The fifth edition of Katherine Small Gallery’s design series, Hearts Are OK, might be my favorite of all. I have a heartfelt passion for the heart (I've got three stents) and also the heart symbol, although it has little relationship to a real heart. “The graphic symbol for the heart is dopey,” writes editor and designer Michael Russem in what he describes as “a kinda concise introduction.” Actually, I learned, it bears resemblance to the seedpod of the plant silphium, an herb believed to be an aphrodisiac—so . . . perhaps the source of the original correlation between the common heart shape and the notion of love.
If love be the symbol most treasured, then it is at once the most benign and powerful graphic mark in the designer’s toolkit. It is always abstract yet continually recognizable. Russem’s latest gemstone publication reproduces a loving tribute to modern designers who revered the shape.
(I wonder, in passing, how many of the designers in the book had heart attacks?)