Pictograms break down language barriers
Drawing artistic attention to a part of the Olympics that often goes unnoticed, South Allegheny teacher Jayne Sweet is teaching students to make the pictograms that help athletes and spectators locate everything from games to restrooms and dining areas.
“Not everyone speaks the same language,” Sweet said. “If I speak Chinese, English or French, I can look at a picture and recognize ice skating, bobsledding or skiing. It's a universal language.”
First used in the German games of 1936, pictograms began representing sporting events in the same way travelers would recognize a restroom sign in an airport or signs for hospitals or lodging along a highway. They became standard after the Tokyo games in 1964.
Sweet's students learned these facts as they watched a short documentary segment called, “Olympic Pictograms Through the Ages.”
“The twentieth century has been the age of brands, and the Olympics have been no exception,” noted narrator Steven Heller. In addition to the traditional logo of Olympic rings, Heller explained there are trademarked posters, flags and even mascots from event to event.
South Allegheny seventh-grader Payton Bradley said she never would have noticed the change in pictograms over the years if it wouldn't have been the focus of a school project.
“We're learning about things that we didn't know were part of the Olympics,” she said. “I would have had no idea.”
Classmate Kennedy Lawson said students now have a better understanding of Olympic planning and how much of the games are immersed in a host country's culture.
“We're learning how simple shapes are used to share a message, and we're learning what the designs inside mean,” Kennedy said.
The standout artistic expressions of each Olympic event can be found in its pictograms, which allow each host nation to design logos that embrace their culture as well as the games. Students followed pictograms from their simplest forms through artistic and social trends.
The 2014 Sochi games use simple round figures whose bodies are patterned with complex Russian craft work.
“For this Olympics, they went back to the drawings used in Moscow in 1980,” Sweet said. “They used the same kind of figures, but took them from summer to winter games. They took the 16 national crafts of Russia, and out of that, they patterned a quilt.”
Sweet challenged students to design pictograms for activities they enjoy — art, music, sports, cheerleading.
“The kids have excelled at this,” Sweet said. “They've done everything from video games to football. I even have kids doing pictograms on texting.”
Artistically, Sweet encouraged students to look back on the origin of North America. They looked back in time beyond the days of the American melting pot and researched Native American customs and art.
“The same designs would appear and reappear, regardless of what craft we were looking at,” Sweet said. “Whether it was basket weaving, bead work or rugs, we would see a lot of the same geometric designs.”
Students filled their pictograms with four-color designs representative of various native tribes' work.
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- White Oak seeks funds to stabilize road
- Steel Valley to post teacher, administrator salaries online
- Duquesne Elementary School students join the ranks of junior constables
- Crowd demands answers from Steel Valley directors over playoff eligibility controversy
- Clairton City School District seeks savings in food service management
- McKeesport Area students share views during Black History Month panel talk
- Public comment policy varies in Mon Valley school districts
- Munhall resident pleads guilty but mentally ill for killing his mother
- Duquesne City School District administrators cite student progress
- McKeesport incident among derailments that prompt Casey to push ‘crude-by-rail’ rule
- Man suspected of robbing Elizabeth gas station with machete arrested