of brush and the vertical direction the stroke is performed.
By analogising the Latin alphabet to “dominos lined up at regular intervals on the baseline," Mingoo explains Hangul as being akin to “leaves floating on a square pond," he describes. “As the leaves move freely with the waves, the position of consonants and vowels move freely according to the structure of each letter and find the most comfortable place to read.” As a bi-scriptual type designer, Mingoo has to comprehensively understand these differences in phonetics as well as respect the “lifestyles of different letters.”
In the first stages of designing a bi-scriptual typeface, Mingoo gathers a lot of research including historical references, interviews, essays and corresponding visuals. On analysing this research, the designer narrows down on one key word that defines the overall concept of the typeface which can penetrate through the whole design process. He goes onto say, “hand-drawn sketching and drawing experiments also accompany this research. It is my job to discover where these worlds meet and replace them with a useful typeface.”
Mingoo’s recent bi-scriptual typeface designs include Blanc, Modular and Yoonseul. Blanch, the most recent design, is a highly efficient display font that embodies the “didone” serif style — a genre of the serif family categorised by narrow, unbracketed serifs and contrasting thicks and thins. Whereas in East Asia, the “mincho” style embodies similar characteristics and Mingoo applies equally “stylish strokes” to Blanc to create “a modern Korean” typeface with a Latin counterpart. The “sharp but soft typeface” consists of 2,575 Hangul letters and the basic Latin alphabet, numerals and symbols. Generally, Blanc is just one example of Mingoo’s design ethos that focuses on cultural harmony through multilingual typography and multi-scriptural type design.