ICONOGRAPHY: It’s a tradition with Designs Now

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Iconography
Iconography

Every day, we spent some time reading something or the other, be it news, blogs, or informative articles. We also use our devices to type down conversations with our close ones and even for work. Nevertheless, we humans are more attracted to visuals. We tend to enjoy the pictures or icons more than the lines written beside them. Any kid or even ordinary people prefers books and descriptions with appealing images attached to them if you notice. For every activity that we indulge in, there is a visual cue attached to it. Be it food, friends, or shelter, everything has a visual representation. To be very honest, visual representations help in understanding things more than written words at times.

Iconography
Iconography | Image Credit: Cranach, Alexey Grigorev

From History to Present Times

Iconography saw its beginning in 1936, in the form of pictographs. George Dow, an employee of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), played a crucial role in developing modern transit maps. To make the aspects understandable to the public, he started developing flat and simple diagrams to denote each service. The various maps, including the railway maps, showed the railway track and the associated structures with the icons’ help. Even if they were simple, they were highly representative.

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George Dow Diagram of LNER

While Dow was working on his railway maps, automobiles became prevalent among the normal public. The drivers required road directions to find out their ways without diversion; therefore, road symbols saw their arrival. Margaret Calvert and her colleague Jock Kinneir worked towards developing the various road pictograms for “men at work”, “farm animals”, “school children nearby” stop, Go, types of roads, speed breakers, etc. She implemented colors to mean various things, such as for warning and go ahead as well.

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Margaret Calvert with Jock Kinneir
Iconography
Image Credit: Margaret Calvert

Activities like sports found an extensive meaning through exhibitions via icons. Even areas such as historical sites, government areas, shopping complexes find their mention in icons. Governments of various countries use icons to give their citizens direction about their facilities and the locations they need to visit avail certain services.

Iconography
Iconography | Safety and Street Icons

The advent of modern-day artificial software development also saw a spurt in the usage of icons. Its functions got meaning through various pictures. Even pictorial descriptions are under use to depict a particular process.

Birth of Digital

We, in our daily lives, use a lot of online apps, especially for messaging. We make heavy use of icons and emojis to describe our feelings, emotions, and views on a particular issue. Everyone these days uses social media apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc., for messaging. You will notice that it seems a little pale whenever you type a sentence and send it to your concerned person. It feels like you could not transmit the real sense and the feelings attached to the sentence. What do you do then? You make the use of emoticons to convey the actual feeling related to the sentence.

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Iconography | Online Apps

Norman Llyod Cox was the first to create a set of pixel art icons that stayed within the layout of the first-ever Graphic User Interface (GUI). We also found the arrival of skeuomorphism through the hands of Apple launched by Steve Jobs. Skeuomorphism is the purest form of pictograph with a detailed representation of icons.

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Norman Llyod Cox, Menu Icon
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iosOS6, Skeuomorphism

Modern Icon Design

Line Icons

These are descents of pixel icons with simple lines and the use of flat colors. The edges represent a flexible look, as against a sharper one.

Iconography
Line Icons

Glyphs

Glyphs are the simplest form of pictograms, which come in smaller sizes with a single color.

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Icons

Material

Material design exhibits the difference between skeuomorphism and flat design. This design tries to reflect the merging of the above two forms.

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Skeuomorphism and Flat Design

Hand-drawn

As against software-made designs, hand-drawn designs reflect some originality in the icons. The aesthetic appeal of this design lies in the fact that the icons look like they are manually drawn.

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Hand-Drawn Icons

Emojis

Emojis are the perfect way to describe someone’s feelings via icons. These icons portray the various emotions a person can have, allowing better communication among people textually.

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Emojis

So, we can very well understand how icons have become part and parcel of our daily lives. We realize how the unavailability of icons can make understanding things challenging for us. Communication will lose its sharpness and sensitivity altogether.

READ MORE: Design Functionality of Shapes and Lines

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