Symbolic importance

The symbol, mark, or icon is one of the most important parts of a brand’s identity and designed and deployed well it can be used both as an elemental component and on its own.

Symbol by Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman isolates examples of such symbols and presents them in black and white, (though makes case studies of some with added contextual photographs and colour).

The newly-published version of Symbol is a mini-edition and differs from the original – first published in 2011 – only in format. 

Often when we speak to designers who are anticipating a brand launch they speak of their desire for the brand symbol to grow in strength so that eventually it can be used in its own right, sometimes without an accompanying wordmark.

Twitter did this in 2012 and we can already see that the Airbnb rebrand has been given an in-built flexibility with a logo which its designers, DesignStudio, want people to be able to ‘draw in the sand.’

The Symbols book looks at some 1300 symbols presenting them as a ‘pictorial language in their own right,’ according to Laurence King.

We probably take for granted the instantly recognisable Nike swoosh, Shell symbol, London Transport intersected circle, Guinness harp and Woolmark mark.

Indeed their ubiquity and the exposure they have makes many of these symbols recognisable to everyone, even young children.

In the book you can find out who designed all of these symbols, when they were designed and what they stood for. 

There are some great stories in Symbol too. The much-loved Penguin of Penguin Books started off quite humbly.

Allen Lane, founder of Penguin was looking for a ‘dignified by flippant symbol’. His secretary suggested a penguin and office junior Edward Young was sent to sketch some at London Zoo.

Young’s rather bug-eyed Penguin of 1935 changed several times over the years, including in 1946 when Jan Tschichold redrew it, which is when it took on its recognisable form before Pentagram gave it a refresh in 2003.

Symbol is published by Laurence King, priced £12.95

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