Simply, visual symbols are a representation of something. Whether you realize it or not, humans young and old are bombarded by symbols day in and day out. For instance, drivers are encumbered with symbols as you can imagine. I won’t even begin to list them here! However, my favorites are the bright yellow square placcards that are tightly screwed to poles on the side of a road displaying a picture of a dancing deer or the ones with people holding hands. Although I’ve never seen a dancing deer in the road, I know what it means = watch out for deer on the road. And the people holding hands is easily discernible as well.
Symbols in pictures can tell a brief – even personal – story. For example, each division of our United States Military has a colorful symbol. As soon as most of us see it, we know what it represents. https://www.google.com/search?q=united+states+military+symbols&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=VOnlUOGtEev4igKl74DIDw&ved=0CEcQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=626. Any one or a number of these brings about an emotion, a memory, a thought.
Logos (logoes?) and icons are synonymous with symbols. Test yourself!
The medical community of the world is also explosive with symbols: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Medical_symbols. My favorite is that of the Blue Heel Society: http://blueheelsociety.blogspot.com/p/photos.html.
Admirable as our human efforts are, it takes each and every one of us not a half a second to realize the meaning of a visual symbol. Non-visual symbols are distinct as well. Take body language. A finger in the ear or nose tells me something = stay away from that person! A hand to the heart or throat, etc., is expressive. Think about it.
Can you think of any symbol that is unusual or unfamiliar or least used? If so, please share.
A. K. Buckroth