How Do We Understand Each Other?
translateSymbol signs are closely related to commercial, social, and political marks. The peace sign, for example, designed in 1958 by an English designer named Gerald Holtom (inspired by an idea of the mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell), was based on the semaphore signals for "N" and "D" (for "nuclear disarmament") and has an unmistakable message and clear purpose (although a similar upside-down "crow's foot" was used by the Nazis to commemorate death).
distillCorporate logos, like Rob Janoff's rainbow Apple, Carolyn Davidson's Nike swoosh, and Saul Bass's AT&T bell, each iconic in their own right, are simplifications that immediately telegraph either the positive or negative connotations of the respective product or institution.
transposeWith the computer age came an icons blitz. First came the simple symbols found on computer desktops-the pointing finger, the file folder, and the unhappy face noting that the computer has broken down. Then came the icon as art form, with websites like Pictoplasma devoted to tiny character studies--or avatars-that serve to direct, locate, and identify.
Brian's pick:Logos get their impact from what they represent, not the other way around. At best, they are visually reductive and narratively neutral-vessels for a wide range of possible meanings. BP's logo is an exception. The first oil company to publicly talk about global warming, BP adopted the helios design in 2001. It is a symbol to inspire the company to move "beyond petroleum"-and a promise to the world that it is willing to be held accountable to suchan ambition.-BRIAN COLLINS
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