We as designers know that there’s a vast history behind how symbols and logos are created and evolve, but we don’t always think about it in the day to day operations of creating a new icon.
Humans have been communicating with symbols for ages: hieroglyphs, cave paintings of buffalo, Phoenician letterforms. Essentially our entire language is made up of symbols that we mix around to form words and sounds. Before kids even have verbal language, many learn to begin to communicate with simple sign language, which is essentially applying a symbolic action to a word. Then as they begin to communicate verbally, at some point they learn that the golden “M” equals McDonalds, the script “D” means Disney, the swoosh is Nike, etc.
Brand New posted a short video of famous logos analyzed by a 5 year old that is oddly interesting in terms of how a young mind interprets symbols and adds a different level of knowledge to them. All of these are well known and recognized icons, and many of them were immediately recognized by this kid, but he had some unexpected comments about a few of them. A couple of my favorites were that the McDonald’s logo looks like it’s made out of fries, and that all of the cats are cheetahs.
It’s good to be reminded that our work is often perceived differently by different minds and sets of experiences.