Point of Beginning

Editor's Note: The Symbol of Surveying

April 25, 2000
And the symbol of surveying is...

In August 1998, we asked readers to submit their sketches of a national symbol to represent the surveying profession. In March 1999, we published the entries and asked readers to vote for their favorites. Hundreds responded. We then took the top five vote-getters and published them on POB online during October 1999, again inviting readers to vote for their favorites.

Why the long, drawn-out process? We didn't want to be too hasty in proclaiming any one symbol the winner until we knew-really knew-which symbol our readers liked best. After all, we weren't running a contest; we were serious in our efforts to create a national surveying symbol.

As you can see, the winning symbol is the Transit, Tripod and Plumb Bob-three enduring images that you as readers, voters and surveyors said you wish to define yourselves by. But choosing a symbol is only half the battle; now comes the challenge-to take these three images and give them meaning. Sure, they have meaning to us. But what about to the general public? A symbol is worthless if nobody knows what it means. Conversely, a symbol can be a powerful tool when it invokes a universal reaction in the public. Don't believe me? Who doesn't shudder with revulsion when they see a Nazi swastika (which incidentally, originally started out as a Sanskrit symbol of prosperity 2,300 years ago)? Another crude example: a raised middle finger. Who doesn't know what that one means? These are examples of symbols used for destructive purposes, but there are just as many "good" symbols we've come to recognize and rely on, such as the peace sign, the "OK" sign, the "scales" of justice, the "staff" of medicine, etc. Universal symbols are, in reality, a "language" we all share. It's high time that surveyors add their symbol to this collective dictionary.

It won't come easy, and it won't come quick; but it can happen if we all work towards this common goal. Some suggestions: add the symbol to your business cards, letterhead, invoices, Yellow Page listing and website. Maybe put the symbol on your field vehicles. If we use the symbol enough, eventually it will seep into the public consciousness. To get you started, we've made our version of the surveying symbol available as a downloadable file on our website (www.pobonline.com). Feel free to take the symbol and use it anyway you see fit. Looking forward to the day when someone looks at our new symbol and says, "Must be a surveyor."