Project One
Symbols & Visual Language

We all interact with sign and symbols on daily basis. They tell use how to use roads, where the bathroom is, and how to find specific locations / items. These symbols communicate regardless of language and allow even people from other cultures or non English speakers to find what they need.

You will need to research your category and come up with what symbols you think your user might need? What symbols would communicate the needs of that particular group? Do certain symbols need opposites etc? Is thee a framework you will use to create all your symbols, etc?

One of the more famous examples of this type of visual langue are the hobo signs that transient people developed to communicate with one another. These symbols need to be simple enough to be reproduced but complex enough to communicate your ideas.
You will be researching and designing a series of symbols that communicates visually and without the need for written words or numbers of any kind. Theses need to work at large and small sizes and be read from both far away and close up. It's also important to think and research what you can do do show things like quantity / direction / etc without resorting to numbers or letters which can only be understood in context by English speakers.

 1. Pick Up Sports

2. Bars & Restaurants

3. Gyms

4. Public Bathrooms

5. Surfing / Skiing

6.Gas Station / Service Station

7. Dog Parks

8. Hiking & Running

9. Dating

10. Rental Preoperty / Roomates

11. Teachers / Professors

12. Camping

13. Bands / Concerts

14. Retail

15. Contractors

16. Plants / Nursery

17. Golf

18. Transportation

19. Fast Food

20. Library Musuem

21. Contractors

22. Grocery Store

23. Online Video Games / Streaming

This project will be turned in both physically and digitally along with a process book. When creating symbols and marks it is important to construct them in a way that allows them to be scaled both large and small. It is also important to remember that you are not the end user of these marks and symbols. They will be passed off to a client with little to no knowledge of illustrator or graphic design software. They will want to be able to scale and color them accordingly without degrading the quality of the symbol you create. 

You exploration is just as important to me as the final product. When creating a mark many solutions must be explored in order to determine that you have arrived at the best solution.

  • 18-20 Unique Symbols
  • (1) 18" x 24" Poster of Final Symbols(Use the template we went over in class.) You need to show contrast so use a dark background with white symbols or a light background with black symbols)
  • (1) 18"x24" Poster (That explains the system for creating new symbols and teaches someone how to make new symbols)
  • Digital AI file with all symbols (fully outlined and properly constructed with a minimal number of points)
    Digital PDF of Both Posters
  • Digital Process Book (Think about how this designed. Lead me through the process for each icon. Find ways to show how you refined your symbols.)
1 / 21 / 20  


Go over syllabus
Introduce project one


Research and create a potential list of the symbols you want to create. (18-20) Brainstorm what symbols you would need to communicate in this space. Move beyond the obvious. Think about how someone else would interact with this system?

Research some of the top symbol and mark designers. 1)Saul Bass 2) Lance Wyman 3)Aaron Draplin 4) Ivan Chermayeff & Tom Geismar (Put this in your process book)

1 / 23 / 20  


Sketching and ideation exercise in class. 


Start research on the specific concept that you choose. (10) sketches per icon. Use a pencil and paper. Graph paper could help you keep things in scale and aligned. Use the strategies we learned in class today.

1 / 28 / 20  


Critique / Work in Class


(10) additional sketches per icon. Do not reuse any from last time.

Work on consistency and how to use similar elements to create continuity throughout. Focus on scale. Begin to refine into sets based on style and type of symbol. Abstract vs. Representative, Use of specific shapes, etc. Scan all of your symbols you have drawn thus far. Clean them up in photoshop and organize them.

1 / 30 / 20  


Illustrator Demo / Work Day
Bezier Curves


Choose your best (12) sketches for each icon and move them into the computer. These should be different types and styles of symbols. Keep it broad for now and we will refine them later on.

2 / 4 / 20  


Critique Digital Icons


Begin to form sets of symbols. You will probably need to recreate all your symbols in a particular style / structure / etc.

Choose your best (4) sets and finalize all your symbols in the computer. Should be mix of both representational and abstract sets. Print off all of them at both large and small (Black and white) on 11x17 sheets for class.

The full set is 18-20 wsymbols. Make sure they are starting to work large and small. Print off in B/W for class on 11x17. Print Large and small on the same sheet.

2 / 6 / 20 


Critique / Work in Class


Choose your final set and finalize all your symbols in the computer. Focus on achieving continuity between symbols. Think about spacing, contrast, curves and stroke weight Print off all of them at both large and small (Black and white) on 11x17 sheets for class.


2 / 11 / 20  


Choose Final Direction


Prepare poster of final symbols.

(5) Explorations of second poster and the system for creating new symbols to add to your set.

Construction and Diagram Examples

2 / 13 / 20


Critique Explorations and sketches
for the second poster

In Class Demo about how to finalize icons


Refine 2nd poster concepts 

(2) Concepts for the poster. Use type and image to explain your system. Think about hierarchy and how you can use a combination of elements to teach someone the system.

2 / 20 / 20  


Critiue refined exploration for
second poster


Narrow to final poster concept for the second poster.


Use a grid and pay attention your typograhy. Is it the right size, etc? You may need to print out and test it at full size.

Show this to other students / friends can they understand your system and how to use it?

2 / 25 / 20  


Crititque Final Poster Sets


Refine! Look at the how the two poster interact. How can they use similar elements but also stand on there own?

Make sure you are using the grid and looking at youy type in additiona to disgrams. Both show us and tell us how to use your system.  Does it make sense? Ask yourself?

2 / 27 / 20  




Begin Project 2

KU Library Books to Check Out