Selection of Graphic Products: 1 Icons
Turkish designer Sait Maden on the design and meaning of symbols.
Note from the Editor: I can’t quite remember where the following text was scanned from, so have illustrated this post with a selection of pages from Sait Maden’s book ‘Selection of Graphic products: 1 Icons’.
What is an icon? Everything that surrounds us. Water, tree, star, cloud… Throughout history, we have stripped everything from their identity and turned them into symbols. We can perceive the water, the tree, the star, and the cloud not only by their own existence, but by their symbols, by the names we associate with them. Name: icon.
Human beings cannot grasp any natural or historical phenomenon with the real data of this phenomenon, and grasps them with their symbols. Symbols are the first key to the forms of communication created by human beings in every age, in every society and under all conditions. Societies invent symbols in order to adopt, love and defend broad-dimensional currents of thought and belief, and approach the issue through this symbol. Like the mandala of Indian wisdom, the cross of the Christians, the crescent of Islam, the sickle-hammer of the Russians. Icons, walls. Walls separating communities, believers and desires. The flag of every country, every nation is also an icon.
The symbols are secret gods cross-legged in every realm of life. We can't do without them. We use them to communicate with every phenomenon, every object that surrounds us.
The person found the icon before finding the text. He thought about what kind of symbol he could describe the water, the tree, the star, the cloud. He designed this form, applied it through the ages, then turned it into writing. An example: The ox is one of the most powerful creatures that man has tamed. He used the shape of the ox's head to express power, a triangular shape. Akkadian "alp" is a common word in all societies in the Mediterranean region: ox. The Phoenician took this triangle, he said "alf", the Hebrew took it, said "alef", the Arab took it "elif", Greek took it, said "alpha". The triangle turned into the letter "A" over time.
Another example: "Bet" was the symbol of "house" in the ancient Egyptian language. It was shown in the hieroglyph writing as two rectangles on top of each other. Traveling around the Hebrew, Phoenician and Arabic languages with the same saying, it entered Greek in the form of "beta": the letter "B" we use today. We rounded the right corners of two rectangles a little bit in four thousand years, that's all.
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Icons have been a communication tool in all ages. For example, the ancient Turks, while maintaining a nomadic life style in Central Asia, would mark their rump in a unique way, so that it would be easy to find animals if they were interfering with someone else's life. This practice is valid even today in rural parts of Anatolia. Another example: During the Seljuks and Ottoman period, the Ahi-order organization gave an icon to each guild that constituted its whole. Every "middle" that formed the janissary organization had a symbol.
The complexity of social relations today has also complicated the function of symbols. The symbol became the main tool that enables the organizations and institutions that constitute the whole of societies to be easily distinguished from each other, as their work, production and creation forms and methods of transferring information are constantly increasing and diversifying. It lost its religious, honorary, celestial, or ideal function. Now at the service of institutions that manage and control the flow of money and information.
Symbol is a knowledge base. It evokes, announces and adopts the institution it undertakes with its history, its special position in society, its influence, its activities, in short with its full scope. Minimized formal elements (one or two letters, one or two lines, one or two stains that push the boundary of simplicity) present a presence in front of the viewer.
But for the graphic designer, the icon means a lot. Designing symbols is a serious, fundamental, original pursuit like feeding a symphony or writing a poem. It is the only type of plastic arts created with minimized tools. The simplest type of art. This is the purpose of the symbol because to realize a shorthand situation, a drawing that does not require effort to grasp, is suitable for all kinds of printing methods and has a high capability of holding in the social memory.
I, Sait Maden, have been in a position to follow the acceleration of graphic arts in our country since the 1950s and to participate in the responsibility it requires. Since the first icon of the book was drawn in 1955, I have been an observer and practitioner for thirty-five years. During these thirty-five years I drew hundreds of icons. I witnessed the rise and fall of hundreds of organizations. Of these, roughly ninety percent were wiped out in a short time, three years later, five years later. Our country is not ready for a healthy capital accumulation, business and labor organization, and money flow. Both those who establish a business and those who work are trying to save their day in constant turmoil looking. We do not have established institutions in the West that have established an unshakable structure. It is a difficult working environment for the graphic artist.
Symbols can be divided into a number of types for easy identification: 1) Word symbol: The reflection of the name of an organization in a unique writing style. 2) Letter symbol: The symbol formed from the initial or letters of an organization. 3) Pictorial symbol: The symbol that directly evokes the working area of the organization. 4) The symbol that indirectly evokes the working area of the organization. 5) Symbol that has no meaning, association, or interest link with the organization's field of activity. 6) General symbol: A symbol that reflects a historical, social or urban feature. There are examples of all these in the book.
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