45 Symbols


Website: 45symbols.com

The world— as we know it — can not be understood without letters. They allow an asynchronous discussion of philosophical ideas, detailed documentation of our history and clear definitions in the context of trade and commerce. Beyond that, letters, words and text also found their meaningful place in the artistic context. The fusion of writing and design: typography.

One milestone in the history of typography is the Disc of Phaistos. Even though its purpose is still discussed it is considered to be an early — if not the first — document of movable type printing. The clay-impressed notation is assumed to be a textual representation and comprises 45 unique and recurrent symbols. Herbert Brekle describes this way of using symbols as the “The typographic principle” in his article of the same title published 1997 in the Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, Vol 72. These 45 symbols have been encoded in Unicode since 2008. The Unicode consortium archives all characters of known writing cultures and sign systems since the early nineties and provides a unique digital representation for them. In 2012 there are more than 110.000 entries of characters in the Unicode database. The project MAN TRANSFORMS | 45 SYMBOLS investigates the symbiosis of lettering/typography and identity. It starts by exploring the available characters used in former times and today in different cultures and how these might influence everyday life in different ways.

If you could represent the city you live in with 45 symbols – which ones would you chose? Instead of impressing them into clay, groups in New York, Cologne, Beirut and Hong Kong will use a more contemporary way and “store” a selection of 45 elements in a font.

This collaborative project involves 4 academic partners:

Parsons The New School for Design
School of Art, Media & Technology
Pascal Glissmann, Assistant Professor
Daniel Udell, Research Assistant

Academy of Media Arts Cologne
Andreas Henrich, Professor
Olivier Arcioli

Lebanese American University Beirut
School of Architecture & Design
Randa Abdel Baki, Assistant Professor

Hong Kong Baptist University Hong Kong
Academy of Visual Arts
Mariko Takagi, Assistant Professor

I also made a introduction video for New York City with 10 symbols from the symbols we designed. It is a stop motion video, all the symbols were created with one paper, from the very beginning to the end. See Video here.