Introduction5:13 with Nick Pettit
In this video we will introduce the topic of iconography. You will get an overview of the history of iconography and why we use icons today.
[?mellow guitar music?] 0:00 [Think Vitamin Membership - Est. 2010] [membership.thinkvitamin.com] 0:03 [Design: Iconography: Introduction with Nick Pettit] 0:07 Icons and symbols have been around for thousands of years, 0:13 and today, icons are everywhere. 0:16 Of course, iconography is the study of visual imagery 0:18 with literal or figurative meaning, 0:21 but by itself, that definition is a little bit abstract. 0:24 To help us understand their modern-day proliferation, 0:27 it helps to take a look back. 0:30 Today, we have icons everywhere, especially in software. 0:33 They're on your desktop, they're on the web, they're on your phone. 0:36 In fact, it's hard to find any piece of software 0:40 that doesn't have at least a few icons somewhere. 0:43 In prehistoric times, we humans drew pictures on cave walls 0:47 all around the world. 0:51 These were more than just decorations. 0:53 They were religious in nature, serving some ceremonial purpose 0:55 that for the most part is lost to the ages. 1:00 These images summed up our hopes and our fears 1:03 and they were a form of emotional communication and storytelling 1:06 that would continue. 1:10 Later on, imagery and glyphs would take on more complex meaning. 1:12 For example, hieroglyphs emerged from the ancient artistic traditions 1:16 of Egypt in preliterate times, 1:20 and even as these written languages became more sophisticated and abstract, 1:22 icons still maintained their powerful communicative role. 1:28 This is a triptych, or three-part panel 1:32 most likely painted and if not inspired by 1:35 the early Netherlandish master Robert Campin in the fifteenth century. 1:39 Similar to images created by Jan van Eyck 1:44 and other contemporaries during that time, 1:47 it is filled with symbols and icons mostly religious in their meaning. 1:49 While much of this meaning is still debated, 1:54 it is believed that people living during the period 1:56 would have been able to read and interpret these icons 1:59 in a fairly straightforward fashion, 2:02 following a narrative about the Christian figures Mary, Saint Joseph, 2:04 and the archangel Gabriel. 2:08 Today, a lot of contextual clues, such as the culture and general mindset of the time 2:10 are lost on modern-day people like you and me. 2:16 Some icons appear over and over again 2:20 and they still retain their basic meaning. 2:23 For example, a halo or ring of light that surrounds an individual's head 2:25 is understood to indicate that a person is holy or sacred. 2:30 Some of the most powerful icons, like this halo, are simple enough 2:36 and meaningful enough that they're able to resonate across time 2:40 and cultural boundaries because of their simplicity and innate meaning. 2:44 When you think about it, it's just a circle, 2:48 which is made from a single line. 2:51 When the first graphical user interfaces came along, 2:54 icons played a pivotal role in telling the story of how to manipulate the software 2:56 and execute its various functions. 3:01 It can be difficult to come up with a meaningful icon for everything, 3:04 so obviously, text, sound, layouts, and other pictures 3:07 can communicate things icons cannot. 3:11 However, while an icon should be visually straightforward, 3:14 that doesn't mean its emotional content and meaning has to be simple. 3:18 With everything we've talked about so far, 3:23 let's take a look at a very common example: the floppy disk. 3:25 Some people might refer to this as the Save icon, but why? 3:29 How did this become the universal symbol for saving things? 3:33 Well, this is a symbol that has been in use for more than 20 years. 3:37 At the time, and today, something like a hard drive or sticks of RAM 3:41 wouldn't have made sense because they're internal to the machine 3:46 and not something that people see. 3:50 A floppy disk, on the other hand, is a storage device 3:52 that even novice computer users physically interact with, 3:56 so it makes sense to use as a metaphor for saving data. 3:59 Today, a floppy disk is a rare sight for most computer users, 4:03 so you have to wonder: even though this image is simple 4:07 and communicates meaning through a real-world metaphor, 4:11 it's starting to lose its context. 4:14 Will people 500 years from now or even 50 years from now 4:16 have any idea what this means? 4:20 Will it become a mystery lost to the ages, 4:22 similar to many cave paintings, pictographic languages, 4:24 and Christian symbolism. 4:28 This is, of course, a very harsh criticism of this particular icon 4:30 and I should point out that it is one of the best modern-day icons in existence, 4:34 right up there with the folder or mail envelope. 4:39 It's very, very difficult to make timeless images, 4:42 but you should aspire to create icons as obvious as the circular halo. 4:46 From these examples--both modern and historical-- 4:51 we can draw three conclusions: 4:54 an effective icon is usually quite simple, 4:56 it communicates something, and it's used in a meaningful context. 4:58 Of course, like so many things in life, this is easier said than done. 5:02 Over the next several videos, we'll learn how to create icons of our own. 5:05 [?mellow guitar music?] 5:10 [Think Vitamin Membership - Est. 2010] [membership.thinkvitamin.com] 5:11
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