Reflection 6

24 April 2018

Reflection 6 – Graphic Symbolism

Symbols are very powerful, especially in graphic design. They are everywhere and a part of our everyday lives. They are things we can easily identify without words telling us what they represent. Graphic design is a form of visual communication. Good graphic design identifies, informs, instructs, interprets and even persuades viewers to do something. In design, we are taught that reducing the amount of information that is visually portrayed creates a more concise and clutter-free design. This is the goal for all forms of visual communication. In my work, I try to highlight the most important part of the information and keep the design as minimal as possible. My work and my style of design are very minimalistic but very straightforward.

Graphic design improves society through effective communication that makes complicated things easier to understand and use. Design persuades the influences public opinion, instructs people as to how to navigate (ex: wayfinding) or assemble something, and it identifies and informs the public about a wide range of topics. I can’t speak for everyone but for me, it is easier to interpret and understand information when it is shown visually. I am a visual learner, I always have been. Whether it was through pictures, diagrams, or even demonstrations, they were all able to help me understand complex material. That is also one of the reasons why I decided to go into this field in the first place. I want to help others like me who learn best through visual aid. This is something I hope to accomplish in the future, in my career as a graphic artist.

Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and their impact on communication and language. Signs and symbols help designers convey unique messages and are one of the most effective tools used in communication. Culture, age, gender, and life experience are factors to take into consideration when choosing visual symbols to communicate a message. There are three types of signs used in semiotics; they are icons, symbols, and indexes. It amazed me how many symbols I was able to identify. It made me wonder how they were all able to sink into my memory. Could it be because I’ve seen these symbols so many times before, or because I’ve already known what they represented from a young age, or because they were designed so well that you wouldn’t be able to forget? It could be a combination of things.

Icons are realistic representations of objects or things in the form of simplified illustrations or photographs that communicate quickly. Some examples of icons are the magnifying glass representing search, the female and male signs, and much more. Symbols are arbitrary signs with no apparent resemblance to the object or thing being represented that require the use of a common language or cultural experience to be deciphered. Some examples of symbols are the antenna waves representing Wi-Fi, the light bulb representing an idea, etc. The Nike logo is an example of a symbol. Nike is known for their sportswear and gear. The iconic swoosh symbolizes the wing of the Greek Goddess of Victory, Nike. Therefore, the brand itself has no resemblance to Greek mythology but we know it to be the brand that sells athletic shoes and apparel. Indexes are a type of sign referencing an object or thing but do not necessarily resemble the actual signified object. An example of an index would be smoke representing a fire.

What I found interesting from this lesson of graphic symbolism was the old spice commercial, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”. I’ve seen this commercial broadcasted on TV countless times, but I didn’t pay close attention to all the details and information plugged in. The details were the shirtless man, the boat, the oyster, the tickets, the diamonds, and then the shirtless man on a white horse. The shirtless man is used as a tactic to grab a female’s attention. The shirtless man winds up on a boat, which is used to represent luxury and wealth. The shirtless man is holding an oyster on the boat. Oysters are known to be an aphrodisiac, a food that could turn on desire. The oyster opens up and behold are two tickets. They represent the tickets of your dreams, to any concert or show. Next, the tickets become diamonds. Diamonds are associated with marriage, putting a rock on your finger, and commitment. Lastly, the commercial closes off with the shirtless man on a white horse saying “anything is possible when your man smells like old spice”. They added the prince factor into this commercial to tie everything together by basically saying that your man could smell like a “prince”. I think I overlooked this and many other old spice commercials because they seemed so overdone and ridiculous. However, looking at this commercial again in detail, it was very smart and clever.