Oct 29, 2006

a logo for the Logos-less

As an English teacher, I suppose I have an obligation to be interested in symbolism (I even have a handy mnemonic device to remind students to look for symbols in literature). Of course, symbolism exists on multiple levels: we can use symbols to describe other symbols in a nested hierarchy, heading farther toward abstraction.

I'm immediately interested, then, in any attempt to create a symbol, if not ex nihilo, then the next closest thing. As an example, consider Norwegianity's call for a logo for freethinkers [scroll down], which has been echoed and amplified by PZ Myers.

Inventing a symbol is hard. It has to be unique but not unrecognizable, bold but not garish, simple but not obscure. PZ explains,
Anyway, the kind of thing I would be looking for is something simple, fairly abstract, easy to render, and that wouldn't antagonize deists, agnostics, or atheists. It should be positive: no crucifixes with a slash through them, for instance. It shouldn't be weird—no flying spaghetti monsters, please—it shouldn't be ugly, it shouldn't be in-your-face and gloating, it should be unobtrusive. It ought to be the kind of symbol that if it were done up as a piece of jewelry, it would be tasteful. Remember, even if you do come up with a nice logo, the hard part is going to be getting a critical mass of unbelievers to adopt it and build a recognizable association with it (and be warned, no matter how gorgeous and elegant and clever an idea you come up with, there will be a solid cadre of the godless who will resolutely refuse to have anything to do with it, on general principles and intrinsic cussedness…which is OK.)


M.T. McLaughlin said...

I know I can't just tell myself to write figuratively. I honestly find it hard to believe that an author, for example, could approach an idea with a symbol or metaphor in hand.

A designer, on the other hand, has merely the figurative to deal with and might be contrary to the author.

To me, these things must come naturally.
The revelation comes to me in retrospect.

Jim Anderson said...

I agree that some symbols are discovered, not manufactured. Some authors, though--and Nathaniel Hawthorne is the leading light--clout their readers with gigantic symbols.

(Allegory and analogy are two pre-fab symbolic modes, as well.)

M.T. McLaughlin said...

I hadn't thought of it that way. I guess what I'm saying is that one should be careful when in attempt to intentionally construct a symbol. I find it almost irritating to discover an incredibly blatant symbol if the blatancy is ineffective.

I do suppose there could be effective use of symbolic blatancy.

Murky Thoughts said...

Isn't this partly what modernist esthetics was about? I'm afraid our logo is one of those corny old visions of the atom. Or the Empire State Building.