The Beauty Of Text

The Humble Story Of Font, Personality And Digital Design

Handwriting is an art-form all of it’s own: one we see less and less of in this digital age. We may have grown up practicing joint handwriting at school but in our adult years – where relationships are played out over Whatsapp and work emails dutifully scrolled through at 4am when we wake to check the time – we simply don’t have a need, or a hand spare, to put pen to paper.


Script Fonts by Geum-Hee Hong is a visual encyclopedia of over 300 computerised fonts which are based on handwritten scripts. Bringing the ‘lost’ art of handwriting into the digital age, Hong’s reference book brings individuality and authenticity to the concept of design. The fonts featured in the book, each with their own full alphabet and numeral sample, emit a simple beauty. Hong believes that simply changing the font on a business card or a piece of packaging can change the mood and expression of the entire message.


Many of us spend our entire lives staring at white screens – white screens with square black text – so incorporating diversity into the mundane and training the eye to recognise the subtle gratification in this is increasingly important. ‘The world of text is made more interesting by font’, Hong says, ‘similar to the way the diversity in human characters gives colour to the world’.


Enthralled by this whole new perspective to font, a side of design so easily overlooked by the untrained eye, we wanted to speak to Hong to find out why font, and why now?

The Plus: Tell us a bit about your background.
Geum-hee Hong:
I was born in Korea and studied Communication Design at Hong-ik University in Seoul. After graduation 2002 I worked as a book designer and illustrator. In 2004 I went to Germany and continued my studies at the University of Arts Bremen. There I studied Integrated Design, mainly focusing on typography in Eckhard Jung’s course. After graduating in 2007, I moved to Frankfurt where I live and work currently.


TP: What is it that attracts you to fonts?
I find black text on white paper simply beautiful – it fascinates me. If you enlarge the letters, their shape and their details remind me of the branches of naked trees in winter – plain, beautiful and sexy.

TP: What is your favourite font?
Currently I don’t have a font that I favour particularly. I think that every font has its own character and elegance. I often uses Thesis because of its extensive font family, but I always try to find a font that is the best match to the content of the text.


TP: What do you think is so important about fonts?
Through their diversity, fonts make the world of text interesting and enjoyable – similar to the way that our diversity in opinions and character gives colour to social life.

TP: What inspired you to write this book?
When studying in Germany, I got to know many new fonts of the Latin alphabet. The font landscape here seemed to me to be more diverse than in Korea. Maybe, since our alphabet Hangeul is relatively young, our font design is not yet as well developed as in the Latin writing world.
In particular, I was attracted by script fonts. For me, it has an exotic fascination how their shapes are changed by the course of time and by the use of different writing tools.
So, when the editors Hermann Schmidt Mainz offered me the opportunity to create a book about script fonts, I gladly accepted.


TP: Do you have any advice for designers and their use of fonts?
Open your eyes and have fun.

TP: How do you think fonts vary from country to country?
For me, this is difficult to say. Because I grew up in Korea with a different alphabet, I cannot compare the fonts directly to my current German environment, where the Latin alphabet is used. About the differences between different Latin writing countries I cannot say much yet – maybe I would need to spend more time in some of these countries in order to notice local characteristics in the use of fonts.


TP: Can you tell us about any projects you have coming up this year?
Currently, I am collecting ideas for a book about my native alphabet Hangeul, presenting the unique philosophy and design principles that were the basis of its creation in the 15th century. I would like to address a non Korean audience, both adults and children.


Script Fonts by Geum-Hee Hong, with accompanying CD, Published by Laurence King in April 2016.