Language of Images

Images of animals and plants have been used for communication since ancient times.

In our culture the primary means of communication is through the written word, but the primary elements of the characters in the modern alphabet were once quite literal symbols of everyday objects which were gradually abstracted to the letters of the alphabet.

 

Pictograms


picto.gifThe first evidence of recorded pictures are cave paintings which date back as far as 20,000 BC but true written communication is thought to have been developed around 17,000 years later by the Summerians, who are known to have recorded stories and preserved records using simple drawings of everyday object called pictograms.

 

Ideograms


ox.gifAs civilisations became more sophisticated, the literal pictograms evolved into symbols representing thoughts or ideas, called ideagrams, which were able to communicate more complex, abstract concepts. Egyptian hieroglyphics used a symbol for an ox to mean food and a setting sun combined with a man to communicate old age or death.

 

Phonograms


aleph.gifIt was the Phoenicians who developed symbols to represent spoken sounds, called phonograms. Their symbol for an ox, called aleph, was used to represent the sound "A" and beth, their symbol for a house, was used to represent the sound "B". As their phonograms also represented words, the first alphabet evolved - the phonetic alphabet alpha, beta, etc.

This was subsequently adapted by first the Greeks and then the Romans, ultimately developing further to become the alphabet we use in the Western world today. A different branch on the evolutionary tree of language became what we know as the Cryllic languages such as used in Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Indian sub-continent.

 

Logograms

nature.gif

The Chinese however, developed a logographic system of writing based on combinations of pictograms and ideograms. This writing systeme is made up of tens of thousands of symbols called hanzi (or kanji in Japanese).

There is no alphabet as such - the symbols are not single letters and are used singly or combined to represent concepts or ideas rather than have any phonetic value, so visual images are inseparably linked to words. The characters in use today are very similar to those used 3,500 years ago. Although their shapes have undergone some changes and been highly abstracted, the association with ideas and nature, especially plants, animals and the elements, is very powerful so the basic composition and meaning remain much the same.

The symbols have a visual beauty not seen in Western languages and are regarded as the most abstract and sublime form of art in Chinese culture. Shu Fa (calligraphy) is universally regarded to be the most revealing power of a person where the expression can be displayed with great creativity by individuals. Calligraphy is equally adored as an important treasure of their heritage by Koreans and Japanese and in the west, artists who openly declared the influence of Chinese calligraphy on their work include Picasso and Matisse. Calligraphy is now becoming popular in modern art and in computer generated graphic design and artwork.

Pronounced tz raan the Chinese symbols shown are those which convey the abstract concept of "Nature" - the world of living things and the outdoors, heaven, man and the elements, which seemed to embody the ethic of my work more here so it was these symbols I originally used, for many years, as a logo. They did not really convey what I do however, so it became necessary to rebrand and to design a logotype that was a little more descriptive.

 

Logotype

Abstracts of Nature logotypeThe term logogram or logograph was used to describe a single symbol which consistently stands for a word or phrase. This evolved into what the Greeks called a logotype - a pictorial, or iconic, representation of an identity, personality or meaning. In the 19th Century, logotypes were used by industrial manufacturers to identify and differentiate their products to a largely illiterate population. It was only later that text started to be used as part of the sign so a true logotype today is a combination of text and graphic.

In corporate terms this is the graphic element, symbol, and icon of a trademark or brand, which is set in a special colour and typeface or arranged in a particular way. To the extent that a logotype achieves this objective, it may function as a trademark and may be used to uniquely identify a business or organisation, an event, product or service. For that reason, it is necessary to protect it by registering it so that no unauthorised third parties can use it, or interfere with the owner's use of it.

The logo, or brand, is not just an image, it is the embodiment of a person, an organisation, brand or product. As such, it is an infringement of copyright to use or display the logo of another entity without permission and even when permission is given, there may be restrictions on its use or certain requirements in the way that it be displayed or used. It is not uncommon, for example, for a corporate concern to stipulate that their logo not be displayed less than a certain distance from others or only on a white background or only using the colours which they choose and control how, and where, their logo is seen.

The logotype shown is that which I now use across all of my work as a visual symbol of recognition. The design loosely conveys a camera lens capturing a falling leaf

Photograms

Photograms represent some of the earliest photographic images, using the illumination from the sun and moon to produce images but the first artistic use of the concept was by William Henry Fox Talbot in the 1830's, who made many of these images which he called 'photogenic drawings' by allowing sunlight to pass through leaves of a plant that he placed on photosensitive paper and photography was born.

Some of the most beautiful photographic images are those photograms that have been created from natural objects, where light has captured the nuances of nature. The basis of the photogram was to take a single object and examine it from a different point of view. The first book illustrated by photography, was produced by Anna Atkins, who used the process of making cyanotypes to produce detailed images of botanical specimens.