Constructing the 'Symbol'
Here is an attempt to identify visual attributes that are essentially formal in their characteristics, and are considered indispensible towards designing the character of a graphic symbol intended for use as part of signage. This part, where the designer imparts the qualities of the graphic symbol into a representation, reflects a constructive approach. His contribution towards this endeavour constitutes one of a systemic organizer who generates and modifies the visualised image into a graphic symbol using syntactic means, while simultaneously preserving its semantic content.
A relatively high degree of order seems to be the key factor underlying the characteristics inherent in the representation of a graphic symbol; and it is this factor that differentiates it from other forms of representation. Order refers to the degree and kind of lawfulness governing the relations among parts of the representation. It applies to the over-all theme or structure, to which the relationship of all parts must confirm; it also applies to the makeup of each part within itself. The visual principles (refer fig.4) that need to be exploited to achieve a relatively high level of order have been identified as comprising factors such as low visual detail, recurrence of forms, simplicity of form, alignment of grids, symmetry, and the balance of figure and background. At the next level, the order is influenced by visual features (refer fig.5), such as the use of shapes that are simple, smoothened, geometric; textures that are even; tonal variations that are minimal; orientations along the horizontal, the vertical and diagonal axis; and size variations that are modular. At the third level, elements such as lines that are used as outlines and in turn act as efficient containers of information, are treated in manner of having an orderly even thickness, a geometric linearity or circularity and are constrained in its direction to the major axis or the diagonal. In Arnheim's opinion 'Order tends to reduce complexity and requires elimination of details that do not fit the principles determining the order'(1966). The above-mentioned attributes that modify order have to be seen as influencing, at a close-up distance of a micro dimension, - the relationships within a symbol; and at a micro dimension, the relationships across the whole group of symbols. All these transformations bring about visual uniformity within and across symbols; apart from restricting the information to the necessary details alone, as well as increasing the graphic quality of the representation.