Design 4

Types of Symbols

Definitions of types of signs and symbols

Iconograms are illustrative representations. They are iconic signs which,
as an illustrative representation, emphasize the points in common between
the signifier and the signified.

Pictograms are pictorial representations, such as ISOTYPE. Pictograms
are iconic signs which represent complex facts, not through words or sounds
but through visual carriers of meaning.

Cartograms are topographical representations with complex functions (statistics,
etc.) and iconic facts, for example an atlas or the ground plan of a house.

Diagrams are functional representations. They are visual signs which are
partly iconic representations, but are more functional carriers that illustrate,
for example, a sequence of facts or functions.

Ideograms represent a concept. Typically ideograms correspond to the sign
as a symbol which relates to the object or concept referred to, independently
of any format identification with it. (Note that many symbols can fall into multiple categories, but the context and intention will help us understand how to “read” them)

Logograms are conceptual representations like writing. They are visual,
referential linguistic signs that do not take the phonetic dimension into

Typograms are typographical representations. A typogram is a sign that
is also composed of a sign, derived from a written repertoire such as
the alphabet.

Phonograms are phonic representations. A phonogram is a sign that is used
to signify linguistic or other sounds.



Example of the evolution and reinterpretation of a brand mark

A new identity designed by Pentagram for iconic New York retailer Saks Fifth Avenue launches on January 2, 2007. After the jump, partner Michael Bierut describes the process behind the development of an identity with more variations than there are electrons in the known universe.


Read this case study about how Pentagram redesigned the Saks brand mark.

Read about more campaigns that evolved from the original brand mark redesign.



How would you classify the symbols listed below?








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Welcome to the Design 4 Blog

This blog is for inspiration and education related to the Parsons Design 4 Information Design and Visualization course taught by Andrew Robinson. The objectives of this class are to help students in the Strategic Design Studies program to learn how to create effective information design as a tool for communication. Beauty in form and function, which communicates ideas effectively, is our goal.
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