The symbolism of a circle

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04 November 2020

I am the last of the placements to write my first blog, but as I lack the literary wit of my painfully comical and creative colleagues, I’m going to talk about how I got from art and design to heritage… With a background in graphic design and visual communication, it was my curiosity about human behaviour and actions that nudged me towards exploring heritage more closely.

My exploration and study of how behaviour can be influenced by design has often focused on the cultural and societal elements and structures that make up the building blocks of what we know today. During my time at university, I spent the best part of a year building a body of work that explored cultural heritage in relation to identity, belonging, behaviour, and social norms, through visual communication methodologies and processes.

Initially, my observations surrounded the notion of identity in relation to the internal and societal need to belong. My practice was centred on the things that allow people to obtain and maintain a sense of belonging, an established identity. However, it soon became apparent that to understand the structures and methods that exist to provide a sense of belonging and self within society, we have to reflect on their origin, and how they came to be. This really was the point that started my fascination with heritage, specifical heritage in relation to human behaviour.

I spent a lot of time looking at visual iconography and their uses throughout history – specifically within folklore. Time and time again the circle shape would pop up as a visual signifier and universal icon. For me, this was fascinating, and linked in really well with some of the themes that ran throughout my project; from movement and origin to understanding the self and position amongst others.

In relation to design, circles are a signifier of accessibility, incredibly simple whilst having its own complexities. They’re a universal shape that is a popular choice in many outputs due to its connotations and subtle communication. I was fascinated by studying the way in which circles have been utilised and used throughout history.

The connotations and symbolism of circles have been appreciated and understood for a very long time, notably being a dominant shape throughout history, heritage and folklore – think stone circles, cup and ring marks, circle dance etc. There are so many little things like this that reoccur throughout history, playing such a huge part in the world around us today – often going unnoticed.

I find it so intriguing to learn about the contribution that visual language has played in shaping today. I feel that it’s important to question what we know today, asking why and how things are the way they are. In a nutshell, this is why I want to continue to work within design and heritage. I hope to help uncover and explore new perspectives and bring to life the narratives of people, places, objects and stories, and I think that circles are a pretty good place to start.