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7-8 OCTOBER 2022

The Symbol Group’s inaugural online symposium will examine the 50th anniversary of industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss’ discipline-defining Symbol Sourcebook, to reveal the legacy underpinning our current fascination with emojis, icons and symbols and explore new symbol applications.

Symbol '22: Symbol Sourcebook @50
Virtual symposium

7 OCT

DAY ONE

We examine the importance of symbols using Dreyfuss' book as a starting point considering themes of:

  • Internationalism

  • Datavisualisation

  • Universal language

  • Symbol design history

  • The influence of technology

8 OCT

DAY TWO

We focus on symbols in contemporary practice including:

  • Social media (emojis and stickers)

  • Inclusivity

  • Sustainability and diversity

  • Critical applications (emergencies/disasters)

  • Symbol language experiments


KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

Prof. KEITH BRESNAHAN
NIGEL HOLMES
KAREL VAN DER WAARDE

Prof. HISAYASU IHARA
JENNIFER 8 LEE
ELLEN LUPTON

Over the last decades, interest in symbols has grown with the rise of a growing global media culture. The primary objective of The Symbol Group is to critically re-evaluate symbol projects such as this to develop more effective visual communication for the future.This year sees 50 years since Henry Dreyfuss first published his Symbol Sourcebook. The book forms a comprehensive compendium of international symbols from both amateur and professional bodies. The supporting archival material (a bequest of Dreyfuss before his death in 1972) is preserved by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, with whom we are collaborating to bring this project to fruition Dreyfuss’ Symbol Sourcebook represents a triumph of collection, collation, design expertise, academic understanding, organisation, efficiency, administration and editing. However, when the working papers and correspondence that went into its design and production are revealed, the book forms the tip of a huge graphic design iceberg which gives a unique window into the burgeoning discipline of graphic design in the late 1960s and early 1970s in relation to the design of symbols for a world which was rapidly becoming consumed by internationalism. The book also represents a graphic realization of the idealism which existed at that time for symbols to be the way forward for communicating in a world which was becoming more and more complex as internationalism took hold.

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To celebrate 50 years since the publishing of the Symbol Sourcebook, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York are curating an exhibition (opening April 2023) “Give Me a Sign: The Power of Symbols” based on Dreyfuss’ work with symbols. The exhibition will pick up many themes explored in the Symbol '22 Symposium .

 

Cooper Hewitt‘s Henry Dreyfuss archive contains the working papers for the Symbol Sourcebook that demonstrate the burgeoning discipline of symbol design from the 1970s onwards along with Dreyfuss’ extensive international network and his overwhelming passion for symbols.

Exterior, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 2015

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

The Arthur Ross Terrace & Garden at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 2015

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Symbol ’22: Symbol Sourcebook @50 is endorsed by IIID.

Funding from the Information Design Association has kindly enabled us to run our inaugural symposium and start to create The Symbol Group network to benefit designers, design researchers and students.

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Design and production of the Symbol Sourcebook in Henry Dreyfuss' Pasadena studio, California circa 1971

Henry Dreyfuss Archive, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

 

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“If a system of symbols could be compiled that would be equally recognisable in Lagos and Lapland, perhaps the dream of a universal basic means of communication could be realised.

I believe this is possible.”
Henry Dreyfuss

Henry Dreyfuss with John Deere tractor symbols, 1972

Henry Dreyfuss Archive, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum