~~grant purpose
Drawing Characters from Life: Building Community through Drawing Hangul/Hangeul
How do we draw Korean Hangul letters correctly? The use of ‘we’—refers to Hangul font designers—and ‘correctly’—reflects varied views on how to draw each letterform— prioritizes a culturally-aware approach to font design. The opportunity to collaborate with Hangul designers will provide cultural context to Korea’s writing system, which is a key element 
 of national identity; in contrast to United States culture, whose national identity is not necessarily tied to the Latin script, the writing system of English, due to its international ubiquity.

In order to answer my question, I must visit the letters’ home: South Korea. Especially 
 as a native English speaker, a language of a different script, I must understand Hangul design beyond basic legibility. I will explore the notion of ‘correctly’ drawn Korean letters by collaborating with designers at Paju Typography Institute (PaTI), an alternative design school based in Paju Book City and an inadvertent archive of fonts-in-use. I will engage with PaTI students and faculty through coursework which explores different aspects of Hangul. In exchange, I will share my knowledge of the Latin script and my ability to provide an outside perspective on their practice. My project focuses on people exchanging thoughts about fonts.
During Summer 2021, the International Association of Typography (ATypI) de-adopted 
 a prolific font classification system, known as Vox-ATypI, and plans to organize a more globally- inclusive system in the future. Before their announcement, writing systems that did not use the Latin script had been grouped together as ‘Non-Latin’ which included Hangul. Vox-ATypI functioned in meticulously organizing the Latin portion of shared font knowledge, but is no longer appropriate for a growing, global community designing for a variety of writing systems. In recent years, among young Korean designers, there was a decreasing interest in Hangul in favor of Latin due its prevalence in design education. Then, due a shift in design education towards a broadened set of cultural influences, a new attention towards Hangul has emerged. This kind of pedagogical shift necessitates liaisons between design cultures. Collaborating with PaTI will provide the opportunity to liaison between Korean and U.S. culture as we sharpen our intercultural skills together. Frankly, a well-designed font solely cannot improve intercultural communication. Rather, exchange during the creative process inspires mutual understanding.
Each time I study Hangul, I remind myself that each East Asian writing system represents a unique cultural identity and history. These writing systems are typically clumped together in Western-oriented design education likely to mirror how Western languages are also clumped together because of their shared writing system, but each culture possess a unique history and necessitates individualized attention. Especially in contemporary times, Hangul is a point of cultural pride. When Hangul was first introduced by its creator, King Sejong, in 1444 through the publication Hunminjeongeum (The Correct/Proper Sounds for the Instruction of the People), switching entirely to Hangul involved centuries of perseverance due to the influence of ruling classes. The historical persistence of Korea’s native writing system, especially in its banned usage during the twentieth century, reinforces a pride tied to the act of resistance by covert means such as underground publications and independent newspapers.

In preparation for the grant period, I developed familiarity with Hangul through language lessons and a font design mentorship. During language lessons, I saw the potential in how knowing Korean will enhance my font design education. During the mentorship, Chorong Kim, an expert Font Designer based in South Korea, remotely guided me through the Hangul font design process. Practicing my craft and language skills simultaneously showed me two sides of a font: making it and reading it. But, there is a third side: applying it. This third side will best executed in South Korea, Hangul’s home, where it is most easily understood and familiar. PaTI requested I study Hunminjeongeum prior to the start of the grant period as it will be used for inspiration as a Visiting Designer at PaTI’s Type Media Center (TMC).
As part of TMC’s intimate, 4-person team, I will bridge information between creative cultures throughout the proposed grant period. I’ll start the grant period auditing design courses —such as Independent Typography Project, Hunminjeongeum Design Theory, and Hangul Calligraphy—and connecting with people to seek inspiration through interests I developed through my family—such as a shared love of art, K-pop, and food—in culturally-rich areas— such as Paju Book City, Heyri Art Village, and Gwangjang Market. During the middle of the grant, I will develop and formalize various design directions derived from previous sketches and visual research. This process will be supported and guided primarily through PaTI’s font design class, Hangul Type Design - Advanced. We will discuss ideas, mistakes, and progress with PaTI faculty and students. In exchange, I will provide design feedback regarding the visual quality of their ongoing Latin script design projects which, in an increasingly interconnected world, is necessary to include - even in a Hangul font design. I will also informally share drawing exercises derived from my design education in the U.S., such as Latin calligraphy. Towards the end of the grant, I will finalize a font prototype and a document representative of our design process supported by the Book as a Creative Tool course and interacting with fellow designers participating in fellow PaTI research labs, such as the Publishing Design Research Institute or the Digital Design Research Institute. This pair of complementary objects will focus on the imperfect process inherent to collaborations in order to highlight the rewards of communicating across different design cultures. The document will be aimed at designers and educators interested in the cultural intersections of Latin and Hangul with a goal of introducing younger designers to making culturally-informed decisions. My contributions will grow the Latin design knowledge of PaTI’s designers while I grow my knowledge of Korean design. The point of our collaboration is to improve, share, and exchange ideas about how we—independently and collaboratively—approach design by balancing artistic expression with practical feedback.
Collaboration will set the foundation for my future doctoral research on harmonizing communication between different cultures by nuancing the design community’s understanding of Korea’s native writing system. Upon returning to the U.S., I plan to share design documentation regarding our creative work through an annual font-oriented conference known as Type Weekend (TypeWknd) of which I have presented during in 2020 and 2021 regarding my Latin and Hangul font design practice. My goal is to contribute to a growing attention around developing a more knowledgeable global design community through the exchange of font techniques and culture.