Fonts let text users write like their idols

Now that text-writing has become digital, design-savvy Koreans have paved the way for a growing market for fonts, the style that is used in text design. Revenue for buying fonts to use on blogs is increasing and graphics firms are developing more Korean fonts.
Chin Mi-young, a college student in Seoul, uses different fonts to write on her Cyworld Web site, depending on her mood.
“I don’t like the conventional-looking fonts, but the ones that look like real handwriting,” she said. “When I’m happy, I want to express myself with a cuter font.”
Thanks to customers like Ms. Chin, SK Communications, the company that runs Cyworld, sells about 25,000 fonts a day at 1,000 won ($1.04) a font. Users who purchase a font can use it for a limit of 30 days.
“When we first started the service in July last year, we didn’t know it would be this successful,” said Shin Hee-jeong, a spokeswoman for Cyworld. The company sold 340,000 fonts in August last year; in August this year, sales were up to 800,000.
Naver declined to give figures, but its font services have tripled from when it first started. Daum Communications began offering free Web fonts to be used on Daum-hosted blogs. Between December last year and June this year, Daum said about 850,000 fonts were downloaded and used by its subscribers.
Developing the digital version of Hangul, the Korean alphabet, has been a slow process, because unlike English, where each letter stands independently, the shape of Korean alphabet letters change depending on where they are located in the word.
The first digital Hangul was developed by Kong Byung-woo in 1947, who developed a Hangul typewriter. Later, with the introduction of the computer and widespread use of word processors, more fonts were developed.
In the 1990s, several graphic design companies specializing in fonts were established, but aside from designers, the mass public usually only used the four basic default fonts.
The Internet, however, has changed that. Last year, in response to competition, companies offering personal Web site services started offering font services. That service caught on like wildfire, particularly among young users.
Some of the more popular fonts are those based on the handwriting of celebrities. These “star fonts” took two years to plan and develop, and have been in service since autumn of last year for the Internet and will be available for mobile platforms later this year.
Fans of actresses Lee Hyo-lee and Moon Geun-young, or rock star Yoon Do-hyun can choose to “write” like their idols.
Pyun Suk-hoon, head of Yoon Design, one of Korea’s largest commercial typography-developing graphics companies, said that these trends show that fonts are now considered a fashion.
“Young people like to express their individuality and their culture visually, which is why they decorate their Web sites with different designs and now, different fonts,” he said.
Mr. Pyun noted that the company, which was founded in 1989, used to only develop fonts for the print media.
But now they are making more fonts for the Web and mobile markets.
“Also, since mobile phones are becoming more technologically advanced, in the future we won’t even have to make separate Web fonts because digital platforms will support graphics with fine detail,” he said.

by Wohn Dong-hee


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