My Dad was born on Valentine’s Day, and every year my Mom would make a huge cake shaped like a heart and lather it up with hot pink frosting. I guess when she married my Dad she figured a high-quality, heart-shaped pan would be a good investment. And 26 years after my Dad’s passing, that heart-shaped cake still makes an appearance every Valentine’s Day in his honor.
Each year on this day we give heart-shaped boxes crammed with chocolate as expressions of our love for mothers, fathers, lovers, wives, husbands and children. The ubiquitous heart shape is branded on cards, candies and ads. It’s also one of the first shapes we scratch with our crayons as we begin to express our artistic abilities in nursery school. So how did this shape come about? I did some digging and found the following from the Online Encylopedia of Western Signs and Ideograms.
Graphically is related to , the sign for fire and for flight in the Middle Ages and one of the most common signs in Western ideography. It is also related to Aries, its graphic counterpart among the open sign structures, and to for union or togetherness.
It is probable that began as a pictorial sign for the heart of a man or an animal. Nowadays, at least in Sweden, is associated with a person’s buttocks as it is an old sign for a toilet for both sexes. The is an anarchistic graph that has yet to find a place in any conventional sign system. Nonetheless, it is well-known throughout the Western world as a sign for togetherness or love, especially sexual love, making love and affection; it is typically colored red, suggesting both blood and, in many cultures, passion and strong emotion.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all! I hope you have the opportunity to share your love with someone special today. (Happy Birthday Dad!)
Glenn John Arnowitz is Director of Global Creative Services for Pfizer and co-founder of InSource. He is a designer, musician, composer, writer, actor and speaker, always looking for new ways to scratch that insatiable creative itch.