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Signs and Symbols. Their Design and Meaning

Signs and Symbols. Their Design and Meaning

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Adrian Frutiger

Translated by Andrew Bluhm


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Book Details
 Price
 4.00
 Pages
 360 p
 File Size 
 39,466 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 ISBN
 0-442-23918-1       
 Copyright©   
 1989 Weiss Verlag GmbH,
 Dreieich, West Germany

Words or speech, written or spoken, do not appear to play any part
at all in the mechanism ofmy thought processes. The basic psychic
elements of thought are certain signs and more or less clear
pictures, which can be reproduced and combined "to order."
ALBERT EINSTEIN

Toward a Synthesis
The table of signs on the facing page has been assembled
in order to provide a comparative guide to the
different kinds of expression that can be obtained by
means of graphic modifications to four representative
figures: two from nature, the star and the serpent, one
human artifact, the arrow, and one figure from the
borderland of abstraction, the cross.
ihe top row contains purely pictorial representations.
Although reproduced by the technique of line
drawing, the signs remain in the realm of the pictorial
and their expression is above all illustrative.
In the second row, the same objects take on a
schematic form, which means that thev are no longer
illustrations of outward forms but analytical versions,
in which the image is arranged as a diagram, cross
section, or ground plan.
One of the most fundamental transformations occurs
in the third row. where the picture has been
elevated to a symbol. This can be seen as a kind of
"sublimation" of the purely objective item, in that the
thing itself has been given a spiritual or imaginative
content. In this context a naturalistic rendering is no
longer required. On the contrary, the illustrative intention
is abandoned in the process of converting the
picture into a sign. The illustration has become a symbol.
As a means of increasing symbolic power, two or
more objects are often associated in one image, as
shown in the fourth row.
In order to provide further clarification of the much
disputed question of the exact nature of the difference
between a symbol and a sign, the four original objects
appear from the fifth row downward in a variety of
simplified and graphically polished versions of their
signs. Of course, pure signs, such as those for lightning
or Venus, may become symbols, as may also be the
case with armorial devices and even with trademarks.
It is, above all, the underlying meaning of a figure that
can be taken to draw the boundary line between a
symbolic image and a neutral sign denoting a thing.
The division ofthe signs into groups does not in itself
raise any problem of interpretation. The abbreviated
sign used for a scientific concept, the signature sign or
watermark, the sign of ownership, and the trademark
are all made distinct by their specific applications.
The outward forms of the various classes of sign
therefore give a fairly clear indication oftheir uses. The
economical line of a scientific sign differs clearly from
the filled-in, embellished armorial sign, and the functional
simplification of a cattle-branding mark distinguishes
its appearance totally from that of an advertising
sign designed with graphic sophistication for maximum appeal.
The final row of the table shows the four basic
images as used for purposes of signalization. Both the
naturalistic and the symbolic effects have been eliminated
and the signs have become abstract conventions.
The image of the signal sign also includes the shape of
its panel, which can strictly speaking be regarded as a
basic geometrical sign in itself, enhancing the meaning
of the sign that it bears.


Table of Contents
Part 1: Sign Recognition, Sign Formation
Introduction: Three Themes 17
I. Disorder-order 17
2. Remembering a figure 18
3. Light and shadow - black and white 21
1. The Elements of a Sign 23
1. The dot 23
2. The line 23
a The imaginary line 23
b The line in itself 24
c Horizontal and vertical 25
d The oblique line 26
e The curve 27
3. Relations between lines 28
a The manual movements of drawing lines 28
b Alignment and rhythm 30
c Proximity 30
4. The morphology of signs 31
a The "geography" of perception 31
b Symmetry and asymmetry 31
c Morphological Table 1 33
d Morphological Table 2 38
5. Sign topology 40
II. The Basic Signs 43
1. The square 43
2. The triangle 44
3. The circle 45
4. The arrow 48
5. The cross
III. Joining Signs Together 53
1. Relations between signs of
the same form 53
2. Relations between signs of
different forms 57
3. The expression of the inner area 59
4. Relations between closed and
5. open signs
Experiment with two fork signs 60
6. The "complete" sign
a Morphological Table 3:
62
abstract signs 62
b Morphological Table 4:
object signs 64
7. Between diagram and figure 66
8. Puzzle signs 67
IV. The Sign in Ornaments 69
V. Signs of Dualism 73
VI. The Solid - 77
1. From line to solid area 77
a Thickness of the lines 78
b The swelling and shrinking of lines 79
c The tape shape 81
2. The white sign on a black
background 82
a From outline to negative 82
b Varying brightness of an
interior shape 84
c Indications ofform 84
3. The chessboard pattern 85
VII. The Simulation of Volume 87
1. Superimposed layers
2. Plaiting
3. "Suggestive" white
4. Perspective
5. The shadow
a The illuminated object
b Thrown shadows
6. Unusual volume
7. Optical illusions
VIII. The Diversity of Appearance 97
1. Drawing and material 97
a The tools 97
b The stroke ending 98
c The right tool for the right material 100
2. The value of interior and intermediary
space 100
3. The image 102
a Black-white 102
b Colors 102
c Halftones 103
d Structures 103
4 Picture quality 103
a Schematic or "dimensional"
illustration 104
b Naturalistic illustration 104
c Artistic or "contemplative"
illustration 105
Attempt it a visual synthesis 106
Part 2: Speech-Fixing Signs
I. From Thought to Picture 111
1. Prototypes 111
2. Speech and gesture 111
II. Speech Fixing 113
1. Two ways of script development 113
a Scripts "remaining" pictorial 114
b "Alphabetical" scripts 114
2. A common origin? 115
3. Inherited archetypes? 115
4. From pictogram to ideogram 115
5. Determinatives 117
6. From ideogram to phonogram 118
III. The Graphic Wealth of Pictograms 119
1. From Sumerian pictograms to
cuneiform 119
2. Egyptian hieroglyphics 123
3. Cretan scripts 125
4. Hethitic pictographic script from Syria 127
5. Pictographic script from the
Indus Valley 129
6. Pictographic script of Easter Island 130
7. Runic script 131
8. Chinese scripts 133
a Wisdom of the I-ching 133
b Chinese pictographic script 136
c Chinese writing and architecture 139
9. Pre-Columbian .American scripts 139
a Aztec pictographic script 140
b Maya pictographic script 141
IV. The World's .Alphabets 143
1. Invention and spread of letters 143
2. A summary of the world's script groups 146
V. The ABC of the Western World 151
1. Early development 151
2. Capitals and small letters 153
a The transition from capitals to
small letters 153
b Toward a theory of reduced hand
movements 155
VI. Development of Form through
Writing and Printing Techniques 159
1. Black stroke formation 159
a Calligraphy _ 159
Horizontal pen positions
Oblique pen positions
Steep pen positions
b Pen positioning in other
linguistic sectors 163
c Engraving and printing 164
2. Interior white space 166
a Architecture and script 166
b Space 168
3. On the family likenesses of letters 170
VII. Manipulated Letterforms 175
1. Purely proportional variations 175
a Width 175
b Weight 177
c Slope 178
d The extended palette of typefaces 179
2. Deviations from the basic forms 182
a Ornamental letters 182
b "Antiques" 183
c "Figurative" alphabets 183
d Letterforms of the future 183
Environmental "inscription." Digital displays.
Experiments in extreme simplification.
Automatic reading. Boundaries of legibility.
e Type image and type picture 190
3. Monograms 192
a Abbreviations become acronyms 192
b From ligature to ornament 192
VIII. Text Type and Its Legibility 197
1 . Type as a worldwide medium of
communication 197
2. Type forms and legibility 198
a The reading process 198
b Steps in reading motivation 199
c Formal synthesis of the alphabet 200
IX. Numerical Signs 205
1. Numbering with letters 205
2. Origin and evolution of arabic
numerals 206
a The ingenious idea of the zero 206
b Origins and development ofform 207
3. Some analytical comments 209
a Speech and numbers 209
b Number-writing movements 209
c Division into basic elements 211
d The future of numeralforms 211
X. Punctuation Signs 213
1. Word space 213
2. The punctuation marks 214
a Sentence-structuring signs 214
b Expression signs 216
c Reference signs 217
3. The ampersand 217
4. Currency and other signs 218
Part 3: Sign, Symbol, Emblem, Signal
Introduction 221
Nonalphabetical signs 221
New signs for science 222
Pictorial signs for industry 223
Directional signs 223
A surfeit of pictures? 224
Back to pictograms ? 225
I. From Illustration to Symbol 227
1. The picture 227
2. The diagram 229
a Stages of schematization 229
b Computer aids to schematization 230
3. The ground plan 231
4. The allegory 233
5. The images of superstition 233
II. The Symbol 235
1. What is symbolic? 235
2. From symbol picture to symbol sign 236
3. Ambiguous use of the word "symbol" 237
III. The Graphic Wealth of Figurative
Symbols 239
1. How pictures become symbol signs 240
a The process of stylization 240
b Simplification through material
and tools 242
c Gigantic symbol signs 244
2. Fauna symbols 246
a From multiplicity to simplicity
Bird figures 246
b Of life and death
The serpent symbol 248
c Otherfauna symbols
Archetypes of the subconscious 252
3. Plant symbols 256
4. The human form as symbol 257
a The complete figure of the
human body 257
b Parts of the human body 259
5. Objects, landscapes, elements of nature 263
6. The symbol of the center 266
IV. Abstract Symbols 269
1. Space and its center 269
2. The cross sign and its ornamentation 274
3. Signs symbolizing movement 276
4. Plaiting, interweaving, knotting 277
5. Sun signs 280
6. The stars 282
7. The symbol in ornamentation 285
8. Geometry and symbol 287
V. Signs of Pseudoscience and Magic 291
1. The elements 293
2. The signs of astrology 296
3. The signs of alchemy 298
4. Cabalistic and magical signs, talismans 302
VI . Signature Signs 305
1. Stonemasons' signs 307
2. Monograms 311
VII. Signs of Community 315
1. House marks 315
2. Japanese family arms 318
3. On heraldry 318
4. Community signs of the present day 322
Mil. Trademarks 325
1. Marking in the past 325
a From marking to the mark:
cattle branding as an example 325
b Traders' marks 326
c Artisans' and manufacturers'
niarks 327
d Structural signs
W'atertnarks 328
2. Industrial signs of the present day 330
IX. Technical and Scientific Signs 339
1. Technical pictography 339
2. Signs of modern sciences 341
X. Signal Signs 345
1. Orientation
a Meaning and interpretation of
345
traffic signs 345
b Shape of the panel 346
c Color 346
d The driver's reaction to the signal 347
2. Pictograms 347
3. Signal signs in printed form 349
4. Emotional aspects of route finding 352
a Orientation in public buildings 352
b Pictographic systems for events 353
5. Operating signals 354
Towarc a Synthesis 357
Epilogu e 359
Bibliogiraphy 360


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In this standard work, now published in the English language for the
first time, Adrian Frutiger writes about signs and symbols in general
and about the development of writing in particular. Throughout Frutiger
relates the basic principles and components of graphics to a wide range
of considerations - historical, physical, linguistic and practical.
All of this is achieved by dint of an exceptionally clear text and hundreds
of free-hand line drawings by the author, printed in a second color.
Adrian Frutiger is Linotype's master typographer who has, amongst
other work, designed a typeface named after him.

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