The old adage tells us, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Graphic designs through the ages have guided people on what to think and informed the masses, from ancient cave paintings to frescos on medieval church walls to modern street artists. Similarly, body art has long depicted loyalties and expressed ideas and themes. Whether written on paper, painted on walls, or tattooed on biceps, here are three categories of popular symbols that speak loudly.
Kanji characters are logographic adoptions of Chinese characters. The Japanese use these visually striking symbols as a writing system. Japanese writing has three types of scripts.
General Japanese writing uses a combination of all three, and writing can be vertical or horizontal. Kanji symbols are popular for tattoos as well as T-shirts. Some of the favorites are characters for personality traits and desired states such as “honesty,” “warrior,” “love,” “paradise,” “traveler,” and “sanctuary.” Other popular characters are divided into multiple categories.
- Seven Deadly Sins
- Seven Heavenly Virtues
- Seven Codes of Bushido
- Five Elements
A perennially popular Kanji tattoo is a name in Kanji characters.
While Greek symbols have long been used to identify sororities, fraternities, and honor societies, some have gained popularity with the general public. Take the Greek symbol of strength, for example. This graphically interesting character has become popular for tattoos, but it can also be used to equal effect as a company logo or a design on T-shirts. This Greek symbol of strength pic shows why this particular graphic has captured the imagination of so many. Both graphically exciting and intrinsically appealing, this symbol attracts attention in a good way and helps instill a sense of grounded power.
Other Greek symbols also represent strength and courage. The famous helmet worn by the feared warriors of Sparta is such an object. The owl, the goddess Athena’s own bird, represents wisdom not only in Greece but around the world.
These creatures fire the imagination and inspire passion.
- Phoenix—This fantastic bird is reborn from the ashes of its own destruction. It represents infinite life as well as strength and determination in the face of adversity.
- Minotaur—Rather a tragic figure who is part victim and part monster, the Minotaur has the head and tail of a bull and the body of a tall, strong man. The fearsome Minotaur represents power.
- Unicorn—This beautiful, one-horned animal shows you how to perceive and focus on the magic all around you with the eyes of a wonder-filled child.
- Griffin—Also known as the griffon or gryphon, this legendary creature has the body, back legs, and tail of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. Sometimes its front feet are portrayed as those of a lion and sometimes as an eagle’s talons. The griffon represents wisdom, power, and majesty, as it combines qualities of kingly animals.
- Tiger—Though tigers are actual animals, their elegant strength, beauty, and majesty also lift them to the realm of myth. White tigers, for example, represent autumn and metals. They carry magical strength and fierceness, yet they possess an overall serene energy born of inner confidence and knowledge.
Though legendary and mythological, these marvelous creatures have real meaning in modern lives as they represent desirable qualities and help impart positive feelings.
Speaking Without Words
Throughout the history of humans, symbols have spoken volumes and even served as a written language. They have played a huge role in human development. While today many consider symbols simply for their graphic attractiveness, many types of symbols still play an important role in expressing feelings and ideas and tapping into hidden reservoirs of strength and courage. Whether they are animals or language characters, whether inked as tattoos or printed onto clothing and business cards, timeless symbols express a world of ideas in compact, unforgettable forms.