Iconography vs Iconology : What's the Difference?

Iconography vs Iconology : What's the Difference?

Rashika Ahuja
Dec 21, 2019
The definitions of iconography and iconology are something that has always be in conflict and confusion with each other. They are never readily accepted by iconographers and iconologists. Before learning about the differences between them, let's understand about an icon first. Icon-Graphic

What is an icon?

An icon is a pictorial representation, a graphical image that represents an object, a particular function, or a sign whose form suggests its meaning. They are widely being used in the digital world, but have their roots from the arts and era where drawing symbols were the source of communication. Iconography and Icons

What is iconography?

Iconography is the science, the study of symbols, themes, icons from their representation tracing their roots to their textual context. It aims at identifying and figuring out the meaning of the symbol. It has played an essential role in the world of religion. Iconography in art has played a significant role in defining and symbolizing various cultures. Now, it has set its roots in the digital era of this century. Iconology

What is Iconology?

Iconology is the study of icons or objects, keeping them as the study object, and analyzing the qualities, the background of the drawn symbol or icon. It's an interpreter's version of the analysis of the symbol or the product. The definitions seem quite confusing; let's figure out how different it is from each other.

Differences between Iconography and Iconology

Iconography portrays the concept, the symbol, or an object via a graphical image. Whereas, Iconology goes beyond the face value and deals with researching around even the artist's background. Iconography and Iconology both have their roots originating from art. Panofsky defined 'iconography' as the study of subject matter in the visual arts and 'iconology' as an attempt to analyze the significance of that subject matter within the culture that produced it. Iconography has become more famous due to the acknowledged meaning and significance of various symbols and images.

Examples of Iconography

Peace-iconology When associated with art, iconography has various examples.
  • The V that we form with the first two fingers is one of the symbols of peace.
  • The symbol of peace and love that came from the antiwar movement.
Iconography in design has spread its wings across various dimensions.
  • From skeuomorphic icons to flat icons.
  • Icons like the bell icon used to symbolize notifications are taken from the everyday use related to the bell.
Iconography in design is being used for more natural user interaction, thus enhancing the experience for the user. Let's learn more about the positive impact of iconography in our UI designs- Icons in UI Design.


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