IConLang (Ideographic Constructed Language)

Tonia Zhang

The set of approximately 200 ideographs developed through the project captures the essence of concepts and experiences well-known to the NYUAD student body. These ideographs represent various aspects of college life, including the concept of deadlines, the pursuit of becoming a global leader, the significance of the Art Center, the enjoyment of Zaatar Manakish (a popular food item), and the sense of community within the Saadiyat Bubble.

By employing IConLang, Tonia aimed to transcend language barriers and foster communication and understanding among NYUAD students. The ideographs provide a means of expression that surpasses linguistic differences, enabling individuals to connect on a deeper level through shared experiences and a sense of collective identity.

The IConLang project resulted in an exhibition that began on March 28 in the Art Center Project Space, where the ideographs were showcased alongside two large poetic scrolls, an artwork composed of the ideographs, and other and explanatory materials including a booklet, allowing visitors to engage with and interpret the visual language. A computer where the ideographs could also be typed was also provided for further audience engagement.

IConLang (Ideographic Constructed Language) was a senior capstone thesis project completed by Tonia Zhang (Art and Art History Class of 2023) at NYUAD. The project entailed the creation of a visual language comprising approximately 200 ideographs that depict the college experience of students at NYUAD. These ideographs serve as symbols of unity and identity, representing shared concepts and experiences familiar to the student body.

During her four years at NYUAD, Tonia had the opportunity to immerse herself in the unique global campus environment. With students hailing from over 85 countries, the campus boasted remarkable diversity and facilitated a rich educational experience. However, as Tonia interacted with her peers, she discovered that it was the shared experiences and commonalities among them that fascinated her more than their differences. Inspired by this realization, she embarked on creating a set of ideographs that would express intangible terms and notions, serving as a visual representation of unity and identity.


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