Dezeen Magazine

Medals for 2018 Winter Olympics are based on Korean alphabet

The medals awarded at next year's Winter Olympics in South Korea will feature diagonal ridges, which have been formed from extrusions of the country's 600-year-old alphabet.

Seoul-based industrial designer Sukwoo Lee designed the medals for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which will take place in Pyeongchang – a county in South Korea's Gangwon Province.

The jagged front of Lee's medals, which were unveiled in a ceremony at the end of last month, are formed from extrusions of the letters of Hangeul – the Korean alphabet that dates back to the 15th century.

To create the surface, he digitally laid out letters from the alphabet in two vertical lines, and wrapped the text to form the edges of a disk. Rendering software was used to join the edges diagonally, creating ridges that warp from end to end, dictated by the curved and flat shapes of the character profiles. The alphabet can still be read around the medal rims.

"The stems of Hangeul, the seeds of culture, are cut into a circular shape," said the designer. "The side of the medal show Hangeul – the seed – and the obverse shows the stem and the process."

In contrast with the fronts, the medal backs will be detailed with the winner's sports discipline, event, and the Games' emblem.

Lee also looked to traditional aspects of Korean culture for the design of the medal ribbons and boxes.

The medals will hang from teal and red-coloured ribbons made from a fabric called gabsa, a delicate gauze textile commonly used for Korean Hanbok clothing. The ribbons will also be decorated with letters from the Hangeul alphabet.

The wooden medal boxes will feature tops that gently curve at the edges, as a reference to the "elegantly flowing curves of Korean traditional architecture". On the outside, they will be embossed with PyeongChang 2018 and the Olympic logo.

Olympic Winter Games 2018 Medals by Pyeong Chang
Sukwoo Lee created diagonal markings on the front of the medal by extruding letters from Korea's alphabet

The XXIII Olympic Winter Games will take place from 9 to 25 February 2018 in Pyeongchang County.

South Korea has long been preparing for an international sports event, with new projects designed to cater for the influx of tourists. Among these is a Richard Meier-designed waterfront hotel and a golden entertainment complex designed by MVRDV.

The Winter Games will be followed by the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The medals for this event have yet to be designed, but Olympic organisers are reportedly considering using Japan's discarded smartphones and computers.

Paris recently scored the bid for the following 2024 Olympics, which could see designer Philippe Starck make medals that winners can split into four to share with their families.