Pentagram partner Angus Hyland and freelance writer Steven Bateman have recently released their latest book, Symbol. Featuring over 1300 symbols and organised into groups and sub-groups according to their visual characteristics the book features short introductions to each chapter with expanded captions providing information on who the symbol was designed for, who designed it, when, and where appropriate, what the symbol stands for. Eager to know more we caught up with Angus Hyland to find out more…
Where does the fascination with symbols begin?
At an early age I became aware that we were living next to a Shell garage. I thought that it signified our closeness to the sea (we lived in Brighton). It is scary how far brand recognition precedes literacy by some measure.
How does the process of putting a book like this together work? How many symbols did you have in mind before you started and how many did you discover as a result?
I must confess with this kind of book I am so reliant on the goodwill and hard work of my collaborators. Steven was responsible for the lion’s share of the research for the book. I defined the structure and case studies that punctuate the vast array of graphic marks.
What do you hope the audience will get out of the book?
Clearly this is a reference book but hopefully it is more than that. When seen isolated from their context and applications these symbols have an innate beauty. By grouping them according to type one removes their meaning and they can be seen gently amorphous across the pages and then they become not just individual symbols and the book as a whole has a value greater than the sum of its parts
Not wanting to ask you for your favourite, so instead, what makes a successful symbol and how do you try and incorporate this into your work as a graphic designer?
Firstly any symbol is only as successful as the brand it represents – its value comes by association. However above all else a good symbol needs to be an honest representation of the brand. My three assets that all enduring symbols have are that they must be; Candid, Memorable and Elemental.
Laurence King have also released a number of short films from a talk Angus gave at the Design Museum. Featured above is Part 1. To see all of them, check the vimeo.