The photo above is one of the 'billboards' for the General Trading Company in Isafjordur, Iceland used from 1763-1774.
I was lucky to get to go to Iceland a couple weeks ago; this sign is in the National Museum of Iceland.
The sign depicts the Wand of Mercury (Mercury is the symbol, among other things, of financial gain and business; Neptune's Trident (representing the sea--this company sold fish), a Beehive to symbolize diligence in business, and a Crown which symbolized that the business was licensed by the state.
They've managed to communicate their work ethic, their products, their licensing and a blessing from the god of commerce, using symbols only.
Two things struck me about it. First--they got a lot done with no words. Many people couldn't read in 1763. To advertise yourself you had to use pictures. Exactly what we try to do today with logos, type faces and color choices for our communication to our clients.
Second--there is virtually NO CHANGE in the information the General Trading Company is trying to communicate to its customers compared to the things we try to show or tell our clients today: what we sell, our values, our licenses, our company story.
Try this: see if you can convey as much information about your business as this sign does, using only four symbols. I'm experimenting with my business too. I'll post my results in subsequent blogs. If you actually try this, email your efforts to me. Tell me if I can use them in subsequent posts.
I'd love to see what you come up with.
Isn't it fun that as business people we're part of a multiple centuries-long legacy of commerce, branding, marketing and selling?