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Fall 2021 ︎︎︎ CUNY Queens College ︎︎︎ (DESN241) Design 1

Spiel: Logos & Symbols

A Collection of non-historical or chronological examples of approaches to symbols.

The Lesser Key of Solomon︎
I’ve tried to “read” these books and similar ones like the Necronomicon, but never was able to get much out of the content, however these symbols are just super interesting. These are the supposed “true names” of these 72 demons. I’m not telling you need to do any chaos magick to succeed in this class, just presenting it as another non-design history related approach to symbolic forms.

Vodoun Veve︎
I found these while I was looking more into sigils and just found them super visually striking. They serve a similar purpose to sigils in that they are the seals/symbols of these loa or spirits.


These were developed a bit earlier and were used mainly as a way to represent data. They are dry but still charming in a way that is refreshing compared to the super ubiquitous AIGA symbols, also they are not trying to replace language, but to work alongside it. (Note that if you click the .pdf linked above, or look up stuff about it there is some raced-based stuff that just hasn’t aged well)

AIGA Dot Pictograms︎

These are the “Helvetica people”...or “bathroom people” you’re familiar with. Although they are so ubiquitous that’s it’s hard to truly like or hate them (for me) and some notions like gender have changed “around them”, it’s interesting to read about some of the reasoning behind their proliferation and evaluation.

Otl Aicher’s Olympic pictograms︎
The grids here are much denser than the ones suggested for this project, but you can see the grids here and how they influence the content.

Glyphs Inc.︎
Prior to the AIGA pictograms mentioned above, Rudolph Modley (who worked with Otto Neurath on ISOTYPE) and Margaret Mead formed Glyphs Inc. as a contest with the United Nations to find a similar set of universal symbols. The results here a bit more charming and strange than the AIGA stuff.

Pha Yant (Thai Spirit Cloths)︎

I discovered these totally by accident on a deep tumblr adventure. Somehow eventually mentioned them to someone who did some kinda reverse language search and found them. I truly don’t know that much about them, but they often have these super geometric moments next to a picture of feet or something. Content warning if you click on the linked article there’s some sex stuff in there.

These were symbols Charles Bliss devised as a way to communicate with people that didn’t have a sound component or accompanying “sound-based” language. They were eventually used to help people with communication issues find an alternative mode of communicating.

NTT Docomo Emojis︎
These were the (second) set of emojis created for phones in 1999. These were based on a 12︎12 grid based on limitations of displays at the time.

Your audience is not stupid.

Chip Kidd who is known for the cover of Jurassic Park, among other things which are good, cites the image above as something he was taught not to do. He says it is because it assumes the audience is dumb. In the context of what we’re talking about today that intelligence stems from the power of symbols. You don’t have to do all the work, you don’t have to explain every single thing. The more cliche language around this is to “show, don’t tell”

In a related What he talks about that always interested me is the notion that logos are an empty vessel into which we pour meaning. The logo does not need to tell everything, or even “show” or represent anything. What is the Nike “swoosh”? It has been imbued with meaning by the brand, culture and time.
All this is less to train you for the process of making a logo, but to utilize the powers of image making to avoid cliches and the general in favor of something that might be more esoteric or personal. This is less about “self-expression” but about embuing your symbols for your sigils with meaning and resonance.

I’m interested in you exploring the technical details of Illustrator for example but also exploring the idea of meaning, which is why we’re talking about logos. So while being able to create vectors like this for
Something like the Draplin Family Crest below, while simpler is infused with meaning through is personal narrative.

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