EXERCISE: SIGNS & SYMBOLS

Choose one of the following concepts:

Danger     Movement     Love     Here

How does existing visual language represent these concepts? Research the different similes and metaphors that are in common use. Document them through drawings, collecting examples and mind maps.

Now create and alternative symbol to represent at least one of these concepts.

Please see the Dropmark links below, where I have collected images related to the various concepts. Dropmark is an alternative to Pinterest that I am testing out to see if I prefer it.

Below are my sketchbook pages(click to enlarge), where I brainstormed each concept and collected some related images.

I found the process of using a thesaurus to find synonyms incredibly helpful, particularly for the concepts of Love and Movement as they revealed lots of words that were rich with imagery. I decided to work on creating a new symbol for danger.

 

DANGER

I didn’t want my symbol to represent a specific danger – such as the biohazard symbol which represents hazardous biological substances, or the international radiation symbol, for example. I wanted something like a skull, or skull and crossbones, which is used to represent danger, or risk of death more generally – from mines, high voltage, radiation, etcetera.

I began by thinking about Aposematism and the different warning signs in nature, particularly those that involve colour.

 Aposematic signals are primarily visual, using bright colours and high-contrast patterns such as stripes […] the brighter and more conspicuous the organism, the more toxic it usually is. The most common and effective colours are red, yellow, black and white. These colours provide strong contrast with green foliage, resist changes in shadow and lighting, have strong contrast, are highly chromatic, and provide distance dependent camouflage – via Wikipedia 

This got me thinking about human fear of insects, spiders and snakes. I started sketching sharp fangs, scorpion tails, pincers and spider eyes. I have a deep respect for spiders but they also send a chill through my spine. I was looking at pictures online and noting the things that spooked me about them (conversely, there is also something very cute and human like about their faces). The tiny hairs, the many legs, the pincers and the eyes. I think one of the reasons looking at spiders close up is so unnerving, is due to their many eyes.

jumping-spider-300444_640

Now, personally, I’m also weirded out by the beady nature of the eyes, not just the number of them, but that could just be me. I started sketching arrangements of 8 eyes and the sketches brought to mind danger signs I had seen in science fiction films – usually ones to do with a contagion. There was something a bit other-worldly about them. I thought that perhaps the dots on their own were too abstract, and that the pincers added a biological feature, and made it look more face-like. What I didn’t want to do was make it look exactly like a spider – this could give the wrong message.

I wanted this symbol to be universally recognisable as a danger sign, so that even if you were not aware of the symbol before, you would at least know that it was some type of warning. I feel like the eyes were suitably creepy, even if you did not recognise them as eyes, and that the pincers would be in indisputably signal a warning.


I headed to Illustrator to create the basic shapes, and tried a few variations (adding highlights to the eyes, elongating the pincers). I then took the layers into Photoshop to add colour. When coloring the symbol in black and white I had to adjust the spacing. I decided that the highlights to the eye were unnecessary (too much information, so to speak).

Here are the final mock ups I made. The first one was using the colours from hazard symbols I found online. I really liked the text with the symbol, as I think this would be where the symbol could be adapted for whatever specific danger you wanted to warn about. However, the colours to me are just unsuitable. They look great together, and are hight contrast, but to me, do not in any way shape or form convey “danger!”. The second mock up is much more how I envisioned the symbol.

Danger Symbol 2 Triangle.jpg

Web

I decided to ask a friend what they thought of the symbol. Their exact words were, ‘It looks like a goat’. They also said the symbol would not put them off walking through a door. It would seem then, that I had completely failed at my objective. They later said that the pincers were scary, and that whenever they have looked at the image on their phone, it has made them feel uneasy, so perhaps all is not lost.

I realised, on completing this exercise that I had not given myself a concrete brief and had not made a mood board. I think this was due to having taken a 6 month break from the course. Overall I am mildly pleased with my symbol.

Lex

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