decoding design

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  • decoding designunderstanding and using symbols in visual communication

    MAGGIE MACNABdiscover the hidden meanings inside common corporate logos and designs

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  • Reading nature is the rst step to creating design that truly communicates. Instead of understanding num-bers as linear quantities, Decoding Design: Understanding and Using Symbols in Visual Communicationexamines universal patterns and the qualities of the numbers 1 through 10, expressed as shape and symbol. Decoding Design explores questions such as:

    How do symbols translate instantly in any culture or language?

    Why do some designs disappear, while others explode through the noise around us?

    How do you create design that contains both beauty (form) and effectiveness (function) for the most compelling visual communications?

    Symbols connect deeply into the timeless experience of living we all have. Modern humans have simply forgotten how to read the symbols of nature. These symbolsnatures languageare of crucial importance because they contain information about how the world works. Reading pattern is the basis of learning and living within the laws of nature because it supports our survival. Even through the maze of information and technology we have created, human beings still instinctively recognize, need, and use universal principles to understand our world. The communication of nature is our language of source and provides us with immedi-ately and intimately understood knowledge.

    These principles can be integrated into visual communication for powerful and enduring results by creating design that communicates accurate and useful information. This supports access to the message and creates more efcient, elegant communicationsand a deeper appreciation for our sustaining source, nature. It is practical, engaging and motivating.

    Integrating appropriate symbolism supports the communication by being:

    EFFECTIVE: Visual symbolism that accurately illustrates the message is the message. Get this part right, and you are providing a true value to both client and recipient with immediate, relevant meaning.

    ENDURING: Connect to a universal principle and insure longevity of the design. Styles come and go, but substance is constant. An identitys DNA must have a solid symbolic core to survive cyclic generationsjust as any genetic material. Nature is the ultimate designer and has had billions of years to rene systems that work: learn to read natural pattern and symbol, know the principles they are associated with and apply them appropriately.

    AESTHETIC: Understanding universal connections promotes aesthetic design results. Natural principles are beautiful because they work with elegant efciency. Learn to be a designer who understands and balances form with function.

    ETHICAL: When you true up a communication, the principle has been consistently matched with meaning to create a powerful message. It is naturally ethical for practical reasons. Practice looking for and deciphering fallacies and truths in everyday communications. Do ethical. Be ethical.

    Decoding Design: Understanding and Using Symbols in Visual Communication MAGGIE MACNAB

    Maggie Macnab 505-286-8558 www.macnabdesign.com www.decodingdesign.com 2008 MAGGIE MACNAB ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

  • 10 SIMPLE STEPS INTO THE SYMBOLISM OF SHAPE.

    The Number The Shape Quality and Principle

    1

    The circle represents wholeness, unity, integrity, one-ness and all together now. This is the origination of all shapes and the rst of endless variation. It begins as a zero dimension point in the center, surrounded by an encompassing innity of points created with a compass. Try it. It feels powerful and connected, all at the same time. (We are all powerfully connected; we just tend towards distraction much of the time.) Complexity around a single point is a common design for meditation as a mandala. It reminds us of connection in the midst of chaos.

    Example 1: This is an example of a community-oriented corporation. Target went from a literal target design of a three ring bullseye to this all around one identity in the late 60s, during the height of the peace and love movement. Though extraordin- arily simple, this logo has powerful symbolism at its core. With one minor change, Target re-messaged their identity from prot- driven to value-driven: a 180 repositioning move that is extended into the companys principles.

    Example 2: Animal Medical Clinic is a small animal vet that has been located in Albuquerque since the early 80s. With no budget, this design shot to winning rst place in logo design from the American Advertising Federation in 1983. Why? Because it connected to the universal truth of what goes around comes around, based on the eternal tale of man putting compassion before fear, and of helping one to help all. Aesops fable Androcles and the Lion is an example of this story. Universal themes never go out of style and this logo is still in use 25 years later.

    DECODING DESIGN: UNDERSTANDING AND USING SYMBOLS IN VISUAL COMMUNICATION | MAGGIE MACNAB | 2

    Maggie Macnab 505-286-8558 www.macnabdesign.com www.decodingdesign.com 2008 MAGGIE MACNAB ALL RIGHTS RESERVED THE BULLSEYE LOGO DESIGN IS A TRADEMARK OF TARGET BRANDS, INC.

  • 10 SIMPLE STEPS INTO THE SYMBOLISM OF SHAPE.

    The Number The Shape Quality and Principle

    2

    The line is born of the circle casting its reec-tion to distinguish self. The line is the one dimensional shape of relationship in which edge and separateness are dened. Like most essential shapes, it is an archetype that contains opposites: the line both divides and connects. It also demonstrates duality as seen from two very different philosophies: in west-ern culture it reveals the propensity towards linear thinking as two intersecting lines forming a cross, while in eastern culture the inclusive yin yang describes the same principle from a more holistic point of view.

    Example 1: Even though this logo is created with circles, the dominant design element is the western demonstration of linear duality, created by a cloned circle. Color also plays an important role in the design: the golden circle on the right is preceded by the red circle on the left. This company was formed primarily by American and Japanese companies in the mid 60s: the red sun of the east is complimented by the golden opportunity of the west.

    Example 2: This logo was designed for an Arabian horse farm in the mid 80s. As their primary business was breeding, I keyed in on the dual- istic nature of mares and stallions with reproduction as the end result. The design also provided an opportunity to inte- grate visual information about the breed: Arabs are prized for their delicate bone structurethe dished faces and long, arched necks that allow them to breathe efciently when galloping through the sandstorms of their original home, the Sahara desert.

    DECODING DESIGN: UNDERSTANDING AND USING SYMBOLS IN VISUAL COMMUNICATION | MAGGIE MACNAB | 3

    Maggie Macnab 505-286-8558 www.macnabdesign.com www.decodingdesign.com 2008 MAGGIE MACNAB ALL RIGHTS RESERVED THE MASTERCARD LOGO IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF MASTERCARD

  • 10 SIMPLE STEPS INTO THE SYMBOLISM OF SHAPE.

    The Number The Shape Quality and Principle

    3

    DECODING DESIGN: UNDERSTANDING AND USING SYMBOLS IN VISUAL COMMUNICATION | MAGGIE MACNAB | 4

    Maggie Macnab 505-286-8558 www.macnabdesign.com www.decodingdesign.com 2008 MAGGIE MACNAB ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

    A third point provides the opportunity of closure of the line to create the next shape, the plane. This two dimensional shape is a clear illustration of its principle: transform-ing a base line into higher renement. The plane provides access between one and three dimensions. Revered by Egyptians, Masons and on our dollar bill, the triangle is indicative of inspiration, re and male yang in the upward pointing position, while in the downward position indicates water and female yin. The female pelvisthe triangular, physical truss of the human bodyserves the same purpose by transporting new genetic information into a three dimensional world.

    Example 1: The recycle symbol is one of those designs we never think about because it is so intuitively clear. Life must eat life to live, and decomposition is the opportunity for new life to occur by recombining parts. Transforming old into new is a basic premise of natures continuation. Nature doesnt tolerate waste and is based on the cooperation between function and form.

    Example 2: The MuSE logo (Multi-user Synthetic Environment) was designed as a play on the acronym and as a visual descriptor of the product. MuSE is a shell software that puts raw numerical data into a visualized form: The transformation of two dimensional numbers into usable three dimensional space through the support of graphic translation. It can aid a surgeon navigating the brain during surgery, or test a missile launch encryption without actually ring the missile.

  • DECODING DESIGN: UNDERSTANDING AND USING SYMBOLS IN VISUAL COMMUNICATION | MAGGIE MACNAB | 5

    Maggie Macnab 505-286-8558 www.macnabdesign.com www.decodingdesign.com 2008 MAGGIE MACNAB ALL RIGHTS RESERVEDTHE H&R BLOCK LOGO IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF H&R BLOCK

    10 SIMPLE STEPS INTO THE SYMBOLISM OF SHAPE.

    The Number