8 Symbols

Designed by Norman Ives 8 x 8 3/4 inches Letter press on uncoated paper, Mohawk Superfine

One hundred copies were printed on a proofing press by Hiram Ash at Yale University in 1960.

Publishing 8 Symbols in 1960 was Ives’s declaration of his respect for symbols as a worthy artform.

Transluscent papers are a vital part of this book. The possibilities of the jacket and a number of the pages are examples of his fascination with layering.

In 1951 this book was selected for AIGA’s 50 Books of the Year Award.

BT Bank

The BT design presents two problems. First, when the T is inside the B, there is the psychological danger of its being read TB, since the B tends to become a frame for the T. Second, there is the visual problem of joining an asymmetrical B with a symmetrical T. Both of these problems were solved with the same means: that of using a linear solution. By the use of line, the B reads first, because of its recognizable silhouette; and the T could be intimated in line without the actual T form. This ambiguous read-ing of the T also made possible the joining of its top-heavy symmetry with the rounded asymmetry of the B into a unified whole. The linear complica-tion of the symbol has a richness and elegance, and the overtones of the maze image are not inappropriate to the purpose of this bank.

H: Hotel Corporation

The choice of letter form, a simplified square serif, developed from an architectural analogy to building. To further the architectural overtones, the H was given the illusion of three dimensions. The multiple illusion in the three dimensional form of the H is meant to represent a chain of hotels rather than one hotel. The illusion of the double reading and the fact that all of the gray and black triangles read both as horizontal and vertical planes in two direc-tions keep the symbol active. A flat reading of the color areas is also possible, suggesting an elegance appropriate to the feeling of good hotels.

Double Magnet: Magnet Manufacturer

The idea of two magnets as a symbol grew out of the merger of two compa-nies, both of which deal with or manufacture magnetic metals and permanent magnets. A conception of reversed perspective between the two magnets developed into a simple, active geometry. A second color was tried, on the surface of the magnets, but this flattened out the configuration, so that it suggested a mask, with the interior negative spaces becoming eye slits. Therefore, by intention, there is a maximum contrast between the surface and the sides of the magnets, with a minimum boundary between the surface and the background.

A similar reading could be achieved by using, for the background, a dark color that is much closer to the black than the white. This would not be a successful solution because the three-dimensional effect would be minimized, and one would read only the surface of the magnets.

AM: Office Furniture Company

The way in which the A and M are put together is an obvious and simple solution. The problem was one of finding the right proportion and color contrast. The company makes metal office equipment, therefore a very sharp and angular letter form was constructed to suggest the quality of met-al. The color contrast between the black and blue was kept to a minimum so that the A and M together would read as one structural configuration, before the individual letters were differentiated. In the search for proportion, an extended version was tried, in which all four of the interior triangles were equal. This solution seemed too forced and ephemeral, as did a condensed version. By putting the A on the M, the A reads first as it should; this reading sequence is strengthened by using blue for the A, because the eye is attracted to it before the black. The present version leads itself to a linear and to a black and white adaptation successfully and is also easily adapted to stamping in metal without losing its identity.

AO: Architect

This symbol was designed for use on the stationary and drawings of an architect. It was developed from a consideration for the tools of architecture. Therefore, it was reasonable to approach the symbol design with a com-pass-constructed O. A lower case A  was chosen because the bowl of the letter could also be developed from a circle, and the upper stroke from a half circle. Keeping the two circles the same size and in alignment with each other gave the symbol a discrepancy in the vertical dimensions of the A and O. The dash was placed over the O to provide the necessary contrast to the curves of the letters, to create an interesting asymmetry and to optically balance the whole symbol.

FN: Bank

The scale, proportion and simplicity of the F and N have an architectural mass and solidity. This is meant to relate to the architecture of a new hang building which is an un-ornamented glass and steel structure. Both letters have been reduced to a single form by an economical geometry. The F is used in its entirety. The N is implied, with the minimum characteristics of the letter necessary for recognition. If the F is removed, the remaining form could never be construed as an N. The symbol was developed to make several readings possible. The letter forms and the colors permit the reading of the individual letters and their composite form. In addition the way in which the F and N are put together creates a separate configuration in the small upper square, and to a lesser extent in the lower one. The upper square, because of its contrast-ing boundaries and diagonal, floats unsupported in front of the rest of the symbol on a separate plane from its surroundings.

Three Books: Book Exhibit

This symbol was used on a publication that accompanied an exhibition of books from many university presses throughout the country. My approach to the problem was to use books as a symbol of publishing and arrange them into as economical a geometry as possible. I felt that three was the minimum number to suggest many. To further the idea of economy, each book forms a part of the other. A simplified illusion of volume was used to make the symbol as compact as possible. However, it retains an appearance of being flat both from the equal weight of the line and the position in which it is placed. If the symbol were turned upside down, the three dimensional reading becomes too strong, giving the effect of a pile of books. The way it is used strengthens its qualities as a symbol.

Three Books: Book Exhibit

This symbol was used on a publication that accompanied an exhibition of books from many university presses throughout the country. My approach to the problem was to use books as a symbol of publishing and arrange them into as economical a geometry as possible. I felt that three was the minimum number to suggest many. To further the idea of economy, each book forms a part of the other. A simplified illusion of volume was used to make the symbol as compact as possible. However, it retains an appearance of being flat both from the equal weight of the line and the position in which it is placed. If the symbol were turned upside down, the three dimensional reading becomes too strong, giving the effect of a pile of books. The way it is used strengthens its qualities as a symbol.