Definition and Characteristics of Signs and Symbols

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A sign is any written or drawn representation that expresses or indicates the existence or meaning of that particular thought. On the other hand, a symbol is a representation of an abstracted idea with a sign, shape, colour etc. because of convention, association or resemblance. Signs and symbols are synonymous terms that express the same meaning. Symbolism is the ideas behind the symbols used for the production of the work. They are the suggestions through imagery of something that is invisible or intangible. This representation of the material object is not simply for its own interest or beauty, but as standing for an abstract idea.

Symbols embody the ideas, norms, values and beliefs of a group, association, ethnic society or nation. Therefore, when they are used in the production of artefacts the sole aim is using it to propagate and educate the users about the cultural gems of their society. This makes artefacts produced with these symbols functional.

Signs and symbols are easily identified by the characteristics stated below.

1. It should quickly and readily be recognised, recalled or remembered- It must not be difficult for someone to remember the shape of the symbol or sign. This implies that it must be unique but simple in its representation.

2. It should show the image of the company- A well designed sign or symbol of a company must quickly tell what the company does or clients must be able to predict the activities of the company from the symbol or sign it has adopted as its logo.

3. It should reach the appropriate understanding level of the intended audience- A good sign or symbol must be able to be understood by all the members of the populace. This includes both the literate and illiterate classes in the society. Despite the variance in their educational levels, all the targeted audience must be able to understand it.

4. It should be smaller in size- Symbols are usually smaller in dimension and must be able to be reproduced at a faster rate with no difficulty. In addition, it must be able to be seen, though smaller in size from all directions.

5. It may be designed in one colour- Symbols and signs are mostly designed in one colour, preferably black and in a silhouette manner. However, some signs for companies, associations and institutions are sometimes coloured to reflect the beliefs, values and ideologies of the respective group.

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