Throughout a series of tweets recently, writer/producer Eric Heisserer explained not only how the circular speech symbols came to be, but also the "bespoke logogram analytic code" that translated the language when the cameras were rolling. "In several shots in the film, the analytics you see are working in real-time to dissect a logogram," Heisserer writes. "Not canned CG."
Bringing the language to the screen was a joint effort between designer Patrice Vermette, science consultant Stephen Wolfram -- of Wolfram Alpha fame -- and his son Christopher Wolfram. All told, some 100 "unique logograms with embedded words and phrases, with mutable components" were crafted for the film.
The elder Wolfram penned a lengthy blog post about the science of the movie, too. He explains the "shell" ship design of the aliens, the work he did to ensure the science was accurate while still being entertaining and the extent that his Mathematica software was used therein. He even dishes on the whiteboard full of formulas shown in the movie, and what went into ensuring its contents were probable and plausible.
Of course, both Heisserer's tweets and Wolfram's blog post are rife with spoilers, so if you're trying to go into the movie completely blind you're going to want to avoid both. Arrival is in theaters now.