Friday, January 21, 2011

Aha Blog #1: Visual Symbols in Daily Life

Visual symbols appear all around us whether we notice them or not. From street signs to jewelry, we are constantly being bombarded with them. As I spent time critiquing what I saw on a daily basis, I realized that visual symbols were more of a part of my life than I had thought. I believe the way we choose to interpret these symbols is many times chosen for us by society and the media, and its important that we learn to recognize their impact on our lives. I thought of a few specific examples that I see daily to help myself decipher this concept.

One type of visual symbol I hadn't thought of before was the body. Tattoos and henna tattoos are a form of self-expression or cultural celebration through body art visuals. I think of such markings as tattoos and piercings as more obvious examples of visual symbols, but body language and hand signals represent attitudes and expressions as well. When you think about it, these signals have strong nonverbal messages when used by themselves.

Visual symbols are found in jewelry and body art as well. Wedding rings, cross necklaces, and yin yang or peace signs are several popular symbols made into jewelry pieces that I've noticed. I know I tend to associate certain religious or personal beliefs to people by what they choose to wear or use to define themselves.

Many visuals I see daily come from products in stores. I can recognize these just by their logos. Products like Pepsi, Chevy, and Nike all use their logos in place of their names at times. Consumers learn to recognize these symbols, making them a powerful marketing tool. An example of logo symbols I've recognized is clothing. Clothing visuals affect us daily by brand recognition. People often associate these with status as a means of social acceptance- all because your shirt has a tiger vs. an eagle on it. I think this is just what the clothing brands are looking for to push up their popularity and sales.

Stopping to look at these examples of visual symbols I see daily, I became aware that I use them without thinking about it. I see a Pepsi logo and I want a Pepsi. I see a shirt and become jealous its not mine. I think there are definitely positive reasons for utilizing symbols visually in our society, but I became aware of my own negative associations and presumptions when I took a deeper look at my daily interactions with them. I've definitely opened my eyes to my daily intake of visuals and can differentiate a little better between what the symbols are really telling me.

*Images by Meghan White

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