The Pictogram

Icons, symbols and pictograms have played a role in the history of mankind for centuries, from the cave paintings in the Lascaux Cave in France to the 2008 Bejing Olympic Games. In general, all three of these articles stressed the importance of formal clarity and touched on the conceptual process of creating icons. For instance in "Modern Hieroglyphs", Ellen Lupton discusses Otto Neurath's process in creating the International System of Typographic Picture Education also known as Isotypes. Neurath sought to create a universal language based on pictures, yet he understood that his work for the Department of Transportation would be culturally based because in order to understand them, one must be a part of the culture or aware of the details of it to decode them. We understand the Helvetica man on a bathroom door represents the men's room because it was learned. Pictograms often times are understood in context to something else or to an environment to convey a concrete message.

According to Adullah and Hubner in "The Pictogram," pictograms are images created for the purpose of quick and clear communication without language or words to draw attention to something. There is a fine line between icons and pictograms, icons cannot be self-explanatory to be a pictogram, it requires context to convey a message beyond itself. Formal clarity in the image is also important for quick communication. In the article Olympic Pictogram History, Steven Heller discusses the successful and failed attempts to create pictograms for the Olympic games through the years. It appears as if in attempt to create stylistically unique pictograms from their preceders, many designers have overlooked communication. In context to the current project, I know I'm currently struggling to create legible artifacts without being too detailed and taking away too much information. There are many variables and thought necessary to create a visually simple and compelling pictogram while continuing to communication. One must consider a single object, but also it's relation to a set. These articles have helped me have a clearer understanding of icons and pictograms as well as what one should be conscious about in creating them.

 Article References:

Olympic Pictogram History
"The Pictogram" by Abdullah & Hubner
"Modern Hieroglyphs" by Ellen Lupton

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