Symbolism in Design

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A look at symbolism sym•bol•ism (s?m’b?-l?z’?m) n. 1. The practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships. An understanding of symbolism is a critical part of graphic design. Designers use symbols in both obvious and subtle ways to communicate something about the design. Symbolism is a profound, complex subject. Symbols exist everywhere and we ‘read’ them without even realizing it. For example, we all know the red octagon symbol for “stop” and we respond to it even if the words are not there. If we used the stop symbol and put the words “go” on it instead, the majority would stop anyway and the rest would be confused. Why? because the symbol is more powerful than the words. Another common symbol for “stop” is the circle with the line through it. The meaning is slightly different than the octagon but in both symbols the colour red is used because in signage red has become symbolic with: stop, warning, danger, error, prohibited — red is the first colour the eye perceives and therefore the best choice for these uses. Symbolism in colour means many different things to different people and cultures. Colour also represents feelings, people, countries, cultures, and colour symbolism. Colour can be personal to each individual but as designers, we consider how the colour is generally represented in the particular culture we are targeting. In the western world, for example, the colour red symbolizes many things: depending on context. Red is frequently used to symbolize anger, aggression or intense passion. Some car insurance companies even charge more for red cars because studies show that the owners of red cars are more aggressive drivers and take more risks. The colour black represents the lack of, emptiness, night, death and even the negative or evil. The

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