An International Language and X-Ray Vision.

Modern Hieroglyphics

“Modern Hieroglyphics” is about the international symbols such as the little black people that are the signs for the men’s room and the lady’s room.

When describing these figures, the article said that they were created by combining the empiricism of photography with geometric, mathematical structures.  Who knew?  I’ve never really given the small man or woman on the bathroom a second thought.  They’ve always just sorta been a given, which I guess means that they’re doing their jobs cause they clearly depict something.  So much that I don’t even need to think about it anymore.  And it’s not just me.  People all over the world know that the little black man means men’s restroom and the little black woman with the triangle dress means women’s restroom.  It’s pretty amazing how a simple image can translate all borders and language barriers.

One thing that I did find troubling about the article was when it talked about the female figure.  She only appears twice out of all the symbols in the D.O.T. (the list of international symbols).  One, as the symbol for women’s restrooms.  Second, as someone standing behind a desk, selling tickets to a man.

It shows her “assisting” him.  It shows her serving him.  Out of all the times when a human figure is depicted (in elevators, in a waiting room, at a drinking fountain) the woman is only necessary twice.  To show where women can use the restroom and where they can serve men.  hmmmmmm……Needless to say, the system of symbols was created by a man.

Visual Explanations

“Visual Explanations” is about how how diagrams can help depict and explain an action.  Actions used, specifically, in how-to books.  I think we’ve all tried following diagrams that just make no sense.  You know.  When there are 50 different dashed lines and about a dozen arrows going in every direction.  My favorite is the origami diagrams.  You try to mimic the little pictures but somehow, your little scrap of paper looks nothing like the paper rose in the book.  “Visual Explanations” deals specifically with the diagrams that teach magic tricks.  Through blurring, ghosting, and dotting lines, sequencing images and combining text with pictures, artists “make verbs visible” so little kids can learn a card trick or two to show their friends at parties.

The article described said that the diagrams “must simultaneously depict the revealed and the concealed.”  ….That’s kind of an interesting concept.  Kinda like x-ray vision.  It makes sense for a how-to book (Even though explaining magic seems kinda contradictory and oxymoronic, doesn’t it?).  But what happened if we could do that for other situations?  …Like with people.  What if there were diagrams that depicted what people revealed and concealed?  What would we see?  …I suppose we would see the truth.  Granted, it would be depicted in dashed lines, but still…seeing what hides beneath the surface of a person.  Now that would be magic.


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