Open-Sourcing Graphic Design: 3 Projects
What ugly ampersands have to do with wayfinding and vintage pictograms.
By Maria Popova
We’re big proponents of open source as an enabler of both creative expression and innovation. And while the ethos has come of age in the technology sphere, with posterchildren like Firefox and WordPress, some of its most interesting recent incarnations have been on the creative front. Today, we spotlight three wonderful projects that bring the vision of open-source movement to the world of design.
SIRUCA PICTOGRAM PROJECT
Last week, we looked at the legacy of Isotype — the vintage pictogram-based visual language of the 1930s that sparked the golden age of infographics and infiltrated everything from bathroom signs to traffic signage. Siruca Pictogram Project by designers Stefan Dziallas and Fabrizio Schiavi is an open-source pictogram font, free to download and use, even commercially.
OPEN SOURCE AMPERSANDS
Open Source Ampersands essentially a single-character font — a font file that only contains glyphs for a single character — using the ampersand. Each of the ampersand characters is real text, not an image, and can be selected, copied, pasted and applied CSS to. The ampersands scale as you zoom the page and work in every browser, “even ancient versions of Internet Explorer.” The project serves as a statement against licensing limitations on the web and aims to celebrate open standards and open source.
And though the folks at shit ampersand may be less than thrilled with many of the designs, it’s still an admirable project.
THE NOUN PROJECT
Visual literacy is an essential necessity of modern life. But some of the most widely recognized symbols of visual language are wrapped in a surprising amount of historical and contextual obscurity. This is where The Noun Project comes in — a wonderful effort to collect, catalog and contextualize the world’s visual language.
The site offers an ever-growing range of diverse symbols available for free under a CreativeCommons license. Though many of the popular symbols — from No Parking to Trash to the familiar directional arrows — were designed by the American Institute of Graphic Arts in 1974 with the explicit intention of being in the public domain, finding free, high-quality versions of them online is still a pain. Each symbol on The Noun Project, by contrast, is downloadable as a vector file, the most flexible open-standard format available.
The project, brainchild of LA-based designer and architect Edward Boatman, was funded via Kickstarter and exceeded its $1,500 target nearly tenfold, illustrating the palpable cultural need it’s addressing.
In the long run, the project aims to aggregate and organize symbols into useful categories like transportation, web apps, wayfinding, communication and more, as well as initiate design contests around the creation of new symbols for fields, objects and themes of increasing cultural demand, from gluten-free food to Internet connectivity to food trucks.
Published March 15, 2011