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Symbol by Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman: A Review of the Book that Explores the World of Symbols in Graphic Design

Symbol by Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman: A Review

If you are interested in graphic design, branding, or visual communication, you might have come across a book called Symbol by Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman. This book is a comprehensive and fascinating collection of over 1300 symbols from various fields and cultures, accompanied by insightful commentary and analysis. In this article, I will review this book and explain why it is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the power and meaning of symbols.

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What is Symbol?

Symbol is a book that showcases and explores the world of symbols in graphic design. A symbol is a visual representation of an idea, concept, or entity that can communicate a message without words. Symbols can be simple or complex, abstract or figurative, universal or specific. They can be used for various purposes, such as identifying, informing, persuading, or expressing.

Who are the authors?

The authors of Symbol are Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman. Angus Hyland is a partner at Pentagram, one of the world's leading design firms. He has worked on numerous projects involving branding, identity, and editorial design. He is also the author or co-author of several books on graphic design, such as The Picture Book, The Purple Book, and The Book of the Dog. Steven Bateman is a freelance writer who specializes in design, art, and culture. He has written for various publications and websites, such as Creative Review, Eye, and Design Week. He has also collaborated with Angus Hyland on other books, such as The Geometry of Type and The Book of the Bird.

Why is this book important?

This book is important because it offers a comprehensive and diverse overview of symbols in graphic design. It covers symbols from different categories, such as corporate, cultural, political, social, religious, and artistic. It also covers symbols from different regions and periods, such as ancient civilizations, modern nations, and contemporary movements. It provides a rich source of inspiration and information for anyone who wants to understand how symbols work and what they mean.

The Structure and Content of Symbol

How is the book organized?

The book is organized into two main sections: an introduction and a directory. The introduction provides a brief history and theory of symbols in graphic design. It explains how symbols evolved from pictograms to logotypes, how they convey meaning through form and context, and how they function in different media and environments. The directory is the core of the book. It presents over 1300 symbols from various fields and cultures, arranged alphabetically by name. Each symbol is accompanied by a short description that includes its origin, purpose, designer, date, and category. The directory also includes cross-references and indexes to help the reader navigate the book.

What are the main categories of symbols?

The book divides symbols into seven main categories, based on their function and meaning. These are:

  • Corporate: symbols that represent organizations, such as companies, institutions, or associations.

  • Cultural: symbols that represent groups, such as nations, regions, or communities.

  • Political: symbols that represent ideologies, movements, or parties.

  • Social: symbols that represent causes, issues, or campaigns.

  • Religious: symbols that represent beliefs, faiths, or sects.

  • Artistic: symbols that represent styles, genres, or movements.

  • Generic: symbols that represent concepts, objects, or actions.

How are the symbols presented and explained?

The symbols are presented in a clear and consistent format. Each symbol is shown in black and white on a white background, with its name and category below. The symbols are also shown in color on the inside covers of the book, to give a sense of their visual impact. The descriptions of the symbols are concise and informative. They explain the origin and meaning of the symbol, as well as its designer and date. They also provide some context and background information, such as the history of the organization or the significance of the concept. The descriptions are written in a neutral and objective tone, without any personal opinions or judgments.

What are some examples of symbols from different fields and cultures?

The book contains a wide range of symbols from different fields and cultures. Some examples are:







A stylized apple with a bite taken out of it, designed by Rob Janoff in 1977. It represents the company Apple Inc., which produces computers, software, and consumer electronics. The bite symbolizes knowledge and innovation, as well as a pun on the word "byte".

United Nations


A map of the world surrounded by olive branches, designed by Oliver Lincoln Lundquist in 1945. It represents the United Nations (UN), an international organization that promotes peace, security, and cooperation among its member states. The olive branches symbolize peace and goodwill, while the map depicts all the regions of the world.



A circled letter A, derived from the French word "anarchie", meaning "without rulers". It represents anarchy, a political philosophy that advocates a stateless society based on voluntary association and mutual aid. The circle symbolizes unity and equality, while the A stands for autonomy and abolition.



A flag with five horizontal stripes: light blue, pink, white, pink, and light blue, designed by Monica Helms in 1999. It represents transgender people, who identify with a gender different from their assigned sex at birth. The light blue and pink stripes symbolize the traditional colors for boys and girls, while the white stripe symbolizes those who are intersex, transitioning, or have a neutral gender.



A crescent moon and a five-pointed star, often seen on flags and emblems of Islamic countries and organizations. It represents Islam, a monotheistic religion that follows the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. The crescent moon symbolizes the lunar calendar and the cycles of life, while the star symbolizes the guidance and light of Allah.



A three-legged spiral, derived from ancient Greek and Celtic art and mythology. It represents various artistic and cultural movements, such as neopaganism, Celtic revival, and psychedelic rock. The triskelion symbolizes motion, energy, and balance, as well as the elements of earth, water, and fire.



A loop of three arrows, designed by Gary Anderson in 1970. It represents recycling, a process of converting waste materials into new products or resources. The loop symbolizes the continuous cycle of reducing, reusing, and recycling.

These are just some of the symbols that you can find in this book. There are many more symbols to discover and learn from, each with its own story and significance.

The Benefits and Challenges of Symbol

What can readers learn from this book?

Readers can learn a lot from this book, especially if they are interested in graphic design, branding, or visual communication. Some of the benefits of reading this book are:

  • It can expand your knowledge and vocabulary of symbols. You can learn about the history and meaning of symbols from different fields and cultures. You can also learn about the design principles and techniques behind creating effective symbols.

  • It can inspire your creativity and imagination. You can see how symbols can convey complex and abstract ideas in simple and elegant ways. You can also see how symbols can adapt and evolve over time and across contexts.

  • It can enhance your critical thinking and analysis skills. You can compare and contrast symbols from different categories and perspectives. You can also evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of symbols in terms of their form and function.

How can this book inspire designers and creatives?

This book can inspire designers and creatives in various ways, such as:

  • It can provide a rich source of reference and inspiration for designing symbols. You can browse through the book to find symbols that suit your needs or preferences. You can also use the book as a starting point for generating your own ideas and concepts.

  • It can help you develop your own style and identity as a designer or creative. You can learn from the examples of other designers and creatives who have created memorable and meaningful symbols. You can also experiment with different styles and techniques to express your own vision and voice.

  • It can challenge you to push the boundaries and possibilities of symbols. You can explore new ways of using symbols to communicate your message or story. You can also try to create symbols that are original, innovative, or provocative.

What are some limitations or criticisms of this book?

This book is not without its limitations or criticisms. Some of the challenges or drawbacks of this book are:

  • It may not be comprehensive or representative enough. The book covers a lot of symbols, but it may not include all the symbols that exist or matter. It may also favor certain categories or regions over others, resulting in some biases or gaps.

  • It may not be accurate or up-to-date enough. The book provides some information and context for each symbol, but it may not be enough to fully understand or appreciate the symbol. It may also contain some errors or inaccuracies due to human or technical factors.

  • It may not be engaging or interactive enough. The book presents the symbols in a static and linear way, which may not capture the dynamic and multidimensional nature of symbols. It may also lack some features or functions that could enhance the user experience, such as audio, video, or animation.


Summary of the main points

In conclusion, Symbol by Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman is a book that showcases and explores the world of symbols in graphic design. It offers a comprehensive and diverse overview of symbols from various fields and cultures, accompanied by insightful commentary and analysis. It provides a valuable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the power and meaning of symbols. It can also inspire and challenge designers and creatives to create their own symbols.

Recommendations for further reading or action

If you are interested in reading this book, you can find it online or in your local bookstore. You can also visit the website of the book, which features more symbols and information. If you want to learn more about symbols in graphic design, you can also check out these books:

  • The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images by The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism. This book explores the symbolic meanings of images from art, mythology, religion, and culture.

  • Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities by David Airey. This book explains the process and principles of designing logos and brand identities.

  • How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World by Michael Bierut. This book showcases the work and insights of a renowned graphic designer.


Here are some frequently asked questions about Symbol by Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman:

  • How many pages is this book?

This book has 336 pages.

  • When was this book published?

This book was published in 2011.

  • Who is the publisher of this book?

The publisher of this book is Laurence King Publishing.

  • Is there a sequel or a companion to this book?

Yes, there is a sequel to this book called Cult-ure: Ideas Can Be Dangerous, which explores the influence and impact of cultural icons and phenomena.

  • Where can I find more examples of symbols?

You can find more examples of symbols on websites such as,, or



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