• fabiannevanschaik

Return to the Original Icon Designers

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

Today we live in a world where communication is dominated by pictograms, also called icons.

We interact with these icons everyday from working on your computer, smart phones, apps, television to commonplace signage. As communication becomes more digital and more visual, pictograms are the simplest, fastest and easiest way to convey a message or idea and are understood independently of words, language or culture.

But the use of pictograms as a visual language is nothing new and have been used since the beginning of history - from the prehistoric age, to ancient Egypt, until today. Pictograms were also the basis for some of the earliest forms of written communication.

As we have entered the digital age the future of communication is changing but, is it evolving backwards (a return to the visual) or is it an evolution of an old language system.


As part of my REINTERPRETATIONS projects I decided to explore elements of the Maya writing system, one of the most elaborate and visually striking writing systems of the world. The language is comprised mainly of unique symbols or glyphs representing animals, human forms, supernatural, deities, place names, objects and abstract designs. There were two types of glyphs in the Mayan language: logograms (to express meaning) and syllograms (to denote sound).

Inspired by the Day Signs of the Maya Tzolkin Calendar these original glyphs are still as charming and as beautiful as the day they were created. Tzolkin, the Sacred Maya Calendar, is the oldest calendar cycle known in Mesoamerica, dating back to at least 600 BC. This 260 day cycle, is commonly referred to as Mayan Astrology. It consists of 20 named kin (days) in a thirteen day period of time known as a "trecena". The named days were so important to the ancient Mesoamericans that each was given its own deity and glyph.

Below are my reinterpretations of the 20 day glyphs used in the Tzolkin. I’ve re-designed these glyphs to function as a set of modern day icons. Soft edges, rounded squares, bright, playful and vectorized update.

Ix / I'x daysign

Men / Tz'ikin daysign

Manik' / Kej daysign

Etznab / Tijax daysign

Chicchan / Kan daysign

Ix / I'x daysign

Cimi / Kame daysign

Ahau / Ajpu daysign

Caban / N'oj daysign

Eb / E daysign

Lamat / Q'anil daysign

Oc / Tz'i daysign

Muluc / Toj daysign

Kan / K'at daysign

Imix / Imox daysign

Chuen / B'atz' daysign

Akbal / Aq'ab'al daysign

Ben / Aj daysign

Cib / Ajmaq daysign


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