I [HEART] NY as much as anyone, if not more, and I’m happy to be back home. But it’s about time we addressed a critical yet ignored issue: The so-called heart symbol, so commonly used in Western culture as an iconic abbreviation for love, is not really a heart, nor does it bear any relation to that precious organ. Still, it’s everywhere, and it gives me heartburn.

Symbols are supposed to be abstractions, and this one has served as shorthand on everything from sweet sixteen diaries to Valentine cards–its symmetry makes rendering it so easy even a child can do it. But doesn’t anyone see how it distorts the anatomical truth? Hearts are not symmetrical–if anything they are blobulous. Doesn’t anyone see the implications? Can’t we find an alternative? Isn’t that what designers do?

Daily Heller, Imprint: Print Magazine's Design Blog

About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.