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Korean Authors


Writer Jiwon Yu

A Person Who Brings the World Closer Together Through Stories and Pictures




In Korea, the 9th of October is “Hangeul Day,” where people commemorate King Sejong’s invention of Hangeul, the Korea writing system. Just as King Sejong wanted Hangeul to spread to the public for good use, there is an individual who wants the world to communicate more closely through design and writing. It is writer Jiwon Yu, who has met her readers as a typographer, designer, and writer through various activities that cross the boundaries of studies. Her communication involves various channels, all based on writings and pictures. Writer Yu tries to find beauty in all areas in the world, such as art, science, mathematics, and humanities, and make it shine brighter. Below is an interview with writer Jiwon Yu, who says that letters and books are the “most reliable and grateful partners” in her life.





It’s a pleasure to have you on K-Book Trends. First, please say hello to our subscribers and introduce yourself.


Hello, I’m Jiwon Yu, a graphic designer, typographer, and writer who loves letters and books. I have been engaging in activities to make typography a charming and friendly work to all people, going across fields of studies. Currently, I’m also running the Institute of Typography and Culture.


You have a special background: from editing to typography and writing, you have worked as a designer, researcher, professor, writer, and translator. Was there a special reason for you to broaden your scope to become a writer after being part of the art world?


I studied design, but I always wrote stories as much as I loved books. I am greatly interested in communication for a better life and society. As design is like “eye communication” and writing is like “language communication,” both fields seem to have a very close relationship with each other.



Design is the “communication of the eyes,” and writing is the “communication of language.”
Letters and books help me build a better relationship with the world.



To find a commonality among the various backgrounds you have, it would be “books” and “letters.” How were they attractive to you?


I have a fondness and a taste in all areas of liberal arts, science, and the arts. I enjoyed writing and drawing, and “letters” were their commonality. I liked logic and visual art, and they had this “typographical system” in common. Letters and books help me make better connections to the world. They are the most trusted and grateful partners I have ever had.


You also worked as a book designer in a publishing house while being a typographer. Comparing the two jobs – a designer who makes the appearance of a book and a writer who writes the story inside, what do you think is their difference when it comes to meeting readers?


To take Newton’s Atelier (Minumsa) as an example, which I wrote with physics professor Kim Sang-Wook, I designed the book myself. So I was an author and designer at the same time. While an author communicates linguistically through texts, a designer communicates visually and physically through graphics.
And, if I must design for the books of others, I try to take it as translation or adaptation. If a translator translates linguistically, a book designer translates visually. One of my favorite designs is Jean Baudrillard’s Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? published by Minumsa. I got the inspiration for the design from this sentence, “With a program based on the binary system of zeros and ones, a kind of integral, all symbolic representations of language and thought disappear.”




Cover and text designs of Jean Baudrillard’s Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?



The page on the right is the Korean translation, and the one on the left is the computer-coded hexadecimal of the text. We can see all the letters of the text encoded by the hexachord system on the left page. Between the text and codes we look at, which one is real and which one is false? This design reminds you of the question Jean Baudrillard asks in the book every time you turn the page. As “design communication” transcends the language, I saw foreigners with no knowledge of Korean understanding the subject of the book as soon as they saw the design. But, of course, they were people who had design-literacy.


In your introduction, the sentence “A typographer who discovers beauty and finds inspiration from science conferences and scientific papers” seems impressive. As you wrote Newton’s Atelier with scientist Kim Sang-Wook, you tried to find a connection between science and art. Yet, there seems to be no link between them – what beauty do you find in science?


I think the power of science is linking unexpected things in a logical way, which is awe-inspiring and beautiful. For example, the high “position” and “kinetics” of a moving object are seemingly unrelated to each other, but they are actually linked with the idea of “energy.” It was fun to bring in the eyes of science, which understands invisible actions, and apply them to my ideas. These days, I’m interested in waves. Light, colors, and sounds are a physical phenomena, mathematically explainable, and they are relevant to organisms, human beings, and society given their “perceptible” nature, and are relevant to art as they “express” things.
In addition, I always try to follow scientists’ attitudes as a researcher, who has the courage to say that they do not know what they do not know and the passion to carefully explore the truth on rational bases.


* K-Book Trends Vol. 42 – Go to the article about writer Kim Sang-Wook


We use “letters” so often in our daily lives, which makes us take them for granted, neglecting their importance or beauty. It must be a frustrating thing for a typographer. But, would it be a way of enjoying letters in a whole new way and finding pleasure in them in our daily lives?


I recommend reading my book Letterscape (Eulyoo Publishing). I’m planning to publish Bookscape (Eulyoo Publishing) and Hangeulscape (Eulyoo Publishing) as follow-ups. Bookscape features the design aspects of books, but it is not about how to design – it is about the “sensitivity” of reading designs. If you have literacy in book design as well as text, you will be able to enjoy books more extensively. By the way, Hangeulscape is literally the in-depth version of Letterscape focusing on Hangeul.




Newton’s Atelier and Letterscape



In your book Letterscape, you talk about how letters are used in many countries such as Germany, Italy, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain, as well as in Hangeul in Korea. What is the singularity and beauty of Hangeul among the diverse letters and fonts in the world? Also, what is your favorite Hangeul font?


The Latin alphabet is most commonly used in the world, from European languages such as English, German, and French to Vietnamese and Turkish. They have a lot of advantages, but the relationship between their forms and their pronunciation is not unified. Meanwhile, as Hangeul was invented by King Sejong, the best linguist of the time, devised especially based on logic for the language unique to the Korean people, the letters’ shapes and structures and the spoken language highly match each other. I think this is one of the unique characteristics of Hangeul.
Among Hangeul fonts, I especially like the neat fonts designed by Ryu Yanghee. Among them are Gowun Batang (Google Fonts), Arita-buri, and Willow Project (TBD), which is currently under production. I hope that there will be more people like her in our society, who keep their positions quietly and calmly and take a long time to produce high-quality results.



I think we need to create an environment for text technology
with people and life at the center.



In the book Letterscape, you wrote, “Letters evolve according to their environment.” This means that letters change by engaging with the technological environment and other cultures. While society is changing rapidly due to the emergence of new technologies, such as the shift to the digital environment and video media, how do you think the environment surrounding letters should change?


It is also our designer’s job to connect letters implemented in new technologies to people without any feeling of incongruity. I think we should create an environment for text technology with people and life in the center. For example, from now on, letters will float or move and approach people in a three-dimensional space, move away from the flat surface of paper and screen. When these technologies become a part of our daily lives, the way people’s bodies react, sense, and perceive letters and the relationship between them will restructure in an entirely different way. For example, letters may approach your back, sometimes you will miss important parts, experience motion sickness, and see letters of the same size differently depending on the direction the letters approach you. In such a situation, there would be a probability of fabrication, where certain people manipulate the importance of the information. So, I think there needs to be studies that prepare for such a possible future in advance. I really want to take part in it.


We heard that you will be publishing your new title. Please give us a brief introduction to the book with your plans for the future.


I’m currently preparing the book Words of Letters (UU Press). I wrote it, and I drew the cover illustration myself as well. In the style of “Chaekgeori,” a Korean color painting style of the late Joseon Dynasty, communication tools of all times and objects related to time and space were drawn. “Typography” is the “science and art of arrangement” in which letters form words and phrases and fit together in the text. The book tells the story that “the concept of space and time in which letters are arranged was different” in different Eastern and Western cultural backgrounds, such as mathematics, astronomy, geography, and architecture.



Cover design of Words of Letters



In addition, the book presents typography of various documents that I could access as a Korean researcher. Rather than a grand idea to encompass typography around the world, I hope that it will be a book that fills in one of the missing gaps of Korean typography in the context of typography in the East and West, traditional and modern. This made me more responsible as a researcher, encouraging me to learn Japanese and be interested in Chinese. I’m going to translate some of that into English. I sincerely hope the book reaches typographers worldwide and those who love books and letters.
In addition to that, I’m preparing a book on German, a book on trigonometric ratios and trigonometric functions, and a number of other books on typography, which is my specialty.




#Jiwon Yu#Typography#Letters#Designer#Hangeul Day
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