How Ancient Symbols Can Benefit Modern Design

My name is Michela Graziani. I’m a creative designer based in Rome, Italy.

I want to talk to you today about symbols. I love symbols. I love the prevalence and permanence of the symbols in our world. I love that some symbols are transitory. I love learning the stories behind their design, and I love discovering and saving symbols that might otherwise slip away.

Over the past three years, I’ve created a digital encyclopedia of symbols. I’ve gathered together more than 650 ethnographic and mystical symbols from cultures all around the world. I’ve categorized and redesigned them in a consistent and modern style.

I want to offer creatives the chance to use my research to inspire their own designs. That’s why I’m crowdfunding to launch Symbolikon, a digital library of ethnographic and mystical symbols that is the result of years of intensive study and hard work.

I’d love for you to support me in reaching my goals. But first, let me tell you a little bit about the project and why I think it is so important.

Curation. Inspiration. Imagination. Creation.

There’s no such thing as immaculate conception when it comes to design. We create based upon our own personal knowledge, our cultural experience, and we build on the work of designers that have come before us. We stand, often, on the shoulders of giants.

It’s easy to think that inspiration plus imagination equals creation. But(!), before inspiration comes curation. You have to get your ducks in a row; you have to plan your research, do your due diligence. You have to know where you’re coming from to get to where you’re going.

It’s easy to imagine the designer who comes across an interesting glyph while perusing travel websites, planning next holiday. Perhaps she likes the look, and uses it in her next design project, for a company producing medical supplies. Now imagine that aesthetically pleasing glyph is an ancient symbol for death. That’ll be embarrassing for the brand, and the designer, somewhere down the line.

That’s why I believe that an organized, categorized, digital library of symbols is so valuable.

A Shared Global History

When I first started studying symbols, I was frustrated. I couldn’t find images or information in an easy-to-use digital format. In my research, I often needed to procure rare print books, and speak to anthropologists and symbology experts. I had to constantly pull together large amounts of disparate information from various sources.

That’s why I’ve done the research, the organization, the curation. For you. I want my research to save you time and benefit your design.

We live in an increasingly digital world. Not every designer has the time or the opportunity to look through ancient texts in distant libraries. Yet, symbols represent a very important part of our shared global history.

I hope that my work — and yours — will preserve these powerful images, along with their meanings, for future generations.

Knowing Where You’ve Come From Means Knowing Where You’re Going

Tell me, do you own a smartphone? You probably do. You’re probably using it to read this article. Look to the top of your phone screen. Do you see this symbol?

The Bluetooth logo is the perfect example of how ancient symbols can inspire modern design.

Bluetooth was developed by Swedish company Ericsson. It’s named after Harald Blåtand (Blue-tooth in English). Blåtand was a Viking king, known for his negotiating abilities. Ericsson thought that this historical ruler had a lot in common with their new technology, which was also a great communicator.

The symbol that we all understand to mean ‘Bluetooth’ is simply an amalgamation of the Nordic runes ‘H’ and ‘B’, Harald’s initials.

I love this. It’s the perfect combination of modern design and historical context. It’s a match made in heaven. The design team have created an instantly recognisable symbol for a modern technological innovation which, for anyone interested in investigating, provides a deep backstory that enhances and enriches understanding of the product.

This is what I believe can be achieved when creative artists investigate ancient symbols and incorporate them into modern designs. I want people to be inspired by symbols — whether it be creative designers, tattooist, artists, or even interior designers.

A Digital Encyclopedia of Ethnographic Symbols

I want you to search in one place and end up in another. I want you to find connections you couldn’t anticipate. I want you to find the elusive spark that you’ve been searching for. Ultimately, I hope to inspire great design.

When launched, Symbolikon will provide non-restrictive licences, meaning that symbols can be downloaded and used commercially with no constraints. I don’t want anything to get in the way of your creative process. I want to inspire you to love symbols as much as I do.

That’s why each entry in the Symbolikon library has been meticulously researched, categorised, and redesigned in a contemporary, modern style. Divided into 25 categories, the symbols are downloadable in vector (SVG, AI) and raster (jpg, pdf) formats.

The symbols are presented in 4 style variations: light, bold, outline and grey. The grey style allows in-site customization of the symbol, using flat colors and/or gradients. This means that you can work immediately with the graphics, testing ideas and building inspiration and meaning into your design.

Support now on Kickstarter

If you’re interested in the Symbolikon project, you can find out more and pledge support CLICK HERE.

July 26, 2019

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