A symbol represents an idea. It is distinct as a physical entity commonly and communicates a meaning. It is usually graphically depicted. Semiotics is the study of signs and sign processes. It studies analogy, metaphor, symbolism, designation and such communication. Syntactic relates to signs in formal structures and Pragmatics relates to signs and the effects they have on persons who use them. All these come under Symbology.
Strength of a Logo
A logo is also a kind of symbol but with a different objective. It is assigned to or owned by an entity. It tries to convey a message by its graphical representation or dimensional form. A good logo is that is essentially a great concept and a distinct execution, artistically too. It has been used widely in the commercial world. Logos are used by companies, manufacturers, supermarkets, public services, health organizations and trades besides various organizations.
Graphic designers use symbolism as a tool to create great logos and symbols for various purposes. The internet is full of material related to symbols, logos and designs.
Symbolism affects logos as they (logos) aim to touch the psyche of the viewer. The logo is the symbol of the company. The company is thus recognised by people and mentally creates an association. Branding has become increasingly important in out modern world. The brand should fall into place in the present social structure as desired by the organization. The symbols of the brand must relate to the people and the target market.
The logo must not just be attractive graphic design but convey the association. Research should be used to find that it does not conflict with the objectives and a global perspective should be integrated. What is acceptable in one society or part of the world may not be in another. The designer must recognise this and work out the solution.
The best logos are actually simple and memorable. They are appropriate and can be reproduced at all levels and media. Some symbols have a timeless element to it and some emblems carry a positive meaning over a long period. Then it was later misused representing a negative meaning in later period, as in the example of the swastika symbol.
Signs in Our Life
We as a human kind and as social animals have used symbols and signs right from pre-historic times. The earliest form of non-verbal communication was through symbols and signs drawn on cave walls, tree barks etc like the Hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt. This is really the beginning of writing and it pre-dates the alphabetic system.
In our modern life too symbols and signs play an important ubiquitous part. For example, the traffic signs and signals do. In fields of engineering and science too various symbols, signs and graphics have a crucial role. For instance, look at international airports and you will find sign-boards based on international standards to help out a heterogeneous crowd of visitors. Religion and social groups too use symbols, signs and representations to convey an idea or philosophy. It has probably the most ancient signs and symbols to its credit. We shall now see examples of symbols and signs in various spheres of our world.
Socio-Political and Cultural Symbolism
The symbol of the cross is of great significance in Christianity. The cross is actually a graphic representation of the crucifixion of Christ. It is the most widely accepted Christian symbol and has been rendered in various styles over the centuries.
The Swastika is a very ancient symbol going back to 3,000 years. It represented a positive symbol in many cultures. It has been found used in European, American Indian, Hindu and Buddhist cultures too. But the Nazi hijacked it and also used it for their heinous philosophy
This symbol represents the Aum or Om or Omkara which denotes the absolute universe or the unfathomable manifestation. It also represents the primordial sound and has a predominantly Hindu spiritual lineage or connotation.
The Jolly Roger is a symbol that has an ancient tradition. It is found in flags flaunted in pirate ships. It symbolises danger, high voltage, even toxic or poisonous.
The Zodiac signs have been in use for a very long time and are easily recognisable graphically as well as in meaning in most places around the world.
Commercial, Organisational and Communicative Symbolism
This Nuclear Sign which warns us of danger and radiation. It is the result of technology and science, recognisable around the world.
The WWF logo is a memorable one as it is a graphic rendition of the Giant Panda, an endangered species found native to central-western and south-western parts of China. It is one of the most recognisable logos designed by Peter Scott that is being used by the World Wildlife Fund since 1961.
The Batman logo is a widely recognisable graphic design. Batman is a fictional superhero created for DC Comics. This logo used by Batman has appeared from 1939 and evolved over the years in varying representations in comics, TVs and films.
A simplistic logo used by the Nike Company, a manufacturer of athletic shoes and clothing is called the Swoosh logo. It symbolises movement and it was created for the company in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson. It is a symbolic logo still being used for the brand and recognised in most parts of the world.
The FedEx logo is a typographic logo recognised by the entire world. It is simplistic, distinct and easily recalled by people. This award winning logo was designed in 1994 by Lindon Leader for the Federal Express, the FedEx Corporation’s original air division. It is a popular logistics services company of the USA. The right arrow symbol is hidden in the type space and symbolises direction and precision.
This typographic logo is probably the greatest hit in recent years. It belongs to the Internet’s giant company Google Inc. After various overhauls, the present design was done by Ruth Kader.
This discussion can go on protracted, as the subject has a universal magnitude and appeal. Only the tip of the iceberg has been discussed here. Many mystical, occult signs and symbols are also found used in the world over but shall not be discussed here for obvious reasons. The expanse of this subject is so great that it cannot be fully discussed here in this short presentation. But this article will definitely give you a perspective on symbolism, its influence and keep you thinking whenever you see symbols, logos or signs. Maybe it will kindle your curiosity and make you research it personally. Wishing you luck!