Icon Designer Jory Raphael Publishes Book of Visual Puns | Books | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Icon Designer Jory Raphael Publishes Book of Visual Puns


Published June 26, 2019 at 10:00 a.m.

Goes Without Saying by Jory Raphael, Onion River Press, 138 pages. $15.99.
  • Goes Without Saying by Jory Raphael, Onion River Press, 138 pages. $15.99.

Jory Raphael isn't offended when people don't recognize his artworks as personal creations. That's because his specialty is creating icons that appear on websites, smartphones and traffic signs, and they're designed to be instantly recognizable, stylistically consistent and unobtrusive.

Vermonters may well have seen Raphael's work without knowing it. Years ago, the 39-year-old Panton native created the logo for the City of South Burlington and the icons used for the Green Mountain Scenic Byway and the way-finding signs in downtown Burlington.

For the past two years, Raphael has worked for Font Awesome, a company whose icons appear on more than 200 million websites worldwide. The Vergennes-based designer, illustrator and occasional actor — he's a member of the local sketch comedy troupe Stealing From Work — has also created icons for Apple, Instagram and Sesame Workshop through his freelance company, Sensible World.

Like many tech-savvy entrepreneurs, Raphael always has multiple irons in the fire. He's the creator of Symbolicons, a library of more than 8,000 icons, and cofounder of Notabli, a family-oriented social media network in which parents can more easily organize and share their kids' photos, videos and other creations.

But Raphael's latest pet project reflects a bit of whimsy: a nearly wordless book aptly titled Goes Without Saying. It's a palm-size collection of more than 100 idioms, pop culture references, and titles of books, movies and shows — all presented in the form of rebus puzzles, or visual riddles and puns conveyed using simple symbols.

"An icon itself is like a little puzzle," Raphael said in a recent Seven Days interview, during which he wore a T-shirt displaying the icon of, well, a T-shirt. "One of the fun things about this book is taking an icon whose idea is meant to be concrete and flipping it on its head." In Raphael's world, a sun icon may represent daytime, the celestial body itself or a play on the word "son."

One rebus puzzle in the book is composed of three icons: an eyeball, a heart and a sheep. Its meaning: "I love you."

The idea of Goes Without Saying had its genesis in 2013 when Raphael, who was working on a new "icon family," or collection of icons, committed to creating a new icon every day for one year. In 2015, he took on the challenge again, but this time he assigned each icon a three-digit number: The first icon was 001, the second was 002, and so on.

When Raphael reached day seven, aka 007, he decided to design something related to James Bond, the iconic British spy character created by author Ian Fleming. Raphael created a rebus puzzle representing the 1964 film Goldfinger using three gold bars and a pointing finger. When friends and colleagues responded positively to it, he crafted rebus puzzles for all 24 released James Bond movies, all of which appear in Goes Without Saying.

He didn't consider publishing the puzzles in book form, Raphael continued, until he brought a collection of them to a New Year's party a few years ago.

"It started with two people trying to guess the puzzles," he recalled. "And before I knew it, the entire room of people had gathered around, and they tried to guess."

Raphael has loved the visual arts since he was a child and dreamed of one day becoming a professional cartoonist. He got his start in design work while earning his performing arts degree at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. For several years, Raphael had a work-study job designing posters and programs for the college's theater department. "Distilling all these concepts into a single representative image," he noted, "is very similar to the work I'm doing now with icons."

Raphael realized he had a better chance of getting a paid position as a designer than as an actor. So, after working for a couple of years as a designer in Chicago, he returned home to Vermont and went to work for his father's landscape architecture firm, LandWorks.

The first icon set Raphael ever created was for the Addison County Chamber of Commerce. Because the chamber hadn't budgeted for creating icons, he negotiated to retain a license to them as his intellectual property. With the rise of the internet, he "spread those icons far and wide," said Raphael. His designs eventually attracted the attention of someone at Apple and now number in the thousands.

Raphael continues to find time for his pet projects. This year, he gave himself a new creative challenge: designing one icon-themed puzzle daily that represents the theme of a book or movie but not necessarily its title. For example, icons of a gorilla, a woman and the Empire State Building represent King Kong, though none of them conveys specifically "King" or Kong." Raphael is also considering publishing a second book or card game based on this concept.

"I think that is the curse of being in the creative industry," he added. "I have hundreds of ideas of little things [that] I want to do like this every day."

The original print version of this article was headlined "A Puzzle Book of Visual Puns Offers Iconic Images"

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