House of Images


In our impermanent age, when industry travels, sells and resells, isn't the brand the only non-volatile value in post-industrial society?

The fact remains that the brand is now a firm fixture in the corporate firmament and, more prosaically, in the column of significant figures in annual reports. The image revolution is underway. And the logo is no exception, as it continues to tell us stories. The study of a logo is considered to be the graphic designer's "great work". It's a subject that would have required some seriousness on the part of the Maison de l'Image. But in keeping with our irreverent approach to universal glories, we have flavored the logo with the critical vision of illustrators. As a result, this journey along the royal road of graphic design is sprinkled with such delightful images. But more seriously, in an exhibition that claims to show the best that Belgium has produced in the last half-century, it was a good opportunity to pay tribute to the international stars shining in the logo firmament, as well as to the "old Belgians" who were our masters in another era, not so long ago, when we had to invent everything. Welcome to this exhibition, the second part of a trilogy, of which Picto was the first in 2008 and Typo will be the third. For all our exhibitions, a few "friends from abroad", as they say, are kind enough to grace the walls of the Maison de l'Image. We thank them all.

Michel Olyff, outraged by the impoverishment of language that has seen every symbol become an acronym or, more recently, a logo, recalls below the definitions taken from Vanmalderen Luc, "Un glossaire de la sémiologie de l'image". Communication et langage, 1982 n°5, Editions Retz, Paris, p.10-24. Their conformity was approved by Abraham Moles +, the precursor of communication studies and a great connoisseur of language. The glossary was completed and updated in 2000 by Michel Michiels.

30,000 years of signs and symbols

4,000 years of handwriting

500 years of typography1

We've been communicating by signs and symbols for nearly forty thousand years...

Acronym A word created from the initials of several words, which can be pronounced like an ordinary word. Examples: SHAPE (Supreme Headquarter Allied Powers Europe). In graphic design, an acronym is an abbreviation, but an abbreviation is not always an acronym, e.g. IBM (International Business Machine).

Ampersand English name for commercial & "dit". It replaces "esperluette", a French word that has fallen into disuse and has curiously not been replaced by any other French name.

Arobase One of the most widely used signs in the world, Arobase was a forgotten typographical sign of Arabic origin. Today it is used to separate the 2 parts of an e-mail address.

Emblem Symbolic figure usually accompanied by a motto. Figure or attribute intended to represent an authority, a profession or a party.

Graphical means any form of variation of a measurable quantity expressed by a figure or signs.

Icon Originally an Orthodox religious painting. In computing, a symbol representing a device function.

Ideogram A sign that represents the idea and not the sounds of the word or words that represent that idea. Ideograms can be pictograms or diagrams. Graphic concept.

Lettering: The personalized, exclusive way in which the name of a company or brand is typographed. Lettering can also be a logotype.

Logotype Phonetic name, graphically personalized (e.g. Coca-Cola). Type of visual constant. Trademark. Originally: a group of letters fused into a single block to speed up typographic composition. Originally, the logotype was not necessarily graphically personalized. The shift in meaning led to the notion of brand. Funnily enough, it went in the opposite direction to its original meaning.

Brand Anything that serves to identify something is a brand. For some decades now, the brand has taken precedence over the product itself.

Monogram Main letter(s) of an appellation. Lettering. Monograms are sometimes so graphically personalized as to be illegible.

Palindrome Originally, a poetic form of Roman decadence. In graphic design, a word that can be read indifferently from left to right and from right to left. A logotype can be a palindrome Oxo, Abba, Bob, Eve...

Pictogram Ideogram based on iconic representation. The pictogram can be an iconic sign (direct reading) or a symbolic sign (relay reading). A stylized drawing with a high level of iconicity. In short: a sign that communicates (LVM).

Abbreviation Initial letter or series of initial letters abbreviating a frequently used word, concept or phrase. The acronym is not necessarily graphically personalized. An acronym can be a logotype if it is graphically personalized. DNA (Desoxyribo Nucleic Acid) is an acronym but not a logotype, IBM (International Business Machine) is an acronym and a logotype when it appears in its graphic identity.

Sigle acronym Sigle that can be pronounced like an ordinary word. SHAPE (Supreme Headquarter Allied Powers Europe).

Sigle acronym meaning Sigle that can be pronounced like a known word, with a different meaning from the original concept formulated by assembling the initial letters that make it up. For example, KIWI (Kidney Info Watch Intervention).

Sign A characteristic trait used to distinguish, identify or signal. Unlike a symbol, a sign can be totally arbitrary in nature.

Arbitrary sign A sign in which the signifier bears no perceptual resemblance to its signified.

Iconic sign Sign in which the signifier bears a certain degree of resemblance to the signified. Degree of iconicity (Abraham Moles).

Open semantic sign A sign that can receive different meanings.

Symbol sign Pictogram in relay reading based by convention on a type of analogy (e.g. fork and knife for a restaurant). A sign with a degree of iconicity that "represents" an abstract concept by analogy. Indicative or substitutive symbol.

Diacritical sign Graphic sign used to distinguish, characterize and prevent confusion between homographs (e.g. period, accent).

In contrast to a sign, a symbol is never completely arbitrary. It is therefore a sign whose signifier has a natural link with its signified. The symbol of silence (index finger over mouth) could not be replaced by a thumbs-up, for example.

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Assisted by: Frédérique Gibon