'Give Me a Sign: The Language of Symbols' at the Cooper Hewitt explores the legacy of design pioneer Henry Dreyfuss
By Josh Niland|
Saturday, Dec 17, 2022
An exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of Henry Dreyfuss’ influential Symbol Sourcebook: An Authoritative Guide to International Graphic Symbols will debut at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum this spring, highlighting the "untold story" behind the book's creation and resulting sphere of influence.
Organized by associate curator Emily M. Orr, "Give Me a Sign: The Language of Symbols" will open to the public on May 13th and feature a special trove of never-before-seen materials selected from the institution’s extensive archive of the author and industrial designer.
The exhibition will chart the history behind various symbols (A raised fist of protest, the Olympic sports symbols, and soon-to-be phased-out Rehabilitation International Accessible Icon) that have shaped our visual language. The usage and minting process of emojis as well as the crowdsourced approach Dreyfuss and his colleagues took in developing their still-in-use guide, will complete the exhibition, which itself is designed with the help of Studio Matthews.
"As communication tools designed to break language barriers, symbols serve a variety of human needs both in daily life and in extraordinary circumstances," Orr, also the acting head of Product Design and Decorative Arts, explained in a preview of the exhibition. "This discipline-defining manual has elevated the importance of symbols and inspired their production and use around the world since its publication in 1972."
Visitors are also invited to design symbols of their own and contribute to the community creation of the Symbol Sourcebook of 2023 that will accompany the exhibition.
"Give Me a Sign: The Language of Symbols" runs until September 2nd of 2024. Information about visiting and the show can be found here.
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