Secular icon  

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A secular icon is an image or pictograph of a person or thing used for other than religious purpose. (See icon for such use.)


Icons versus symbols

  • An icon is a graphic device that represents some object or action, the graphic device being ascribed symbolic meaning(s) beyond the object represented.
  • A symbol has only the meanings ascribed to itself, representing only a concept and not recognizable as a particular object.

Language and cultural neutrality

International standards have been developed to harmonize icons and symbols. These can be seen particularly in international airports and for roadside signs to assist travellers. Icons are also becoming standardised for consumer electronics and automobile controls.

Warning symbols (such as the biological hazard symbol) are sometimes not self explanatory but well known within the relevant art or craft - such are symbols but not icons.

Political and governmental iconic symbols

Secular icons are seen particularly in editorial cartoons, where a simple image can be used to represent a complex concept or entity. These are often cultural specific, as recognition of some symbols may depend upon a deep understanding of the current local situation and the players involved, while others are so common that they are understood over a wide range of cultures (but not worldwide). Edifices such as the United States Capitol Building or the White House, the Tower of Westminster, and Saint Basil's Cathedral have become representations respectively of the Governments of the United States of America, Great Britain, and Russia. Other symbols (such as the bald eagle for the United states, the bear for Russia, or the chinese dragon for China) are used to represent nations, as distinct from (yet inclusive of) governments.

Modern computer systems

Modern personal computers and control systems make extensive use of icons in the form of small images representing such objects as file folders, documents and applications within a graphical user interface.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Secular icon" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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