As Dr. Irvine explains in his introduction, a sign or symbol is anything we can express and interpret in physical instances of forms that are used to stand for something else beyond the fact of the physical instance. Signs and symbols are always formed in systems (language, graphical representations, image genres, etc.). Any spoken or written sentence, any graphical or visual representation, any audible composition of structured sounds in a musical genre are perceptible sign-instances (tokens) that are used to take us beyond the information given (beyond sense perception alone) to the meanings, values, symbolic associations, and emotional responses that are activated or enacted, by those in a sign-using community.
In order to interpret and study these different signs and symbols we use Semiotics, which is the study of sign process and meaningful communication, and is a necessary foundation for any kind of media theory. As we have discussed so far, it is important to “de-blackbox” processes or theories in order to study and understand them. Pierce’s method is the approach to develop models for testable hypotheses.
We use symbols and signs everyday, and especially today, being connected to the internet and browsing different web pages, we can see different symbols, from network, wireless and internet symbols, to hardware or navigation symbols.
For today’s post I wanted to take some time and take a look at different logos with hidden symbolism, and how people use design to express a meaning behind a logo.
Let’s take a look at the FedEx logo:
The white space between the ‘E’ and the ‘X’ forms a perfect arrow, suggesting a company moving forward and looking ahead. This is a great design element, using white space, to create a “hidden” meaning.
The company’s pink and blue logo depicts a large “BR” that doubles as the number “31.” Carol Austin, VP of marketing for Baskin-Robbins, in an interview said that the logo is “meant to convey the fun and energy of the Baskin-Robbins brand” as well as the iconic 31. “The 31 stands for our belief that our guests should have the opportunity to explore a fun, new ice cream flavor every day of the month”.
This tech company used the initials “L” and “G” for the phrase “Life is Good” but also used those letters in the design of the logo. In the beginning the logo looks like a winking face, but it’s using the design of the letters “L” and “G”.
This logo appears to be the Tostitos name, but the 2 T’s in the logo make us people, as they dip a tortilla chip into a salsa bowl, on top of the letter i.
Formula One racing is another organization that took the sport’s core values and applied them to its logo. The red color represents passion and energy, while the black color represents power and determination, according to sportskeeda.com. With another play on negative space, the F1 logo is more than a black “F” with red racing stripes; the space between these two main focal points is the number 1.
The largest zoo located in NYC is the largest zoo in north america and their logo wanted to represent the location of this zoo. In the beginning you see two giraffes and birds, but from a closer look, the legs of the giraffes imitate the famous skyline of New York.
Toyota’s representatives said that the three overlapping ovals on American vehicles “symbolize the unification of the hearts of our customers and the heart of Toyota products. The background space represents Toyota’s technological advancement and the boundless opportunities ahead.” And possibly even more impressive, if you look even closer at the overlapping ovals, you’ll see the word “Toyota” spelled out.
The arrow in the amazon’s logo represents the idea that they carry everything from A to Z, and it is also a smiley face.
The iconic NBC logo has a peacock in white with five colourful feathers representing each division of NBC, when the logo was first designed. The peacock is also looking to the right, often associated with looking ahead or forward.
The Tour de France logo actually contains the image of a cyclist which can be seen in the letter ‘R’, with the orange circle symbolizing the front tire.
These are some of the examples of the use of signs and symbols, to give meaning or represent an idea, a message of a certain company. From a graphic designer’s prospective, I really appreciate it when I see hidden symbols in logos, and they shows me that the person who designed it, really took the time to make sure that they’re representing the company and the brand, and a meaning with it.
Chandler, Daniel. Semiotics: The Basics. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Routledge, 2007.
Giuliano, K. 13 famous logos with hidden messages. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2015/05/01/13-famous-logos-that-require-a-double-take.html. May 2015
20 Clever Logos with Hidden Symbolism. Retrieved from http://twistedsifter.com/2011/08/20-clever-logos-with-hidden-symbolism/. July 2013
Irvine, Martin. Introduction to Signs, Symbolic Cognition, and Semiotics: Part I