Because of crowded characters and third party advertising on fixed-sized panels, the previous signage system was confusing. In addition to Korean road names and directional information, the signs included tightly squeezed English and Chinese text, which were easily missed at driving speeds.
To accommodate long English translations and roman phonetic spelling of Korean road names, Studio Dumbar (with the help of Dutch typeface designer Pieter van Rosmalen) created a new font for the English text, called ‘Hangil’--a play on the Korean word for the Korean written language, Hangul. The new font uses narrow characters and wider spacing between characters to improve readability.
The designers' other solutions for better visual accessibility include
- a darker background color for better contrast
- redesigned arrows and icons for quicker scanning at higher speeds
- guidelines for layout, typography, colors, and graphic elements
- no advertising
The new signage system is currently being placed across the country, well ahead of the many international visitors anticipated for the 2018 winter Olympics.
Road signs are something we take for granted until we travel to a place where we can't read the signs. South Korea's redesign project diplomatically recognizes the country's position as a rising international player.