symbols, icons, and other things
paige dempster spring 2020
© Paige Dempster 2020
Senior Design Seminar
Montserrat College of Art
Beverly, MA 01915
thesis statement................. 1
one shape symbols...............7
brain illustrations............... 11
preposition icons............... 13
Symbols and icons have become their own complex
language that transcends traditional written and spoken
linguistic barriers. Like English or Chinese though, the
language of icons has different dialects or iterations.
For my senior thesis, I am going to explore symbols and
icons, what they mean, and how minute changes in them
can change their meaning from one thing into another.
My inspiration originates from the story about how
Susan Kare created the Command key symbol for Apple.
According to an interview with Business Insider, Kare
explained, “The Command key needed a new icon,but
that’s hard to do for a word like ‘command’, which
doesn’t exist in a physical space”. She eventually landed
on today’s Command icon by searching through a
dictionary of symbols, and in the very back finding
an obscure symbol that defined special features in
I will need to do extensive reading in how psychology
plays into a person’s perception of icons and shapes. A
quick example of this is the “bouba-kiki*1” effect, in
which two different shapes can easily be assigned the
names “bouba” and “kiki” simply by how they look.
Moreover I need to do research about how languages
are formed and how new icons are implemented into
day to day use. By understanding this I hopefully will be
able to better understand why icons are so universally
understood where they are implemented.
I initially began with making
gifs. I made this one random
“i” one then someone
suggested animating road
signs which I must have stuck
with for at least three weeks.
This was an experiment and
challenge. I wanted to see how
many symbols I could make only
using one shape, then see how
recognizable they were in black
and white versus color. Done
with triangles and circles.
I stuck with this project the
longest. These began as icons
to represent different states
of the brain but they ended
up as illustrations. I also redid
it completely at one point.
Which is why it took so long.
After doing the brain project,
I wanted to try and make
some real icons.