John Lennon once said that Bob Dylan could “get away with murder” with his notoriously obtuse—and critically adored—lyrics. He was right. Who among us can tell us what “Ballad of a Thin Man” is really about?
But as it turns out, their evocative imagery starts to make a little more sense in graphic form. That’s what designer Viktor Hertz has done with his Pictogram Pop Posters, a series of minimalist prints that visualize songs and lyrics from some of pop’s most storied acts.
Hertz has made great use of pictograms before, but he outdid himself in this pop immersion: “I made as many as I could possibly come up with for each artist, and jammed them into one single poster.” The abundance of symbols—234 in total, spread across eight posters—make it a game of deciphering them all. You’ll want to brush up on your Springsteen Americana oeuvre and Bowie cosmology first.
The series began with the Rolling Stones poster, which a friend had asked Hertz to design as a birthday present for his father. While figuring out his approach, Hertz came up with the idea of making “song pictograms,” as he calls them. “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” became a smiley face obscured by a “no” sign. “She’s So Cold” swaps the head of a female pictogram with a snowflake. The Stones poster led to Hertz’s takes on The Beatles, Elvis, Bob Dylan, and Iggy Pop.
“I spent many, many hours just thinking about the titles and looking at lots of pictograms,” he tells Co.Design, “trying to distill all the visual impressions into clever combinations that could represent the songs.”
I’m partial to the Beatles poster, which suspends a walrus, a weeping guitar, a field of strawberries, and most cleverly, Norwegian wood (on a long and winding strip of road). The gentleman with the tambourine, Mr. to you, is easiest to pick out of the Dylan spread, while Elvis’s blue suede shoes won’t be too hard to spot.
Hertz plans to expand the series, but till then, you’ll have plenty of fun deciphering this first batch of posters. Buy them here for $35.