Encoded Art – The Use of the Korean Alphabet in the Games’ Graphic Design

While I was watching the Figure Skating events a few days ago, I noticed something that made my heart jump.

Not the excellent skating, though there was some of that – but those snowflakes!

They show up across most of the event venues I’ve seen so far. I wouldn’t really blame you if you hadn’t noticed them – they’re just there for background decoration. But what’s super cool about them that you may not have realized is that they’re made up of the letters of the Korean alphabet and the Korean writing system is my favorite writing system in the whole world. Yes, I have one of those (I have a degree in linguistics, so I come by it honestly!).

There are several reason why the Korean writing system, Hangul, is so cool:

  1. It was created by a 15th century king to help the people of his country learn to read and write at a time when they were using Chinese characters to write their language. This ended up being very difficult for poorer, uneducated portions of the country to learn to read and write. King Sejong set out to create a simple and easy to learn writing system for his people (yes, really, Korean is EASY). It was so effective that he faced backlash from the aristocracy at the time who disliked it power it gave the lower classes.
  2. Now this part is super fascinating – King Sejong was a linguist and set out to create an orderly writing system. So all of the letters in the Korean alphabet are phonetic, which is relatively normal, but the kicker is that each of the letters represent the physical features and shape your mouth takes when it makes that sound and are consistent within themselves. Really. It’s brilliant. And there are other things like the order in which the alphabet is grouped and the fact that vowels all take straight shapes and consonants take on rounder/fuller shapes.

You can see this same creativity from the snowflakes in the logo, too – the shape of the logo comes from the letters for P and Ch for PyeongChang.


Keep an eye out for more during the last week of the Games!

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