Monday, January 23, 2012

AHA! Visual Symbols in My Life

The Ministry of Type
We look around and see things in our lives every day. We read ads, billboards, brochures, magazines, weblinks emails hypertext textmessages letters codes signs signals everything.

The visual symbols in my life very well affect how I live and behave on a day to day basis. Especially as a college student, I interact with unending amounts of visual symbols serving the purpose of connecting me with people, places, objects and ideas. 

I use visual symbols all the time, meaning I perceive and interpret the symbols to understand different messages and concepts. I work at Rod library on campus at UNI, and we use all kinds of visual symbols, often along with text, to communicate library expectations. Where no food/drink is allowed, we use icons to reiterate our point. When I go out and I see signs for Starbucks, or the Target logo, or even street signs like "Stop" or "Yield," meaning is triggered almost more from the image itself than the words that accompany it. 

I think in today's world, one absolutely must possess high familiarity with and skills within the realm of visual literacy. It is pertinent to understand the importance of this type of ability in people, because in a culture that is rather obsessed with visuals (ads, logos, appearances, celebrity, etc), it is a driving force behind our interactions. 

This semester in Visual Literacy, I hope to become more familiar with the concept as a whole, and also really gain an understanding of how images can function in conjunction with my own classroom material. I hope to also gain knowledge of design principals, visual literacy standards, and some of the technology that assists artists and designers in their creation. Finally, I would like to get into the more creative process that is involved in generating images, because I think learning more about visual literacy will help me become more confident to experiment with digital art. 

Think of the way we refer to things as "iconic." The root word here is "icon." Things are iconic because they have become symbols, most often visual, or representatives of a general category. When we see certain symbols, we automatically know what they stand for, because we have brought up in a culture (at least I have, born in 1990 and growing up in the 90's and 2000s) that absolutely thrives on these visuals. You could say that this McDonalds logo could represent FOOD. You know when you see this logo that there is one general thing this place offers, and when you think of it, it automatically represents itself. 


Take UNI's very popular and campus-wide symbol "UNIam..." As much as I am sick of this logo (no offense to its designers or promoters), it is widely recognized as representative of the University. 

Iowa Hawkeyes
Perhaps even more recognizable and unmistakable is this: 

I don't even have to tell you what this image represents. In Iowa, you know it, in the U.S. you probably know it if you're a football fan, and around the world, you'll at least be able to recognize that this is some type of bird. 

And any of these symbols you'll be able to attach some meaning to, whether it is arbitrarily assigned by society, or for its literal representation. 

Often, people won't stop to read text that is designated as a warning or information. People want to "glance and go" and not have to spend time decoding text for meaning. However, we DO use text to perform the same functions as images and icons, and we favor certain types of text over others. Letters are individual icons, the combinations of which we call words, that make up our entire written language code. I'd like to note that after watching the first film on our movie list, I'm typing this post in Helvetica. "And Helvetica says everything, and that's perhaps part of its appeal," (Jonathan Hoefler).

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