One of the most memorable aspects of Squid Game were its larger-than-life sets. From the M.C. Escher-like staircase to the simpleton playgrounds, the sets invoked childhood memories – and fears. This wasn’t blind luck. The thought that went into the design of the Squid Game scenery was masterful and the sets created to purposely invoke tension and crushing anxiety in both players and viewers.
“Aesthetically speaking, we created the places and displays trying to make the viewers think about the hidden intentions of Squid Game.”
Check out the bullet-point synopsis of the Squid Game sets – how they were created and the thoughts behind their design.
General themes used throughout the Squid Game set design
- Pink and green colors are predominant and came from the color of Korean school supplies in the 70’s and 80’s
- Green tracksuits were common colors for Korean school track suits
- Pink was used to overshadow green.
- “Green is terrified of pink because it monitors and suppresses green.”
- The shapes – circle, triangle, and square, are inspired by the squid-shaped board game drawn on the ground for the actual Squid Game. The shapes also indicate hierarchy ranking from square, triangle, to circle based on the number of vertexes in the shape. These shapes are also hidden in scenery throughout the show.
- The players number 001 (Il-Nam)and 456 (Gi-Hun) are significant. 456 ultimately wins the game while #1 is the secret mastermind behind the entire event. It should also be noted that when Gi-Hun pulls out the player profile book listing all the game’s participants, the first entry in the book is player #002. The profile for player 001 (Il-Nam) is not included in the binder.
Design of the Squid Game dormitory
- The middle raised platform was designed to look like a tunnel entrance
The Squid Game staircases
- The Squid Game staircases were designed to look like M.C. Escher shapes.
- Writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk said this set was one of the most difficult to film on.
- The physical set was real and purposefully confusing. Actors had to be given direction while walking on it since it was like a maze.
- In some instances, crew members had to break through walls to create appropriate spaces for camera placement.
The waiting lounge
- The white, brightly illuminated space was designed to create the uneasy feeling that comes from not knowing what comes next in a solid white room.
The Squid Game dormitory beds
- Beds were stacked together to portray characters as goods in a warehouse. They were stacked up to 7 levels high.
- When the riots occur, the destroyed beds were arranged to look like broken stairs or ladders to symbolize the inability of the participants to move upward.
- Beds are removed when a player dies. As the beds are slowly removed throughout the show, a mural behind the beds begins to emerge. The mural is painting of each of the games they will play in!
The VIP room
- Surprisingly, the VIP room was one of the most expensive Squid Game sets to build.
- An animal theme portrayed the VIPs as just that – animals in a forest
The Squid Game games
Red Light. Green Light.
- The Red Light Green Light set was designed for simplicity because the game itself is one of the most simple games to play. This is also why the write chose to make it the first game in the series – to surprise the players when they learned the true stakes of the game.
- The robot doll was designed from a characters in an 80’s textbook – Chul-soo and Young-hee.
- An ominous tree was added as an object. The tree was leafless to symbolize “lifeless”.
- The walls were covered with paintings of fields, reeds, and blue skies as seen in a children’s storybook.
- The closing ceiling at the end of the game shows the players that despite the childlike scenery, this games are not innocent and they are now trapped.
The Honeycomb game
- The Honeycomb game set was designed to look like a children’s playground. However, just as playgrounds seem much smaller when we are adults, this set was designed to be three-time larger than normal equipment to portray the characters as children.
- The Honeycomb candies were real. A cook was on sight to make them as they filmed.
Tug of war game
- A disconnect road surface symbolizes the despair of living on the streets with no clear path forward.
- The tug of war platform really was tall enough to frighten the actors. In fact, it was more than 30 feet high.
- For the “black abyss” shots, actors were placed on platforms only a few inches above the ground.
- This game almost took place on top of a elementary school building.
The marbles game
- The set for the marbles game used much less symbolism than the other Squid Game sets. It was designed solely to tell the story of the memories of one of the participants.
- Designed to look like South Korean homes and alleyways from the 1970’s and 1980’s
- Orange glow of sunset used to show that time is of the essence. Set designers say this was one of the most difficult visual feats to achieve as they were looking for a balance between a fake and real sunset.
- Set next to each player is a flower pot, one with a dead flower and the other with a live one, to symbolize life and eath.
The glass stepping stone game
- The glass panels were purposely created larger in size in order to force the actors to jump harder to move forward.
- The set was designed to look like a circus with participants walking tightrope-like obstacles to get to the other side
- A color palette of vivid green and purples from the 70’s and 80’s was used
- Lighting was added to mimic lights in an amusement park but carefully controlled to manipulate reflections on the glass
- The plexiglass panels were placed nearly five feet off the ground so the actors could feel “real fear”
- “A mere 1.5 meters can make you frightened,” Hwang explained. “The glass made them nervous. I think we could express the unnoticed rigidity and fear of the body.” In other words: “The game was real, and they felt real fear.”
- The set was kept simple to not draw attention away from the two final players