Seoul 1988 Olympics Designs

Due to the fact that our textbook is heavily focused on Western art history, I suggest that 1988 Seoul Olympics designs and one of the main designers, Kim Hyun to be a part of the textbook to allow students a wider vision and understandings in art history.


The Seoul 1988 Olympics was a huge turning point in the modern history of South Korea to significantly improve international reputation. However, shortly after the “Miracle of the Han River,” which was a national economic transformation after the Korean War, the design industry was yet to be fully ready to provide enough resources. The Olympics was when South Korean designers had to face their first international stage without much of preparation.


Fortunately, a designer Jo Yeongje suggested the government to form an Olympics design committee and directed the entire Seoul Olympics designs from 1981 to 1988 for seven years once 1988 Olympics was confirmed. The designers who participated in the committee later applied the earned skills and knowledges to their practice, which became a huge jump in Korean design industry. It also enhanced recognition of the power of design, which later allowed designers to be a part of planning division in national projects.



Seoul 1988 Olympics Logo Logo

The logo was inspired by Korean triskelion, a triple spiral motif consisting of three symmetrical swirls from a single point, to show traditional aesthetics of South Korea in a simplistic modern style. The visual elements are harmonious over all. Bold lines are used to form a circular pattern to echo the clarity of theme.



Seoul 1988 Olympics MascotMascot

Hodori, is the official mascot of the Seoul Olympics. It’s a simplified tiger figure – the national animal – wearing the logo on his neck, with a traditional hat that is used for a traditional dance on his head. The stylistic choice of the character was to portray the hospitable traditions of Korea in a friendly tone.



Seoul 1988 Olympics Poste


20th century Olympics posters were the essence of the contemporary design techniques. Though it was once centered in North America and Europe, starting with 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Olympics designs expanded its diversity adapting regional characteristics and aesthetics. The official poster is an image of a torch runner with diffusing light rays from the Olympics symbol above him.

Seoul 1988 Olympics utilized computer graphics which was considered innovative at that time. Due to technical issues, it was produced as a team unlike these days where most of the graphic work can be done by a single designer. The gradation of the rings were done by Cho Jonghyun , while the glowing rays were done by a Japanese designer, Kenda Etsuo. The torch runner was photographed by Hyungu Yu.


Designer, Kim Hyun

Seoul 1988 Olympics Mascot SketchSeoul 1988 Olympics sketch

“To me, design is a process of self-identification.”

Kim Hyum was born in Seoul, 1949. He designed Seoul Olympics mascot in 1988, then designed Daejeon Expo mascot in 1991. He founded a design company in 1984, later creating logos for LG, GS, BC card, and the Korean Constitutional court.

He won the design competition of the Seoul Olympics mascot Hodori, eventually became one of the most important figures in Korean design industry. Hodori was thoroughly supported by the government and was loved by the citizens. A variety of goods were produced including cartoons, animation and even a bank plan named after the mascot.

Seoul Olympics Committee opened a public competition for a national symbol to design the mascot. Few of the national preferences included magpie, Korean Jindo dog, and rabbit but the final winner was Siberian tiger that is more suitable to illustrate dynamic movements with.

Hodori is a simplified Siberian tiger character, designed after the official national animal. The curved outlines deliver delicacy, and the Olympics medal on its neck represents its identity as a mascot. Based in the original version, designers created 7 different traditions versions and 19 different Korean alphabets versions which have supported to inform the international audience about the nation.

As a side story, the final competitors were Siberian tiger and rabbit. Though the Olympics committee secretly wanted rabbit to be selected since the international reputation over Korean government was very centered on the fact that it was a military government, which the docility of rabbits can offset. However, tiger was chosen in 1982 by the government officials.



Esquire. “김현은 누구인가: 에스콰이어 코리아 (Esquire Korea).” ESQUIREKOREA, Esquire, 15 May 2018,

Segye Wa Hamkke Nanun Hanguk Munhwa: Sangong Kang Sin-Pyo Ollimpik Munhwa Haksul Undong = Korean Culture and Seoul Olympic Studies: Kang, Shin-Pyo: His Olympic Movement. Kungnip Minsok Pangmulgwan, 2010.

디자인 월간. “디자인 40년 회고전 연, 김현.” DESIGN, 25 Jan. 2010,



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *