Graphic design: Mysterious symbols

The Code - Initial symbols

BBC Two is currently broadcasting a fascinating documentary series in the UK called “The Code”, presented by the British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy.

During the title sequence of the episodes, various mysterious symbols are displayed, which are shown above.  They look to me like some kind of modern hieroglyphs or runes, or advanced mathematical symbols.  Their meaning is not revealed until the end of the title sequence.

Can you work out what these symbols are?  Continue reading this post to discover the answer!


These symbols are actually the words “THE CODE”, with two transformations applied: a rotation or translation, followed by a reflection.  The original text is shown below:

The Code - Final text

At the end of the title sequence, the symbols are shown morphing into the original words, by slowly reducing the rotation/translation until it becomes zero:

The Code - Morphing symbols

This is a beautiful piece of graphic design which I really love!

The effect works because every letter is symmetrical about a horizontal or vertical axis.  I’ve created this illustration to show the positions of the letters after being rotated/translated but not reflected:

The Code - Initial positions of letters

The green lines are the axes of reflection which create the mysterious symbols.  Here are the letters in their final positions, showing their symmetry with their axes of reflection in green:

The Code - Final text with axes of reflection

I highly recommend watching this excellent documentary series.  If you don’t live in the UK, I expect the series will be released on DVD before too long.  You may also be interested in Marcus du Sautoy’s previous TV series, “The Story of Maths”, which is available on DVD.

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