What icon represents 'Graphic Design?'
November 11, 2008 6:24 AM   Subscribe

What icon represents 'Graphic Design?'

If you could use one icon to represent a graphic design department within a creative agency, what would it be?

For example -

Sound = Headphones/Speakers,
Video = Video Camera/Filmstrip,
Photography = Camera/Film Canister,
Graphic Design = ?

By Graphic Design, I mean in the broadest sense... Both Screen and Print based.

PS - Not a Mac!
posted by stackhaus23 to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A paintbrush?

Obviously it's not really literally representative of what graphic designers do, but it still works as a metaphor, in the same way that a film canister still makes sense if all of the photography is digital.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:39 AM on November 11, 2008

Maybe work in one of those big tilt tables. Again, not really used anymore but fits the metaphor.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:42 AM on November 11, 2008

Some ideas:
- a graphics tablet... hard to iconify and doesn't really cover both aspects
- a paintbrush, could be interpreted as overall artist though
- maybe an icon symbolizing the transition from idea into product, so maybe a logo (or a word, maybe "ART") that's a sketch on the left side, then gradually becoming the final product on the right

Your selection criteria also depends on what other art departments are in your agency. If there are no other art departments, there's no need to distinguish between the TYPES of artists, thus the paintbrush idea would work great. If you have multiple artsy departments, I'd brainstorm a few key words that embody each department, and design the icons to communicate and highlight the differences between each department.
posted by Meagan at 6:43 AM on November 11, 2008

I would build it around a computer screen symbol. Perhaps a monitor with a single foot in the middle. Then on the screen you could put a small icon like a cursor.

Or perhaps a graphics tablet with a digital pen on the side?
posted by themadjuggler at 6:44 AM on November 11, 2008

3 visuals - brush to pen to computer monitor in a semi circle with background arrow moving towards the monitor
posted by jadepearl at 6:47 AM on November 11, 2008

Some inspiration here?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:48 AM on November 11, 2008

A large single letter or a fragment of a word, maybe with construction marks (or Meagan's sketch-to-finished transition).
posted by carbide at 6:58 AM on November 11, 2008

Does it need to be one element? I'd suggest a combination of a few elements. A T-square or drafting triangle, a couple of letters of type (perhaps showing the circles of proportion), and a rapidograph pen. Maybe a ruler. Maybe a photo with some tape.

But if it needs to be one element? A rapidograph pen.
posted by adamrice at 7:04 AM on November 11, 2008

A portion of a headline, body copy and image. ie. a section of layout.

Or close up of font, schematic style.

Or, pixels!
posted by iamkimiam at 7:16 AM on November 11, 2008

Best answer: A hipster with a giant portfolio?
posted by mrbugsentry at 7:21 AM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

A pencil drawing a small curve.

A lot of the industry-specific suggestions (drafting tables, tablets, french curves, rapidograph pens) won't make sense, I think, to non-artists. Which is, in my opinion, missing the point- icons need to speak a universal language.
posted by mkultra at 7:21 AM on November 11, 2008

The fundamental elements graphic design are color, layout, and typography. I like adamrice's idea of the letterforms in a graph, since that represents typography pretty well and also sorta represents layout. But my favorite icons are ones that look like objects. I propose you show color and layout. A crayon box and a ruler. Very simple to display and easy to identify. Sure, professional graphic designers might not touch either now-a-days, but both objects are immediately recognizable, so everyone can easily attach the visual to the concept.
posted by nemoorange at 7:30 AM on November 11, 2008

A cup of coffee, a pack of cigarettes, and a pair of Docs, all arranged around a frustratingly blank sheet of paper.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:51 AM on November 11, 2008

Type is (arguably) what separates graphic design from other artforms. So perhaps a capital and Lowercase 'A'. (or another letter).

Depending on how complex you want your icon, you could add a right-angle ruler or T-square.
posted by kidbritish at 8:15 AM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would use something that shows a page in layout, with colored boxes in place of page elements -- something similar to this, but with the emphasis more on a single page or spread than on the book itself.
posted by camcgee at 8:58 AM on November 11, 2008

I used to run a graphic design program and I always struggled with this as well, even in things like marketing.

I can tell you that there's no perfect solution because design is so much about *other things* , but the closest I found is what some folks above have already mentioned: either the graphics tablet (actually just the pen) in front of a computer monitor or the recommendations of a pen + curve.

Concepts like type, color and layout will likely be too abstract for most people . . .
posted by jeremias at 10:47 AM on November 11, 2008

As a non-designer, I would think of the design department as the Art department. So anything that represents Art is going to click with me. Palette; paintbrush; pencil and curve; a letterform that's part solid-color and part dotted outline maybe; daVinci's Vitruvian Man; computer maybe but it's much less recognizable in icon form

How big an icon are you allowed? A lot of the actual professional tools won't be recognizable unless it's a pretty big icon.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:40 AM on November 11, 2008

the Xacto blade would be recognized by designers.
posted by muscat at 1:31 PM on November 11, 2008

Not the best representation here, but the illustrator/photoshop Pen tool.
posted by Caviar at 6:32 PM on November 11, 2008

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