Give Me A Sign: The Language of Symbols

Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New York
May 12, 2023–September 2, 2024

As a Curatorial Fellow at Cooper Hewitt, Arpie worked on the exhibition Give Me A Sign: The Language of Symbols (May 12, 2023–September 2, 2024). The exhibition marks the 50th anniversary of Henry Dreyfuss’s Symbol Sourcebook: An Authoritative Guide to International Graphic Symbols (1972). The exhibition charts the history behind symbols, such as the raised, clenched fist and its use in movements including the Black Lives Matter movement and more, the evolution of Olympic symbols to represent new sports, Hobo signs serving as inspiration for modern day nomads, and the progression of the Accessible Icon. It also highlights how Dreyfuss and his colleagues crowd-sourced, organized, and compiled symbol designs across disciplines and industries to produce the Symbol Sourcebook that is still in use today. Arpie’s contribution to the exhibition includes conducting research in the Henry Dreyfuss Archive and the symbols for John Deere, the Olympics, and Hobo signs, developing ideas and questions to focus the direction of the exhibition, and seeking out design stories that would engage the visitor with the Symbol Sourcebook from 1972 to the present.

Exhibition Acknowledgements:

The exhibition was curated by Emily M. Orr, Associate Curator and Acting Head of Product Design and Decorative Arts at Cooper Hewitt, with Adriana Burkins, STEAM Program Manager, Bronx Children’s Museum, and with support from Cooper Hewitt Curatorial Fellows Arpie Gennetian and Uttara Nanavati, and former Interaction Lab Director, Rachel Ginsberg.

Exhibition and graphic design by Studio Matthews.

Images courtesy of Elliot Goldstein © Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.