7 October 2011
Last updated at 10:45 ET
An Oxford University professor has selected 11 images that he believes are the most iconic in the world. Martin Kemp, who believes image, branding and logos are "obsessions of our age" begins with a classic image of Christ. He says the standard "all-seeing" depiction of the Holy Face grants the image "recognisability wherever and in whatever medium it appears, whenever in history".
Prof Kemp has collated a series of images for a book entitled Christ To Coke - How Image Becomes Icon. Among them is the cross, which has taken many different forms over its "long and substantial history". Although strongly identified with Christianity, it is not exclusive to religion.
Hailed by Kemp as "a shape that is appealing in its simple yet seductive rhythm", the heart is an image that has become central to modern-day culture. The trademarked I heart New York logo was created as part as an advertising campaign to promote the US city, and the vibrant black and red slogan is still found in souvenir shops across the state.
The lion's "muscular walk... its luxuriant mane, its shapely head strike some deep-seated chords", argues Kemp. Over many centuries, it has been adopted as a symbol of power, wisdom and courage. It is ubiquitous in ancient Egypt, China and India, among others, having both mythical and political potency. Pictured here, the lion is seen as the centrepiece of Hollywood studio MGM's logo.
Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, which is displayed at the Louvre in Paris, is arguably the most famous painting in the world. The enigmatic facial expression of Lisa del Giocondo has prompted many debates about her mood. Kemp claims: "She is overtly reacting, smiling with a knowingness that is perpetually engaging". The painting has been the subject of countless reproductions and parodies, confirming its iconic status in modern culture.
Alberto's Korda's 1960 photo of Che Guevara has become the seminal image of the Marxist revolutionary with its "powerful religious echoes". Different versions of it have been painted, printed and sketched, but the red and black print produced in 1968 by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick cemented the romanticised image of Che as a military martyr, and secured him a global following.
Associated Press photographer Nick Ut won the Pulitzer Prize for his photo of Phan Thị Kim Phuc, fleeing a napalm attack during the Vietnam War. The image of a naked 9-year-old girl running toward the camera, her scorched arms outstretched, marks "an exceptional instant in an unfolding narrative". Kim survived her injuries and went on to set up the Kim Phuc Foundation to treat war damaged children.
Known in equal measure as the Stars and Stripes, the Star-Spangled Banner, and Old Glory - the flag of the United States of America is arguably the most recognisable in the world. The 13 stripes represent the colonies that rebelled against the British monarchy and became the first states in the Union. The 50 stars represent the current number of states. Whether it is seen as a symbol of triumph and celebration or a symbol of Western imperialism, Kemp says the flag "evokes everything that is good about living in one of the 50 states. For those who see America in an opposite light, the flag looks very different."
The Coca-Cola bottle was created by bottle designer Earl R Dean in 1915. The contours of the bottle were designed when the company began a competition among its bottle suppliers to create a new bottle that would distinguish it from other beverage bottles. "An individual and evocative design" with "embedded references to natural form", it has been redesigned a number of times, but remains visually unique.
Described by the editor of Nature magazine as "one of the greatest moments in the history of science and humanity", The structure of DNA - discovered by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953 - has changed the world. The famous double helix is now "the most reproduced image from any science at any period", Kemp claims, and "features in an extraordinary range of product design, often with no obvious relevance to the item in question."
According to Kemp, Albert Einstein's mathematical equation has become "an icon of science and famed as a visual image", adding "it has come to be used by people who have no clue as to what it means". Mariah Carey, who named her 2008 album after the equation, happily admitted having no understanding of the theory of relativity - but the equation endures, almost as a shorthand for Einstein's genius.