Nathanael Coyne's Reviews > Symbol Sourcebook: An Authoritative Guide to International Graphic Symbols

Symbol Sourcebook by Henry Dreyfuss
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's review
Apr 14, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: work-related
Read in May, 2012 — I own a copy

As a designer I've found people are very wary of symbols. They're skeptical of the ability of pictographs to communicate, and think that words or an absence of potentially confusing symbols is a better alternative. This sourcebook shows that we've been using symbols in many industries for a long time - and it's not out of a need to make interfaces or information pretty, but out of recognising the importance and value of symbols as language. Symbols can be faster to identify, can communicate complex concepts with a few line strokes and reduce errors.

Henry Dreyfuss' sourcebook is now 28 years old and some of these symbols aren't used much any more but it's still interesting to "read" the symbols and see how they were designed either as individual symbols or as part of a set ... such as wind direction & speed indicators and electronic circuitry symbols. It is true that many of these symbols make no sense unless you're told what they signify such as morse code but once you know what they represent they can enable fast and effective communication.

This book is mostly symbols, grouped and categorised by various means. There are a few small snippets of information explaining the background to symbols such as the Peace symbol but it is primarily a reference book.

I found it very inspirational and will find it useful as a tool to help me use symbols more in the software interfaces I design.
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