As we have seen, true symbols are not arbitrary things; they stand-in for the very reality they serve to invoke. Consider some extremely famous graphic design symbols well-known to everyone, such as the Olympic rings; five interlocking rings, Three acroos the top and two across the bottom, in the colors of blue, black, red, yellow and green, emblazoned upon a white background. Every nation on earth contains at least one of these colors, so each is symbolically represented in the color scheme of the logo. And, because the rings all interlock with each other, their arrangement and layout both embodies and sums up the entire spirit of the international Olympic games; harmony and unity between the separate nations of the entire world. In such a work, there is a perfect coincidence between the themes being expressed (unity, harmony and all-inclusiveness) and the graphic design which represents them (five interlocking multi-colored rings). Because this coincidence is achieved, we have a perfect symbol created by a perfect work of graphic design.
Then, consider another example known to everyone; the CBS eye. This eye, set along the CBS letters which form the logo, is a doubly meaningful symbol. As a television network which broadcasts a wide-ranging spectrum of subjects including news, sports, political analysis, entertainment and more, the all-seeing eye represents omniscience; infinite awareness, understanding and insight in a universal and complete manner. Whatever is worth seeing and knowing across the globe will be seen and captured by this network so it can present it to your purview. Likewise, the eye belongs to you – the viewer of the network – who is in the position to enjoy the riches of the world delivered across your threshold when you tune in to CBS. Again, in the symbol of the eye, we have a most successful example of graphic design, one in which meaning and design – form and content – coincide perfectly in one place.
Because symbols contain such power of expression and communication, it is of the utmost consequence as to how they will be formed and created; this is the process of graphic design. When one begins an endeavour of any kind, be it in the corporate, commercial, financial or social sphere; when one creates a new product or service to bring to the marketplace, it is ultimately a symbol that will form the identity with which you will be known. As it stands in for you, that symbol carries the great burden of communicating who and what you are. Of what you have to offer. Of the values that serve as the foundation of your enterprise. Of what it is that makes you stand apart. Of what you have to offer.
In the realm of the marketplace, the task of working in the language of symbols is the the job of graphic design. As such, graphic design is often associated with the relatively new enterprises of advertising and mass marketing. But in truth it is actually as old as the day the first Christian painted a cross upon the tomb of a departed saint; as old as Egyptian hieroglyphics, as old as the day ancient peoples decided upon a depiction of the phoenix bird to represent the idea of regeneration and rebirth from the ashes of death and decay.
Whether it is embellishing and transforming the written word into visual artistry (as in type-face design) or bypassing the written word altogether in favor of pure pictorial expression, graphic design is a second language belonging to the human race. But it is a special kind of language; while the spoken languages of the earth still number too many to count, and are hampered by rigid boundaries of ethnic, tribal or national identification which makes their range of communication strictly limited to other members within the local tribe, graphic design forms a language comprehensible to all, cutting through regional boundaries. Consider; if one were to stand before the “David” by Michelangelo where it is housed in the Accedemia of Florence, Italy; or gaze upon the walls of the Lascaux caves with their 10,000 year old paintings of bisons used as preparation for a hunt; or before the ancient pyramids of Egypt; or the Parthenon in Athens with its carved and painted pantheon of gods and goddesses… would one need to speak Italian, or ancient Egyptian, or know the ancient Greek language in order to know what it was that was being communicated?
Great design is the art of creating great symbols. And symbols sum up, contain, and express who and what we are. They pass right through borders and boundaries otherwise unsurpassable. They traverse cultures and transcend time and the passing of centuries. At a time when people have such little time and attention spans are so short, symbols can communicate everything essential in one instantaneous glance. As you make your way through today’s marketplace, can you really afford not to have a symbol working for you? Can you afford not to have your success designed?
By: Ted DeCagna
Ted DeCagna Graphic Design… clients have been coming to us for over 28 years for…Graphic Design… Logo design… Photography… Package Design… Website Design & Development… Corporate Brochures… Annual Reports… and more. Winner of more than 25 professional design awards. You can connect with Ted on Google+.