The Society of Signs

Pictograms, Signs of Life, Emojis: The Society of Signs

Every day, billions of emojis are sent via mobile phones and tablets. Since their introduction in the late 1990s, but especially during the past decade, emojis have established themselves as a worldwide phenomenon of mass communication. They have permanently changed our everyday interaction with pictograms, i. e. information conveyed via a system of images. Today, well over 3,000 standardised emojis are ever present in private chats and social media. They reflect the desire for expressions of emotion in a highly functional, globalised world. From today’s perspective, popular emojis and their history raise many exciting questions that the exhibition endeavours to explore.

The artists and designers presented in the exhibition have formulated various pictorial sign systems associated with intrinsically different objectives: they serve to convey knowledge and social participation, they are used to organise public life, or are designed to convey the succinct expression of individual emotions. Some of the authors are motivated by the desire for universal legibility; others develop personal sign systems that question the unambiguous nature of signs per se. The versatile use in ever-new modes of communication underlines the essential mutability of pictograms, which goes hand in hand with both the social and individual needs of their particular era.

Curated by Maxim Weirich, Michaela Stoffels, Anja Dorn and Isabel Herda.
Exhibtion design with Eva-Maria Offermann.

Exhibition Design

Otl Aicher
Moritz Appich/Jonas Grünwald/
Bruno Jacoby
Gerd Arntz
Johannes Bergerhausen/Ilka Helmig
Karsten de Riese
Antje Ehmann/Harun Farocki
Juli Gudehus
Pati Hill
Timothée Ingen-Housz
Shigetaka Kurita et al.
Warja Lavater
Marie Neurath
Otto Neurath
Yukio Ōta
Hinrich Sachs
Wolfgang Schmidt
Lilian Stolk
Edgar Walthert