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Edtechcc Assignment 1: Signs & Symbols January 22, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in edtechcc, Musings.
Tags: , , , ,

Our first assignment has been released:

Make two signs or symbols using a graphics tool of your choice. The first sign should be for your own department or course, the second sign should be for another educational department or course.


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by E-nat: http://flickr.com/photos/einat/27945283/

Well OK it was four days ago now, but that delaying my start has helped I think. I wanted to get started straight away and had some initial ideas – I tend to think things through in my head, do some mental processing, decide on a starting point, then begin. So it was interesting and informative to see how others, especially those for whom design is a more integral part of their lives, set about a task like this. The ‘head work’ I do seems to be done on paper, perhaps preceded by research, in order to scope possible routes forward, whilst taking into account the different demands of the brief. So I thought I’d give it a shot.

The first thing I found is that some people distinguish between signs and symbols. Signs tend to be literal representations for which there is a commonly accepted interpretation. Although symbols may do this too, they invariably contain deeper, more complex meanings open to personal interpretation. With that in mind, I started mooching through the Google Image search results for signs & symbols, and blow me, if I didn’t start looking at the images with a far more critical eye. What exactly were these images trying to represent and how much was open to different interpretations … and what influences would these findings have on my design? I started wondering whether what we see when approaching the gents is a sign (yes probably) and about the history of the circle with vertical dash that now represents on/off … and is that a sign or symbol?

Time to get started then. My own ‘department’ isn’t actually an educational subject or faculty; we’re on the non-teaching side. Whether that will affect people’s interpretation of my sign, I’m not sure. I elected to use Aviary Raven. I’ve been aware of Aviary for quite some time, but have only really made use of Talon (screen capture) and Falcon (image markup), so this assignment provided the ideal impetus to get me started. The interface proved simple and crisp, and there were enough features to get the job done to an acceptable standard, but as someone who has used vector-based applications in the past, I felt there were one or two significant omissions. No grid, so no snap to grid (the guidelines didn’t quite make up for that), no capability to ‘group’ objects (that’s pretty much a fundamental!) and you could only delete by right-clickingan object and choosing Remove (the delete keyboard key has no effect). So whilst Raven got the job done, I didn’t find it particularly productive … balanced against that are it’s online and therefore accessible (in theory) from any PC and of course, it’s free!

So here’s my efforts (I suspect you may find the second easier than the first!):

What have I learned?

  • There is a distinction between signs and symbols and that this is a far more complex and interesting area than I first imagined.
  • To look at signs and symbols and what they represent with a far more analytical eye.
  • That there is much more to the design process than I could ever have imagined.
  • A little more facility in the use of Aviary Raven and an awareness of some of its limitations as a vector editor.
  • My analytical muscles are definitely more ‘ripped’ than my creative ones, so edtecchcc will be providing my creative workout sessions.


1. nellmog - January 22, 2012

I am really enjoying seeing how everyone is dealing with the creative process in different ways and am especially enjoying how everyone is dealing with vectors. Think you have coped well and are definitely developing those ‘Creative Muscles’ 🙂

ianinsheffield - January 22, 2012

Thanks Helen. It was your post (and Colin’s) which helped me see a structure in the design process. When I was at school we ‘made’ things. Designing was done in the Technical Drawing studio and seemed to me more about sharp pencils and orthogonal projections!

2. Damien McHugh - January 22, 2012

IT support and Science???

I also found the creative process very difficult. It’s a real skill to encapsulate something in an image in a clear and unambiguous way.

By the way, I used Raven too but you seem to have done a far better job. I like the way that you have a dominant colour in each one. I’ll borrow that in the future 😉

ianinsheffield - January 23, 2012

Thanks for the feedback and well done Damien; ICT Support and Chemistry, so your assertion scores you 95%, an A* and a scholarship to continue your studies with edtechcc. 😉

3. Nicola McNee (@NicolaMcNee) - January 23, 2012

It was interesting what you said about the limitations of Raven as some one who has used vector editing tools in the past. I’m a newbie and I thought I was being silly for imagining the delete button on my keyboard should delete things!

4. ianinsheffield - January 23, 2012

Hi Nicola, thanks for stopping by. I think it’s related to online tools in general. The standard, commonly accepted conventions (for desktop applications) don’t always appear to apply.

It’s strange how frustration never seems to leave the computer user from the moment s/he first puts fingers to keyboard logging on for the first time. It’s just transferred from one aspect of your experience to the next and to the next. 😉

5. Information … graphically? « In the pICTure - August 18, 2012

[…] has always been somewhat dormant and inspiration often eludes me, though as I learned on “edtechcc“, having never really studied nor mastered the design process, there’s an awful lot to […]

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