Varying letter lock-ups are possible with Hangul due to its block-like nature. There are various ways to structure the letters. This structure determines the overall flow of the typeface.
A standard lock-up fits the letters in closely together. It’s the most efficient with space between the letters. The texture is also even in large amounts of text. This style is also the most comfortable for reading. An interesting thing about this lock-up is the comparison between serif and sans-serifs. The similarities and differences align with English typefaces. The “x-height” of the letters are often smaller in the serif typefaces and the letters are easily spaced closer together. As sans-serifs consist of straighter, less fluid, forms.
There is also a lock-up style that follows a direct grid. It’s a straightforward commitment to the basic grid all letters follow. See our Geulja Geek series here for more details on the grid. This style is more decorative and is harder to read in a paragraph setting. However, it is still legible. These typefaces are called 탈네모틀 (talnemoteul), or non-square. The literal translation is unsquare framework or out of the square. As the letter-blocks break out of the standard square format as seen above the naming makes sense. With that in mind this style leans towards the decorative category. Although, it’s easy to see this style in somewhat longer lengths of text in use. Think messaging apps.
Because of the freedom this typeface has it is a lot easier to create than the standard lock-up. Normally each letter is created in multiple sizes so that they can fit evenly together in a square letter block. Since the letters don’t stick to that requirement each letter is only created once.
Another iteration of the non-square style can also be seen around Korea. This style is still called 탈네모틀 (talnemoteul) but takes it one step further. Letters cascade. Sometimes each letter is separated, however, the example below keeps the first two letters together if the second vowel is a tall vowel. Definitely appropriate for headlines and shorter lengths of text, but not for paragraphs or body copy. The example below is a manual showcase, however there is a typeface by Sang Soo Lee that follows this style. One thing interesting about this style is that it exists in English as well (see our cover image).
The few examples shown here only cover a few of the extremes. Many typefaces exist with smaller nuances in letter height, positioning, and lock-ups. It’s safe to say that anything deviating from the standard square letter block starts to make it’s way into the decorative world. Whether that’s good or bad is up to you to decide.