The Power of the Icon

16 Oct

Everyday we find ways to communicate through text and images in a way that is meaningful and informative. This usage of text can be applied in ways that we may not even understand or in ways that we may not even realize. One way that text carries meaning to us is through the use of symbols: images that have a direct, concrete meaning. Another way that communication is made is through something called icons, which are used “to mean any image used to represent a person, place, thing or idea” (27).  In terms of application, icons can say a lot more as a form of text than simply words can, most evidently in the media of comic books.

As McCloud states, “In pictures…meaning is fluid and variable according to appearance. They differ from ‘real-life’ appearance to varying degrees” and that “the level of abstraction varies. Some…so closely resemble their real-life counterparts as to almost trick the eye!” He then later goes on to say that “by stripping down an image to its essential ‘meaning’ an artist can amplify that meaning in a way that realistic art can’t.” This is particularly useful when creating a comic because the less realistic something looks, the more meaning it has attached to it that the reader can grasp hold of. That isn’t to say that realistic imagery cannot have meaning, but rather that  “the more cartoony a face is, for instance, the more people it could be said to describe” (28, 30-31).

This is where the application of iconography is more useful and meaningful to have in comics as opposed to simply text and images. The more realistic an image is, the more concrete and grounded the image’s meaning is and the less the reader can project onto it. However, the more outlandish a face or object is, there are multiple opportunities to derive and create meaning. An example of applying this would be in a political cartoon that could have been presented or created during the presidential election depicting Barack Obama as the anti-Christ with horns and a devil tail due to his extreme policies. This is but one way that icons can create more meaning by being more extravagant and outlandish as opposed to sticking strictly to realism.  The power of conveying meaning “by de-emphasizing the appearance of the physical world in favor of the idea of form” leads to the basest form “of concepts” that ultimately allows for more meaning found from the minds of the viewer(41).

Works Cited

McCloud, John. “The Vocabulary of Comics”. P. 24-59.

One thought on “The Power of the Icon

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    12:30 am - 10-25-2010

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