Symbols: Pictographs

Assignment 01:


Create three (3) pictographs for the word you are given.

The pictographs should be executed in each of these three ways:

  • HIGH LITERAL – Representational
  • MEDIUM LITERAL – Slightly abstracted
  • LOW LITERAL – Abstract

Remember, there are numerous solutions to every problem. Make sure your three solutions are very different. Also remember, you are creating icons, or pictographs of your subject, not drawings or renderings. The solutions should be simple black and white representations. Even the low literal or abstract pictographs must identify the subject. Here’s an example of how the Shell logo has moved from representational to abstract over the years. Likewise with the Apple logo (and here’s an interview with it’s designer: Rob Janoff).

Milton Glaser, designer of the famous I❤️NY symbol said that only when we are drawing something, do we really look at it. In this assignment you will need to reevaluate, and truly study something you have probably seen millions of times. Your objective is to portray this thing in a universally understandable, yet original way.

Quick and easy recognition is the key to a successful identity mark.


  • To depict something familiar, in a unfamiliar or original way
  • To increase your ability as a planner and form giver
  • To develop an awareness of the relationship between design and meaning
  • To increase and improve the quality idea generation (quality & quantity)


You will be required to maintain thorough documentation of your process throughout this and all assignments in this class. Keep a collection of everything pertaining to this project (project sheet, research, sketches, thumbnails, copies, etc.) and bring it to each class meeting. This collection will be turned in at the completion of this assignment and will be part of your final grade.

Good design is the synthesis of form, content and function. Maintaining this integrity will advance design as a profession and is a socially responsible philosophy.

Use black and white only.

Remember, you are not making an illustration of the word, you are making a representational symbol. Use minimal/bold lines and simple, recognizable shapes.

Our goal is to simplify the particular word to its most basic form, while still being unique, creative and individual.

Try using alternative techniques to make your images appear unique.

Examples: Draw the image on paper towel with a sharpie and enlarge it on the copier. Draw the image with your left hand. Cut the image out of black paper. Draw the image with ink and a paintbrush, etc.

Remember, the line quality and means of reproduction are important in conveying the mood of the symbol, i.e. a rough line could help to say whimsical, a silhouette could say serious, etc.


  • Three (3) black and white pictographs
  • Process notebook


Mon Feb 01
Thumbnails/roughs (a minimum of 27 thumbnails will be accepted. thumbnails should be nine to a page, finished and ready at the beginning of class.

Wed Feb 03
Large scale comps of three top thumbnails, prepared for critique at the beginning of class. these comps should be approximately 4″x4″ and drawn with black marker or dark lead pencil. these comps should represent what the finished logo will look like, before transferring to the computer. Begin digitizing comps.

Mon Feb 08
Refine digital comps.

Wed Feb 10
Final versions presented as indicated.


Each of the three marks will comfortably float in its own comp measuring 4″x4″. Mount the three marks on a 15″x 20″ black board like this:


Please mount the three 4 inch squares an equal distance apart in the center of a 15″x20″ vertical black board.

Place a tracing paper flap over the front of the board and label the back with your name.

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