5sigma: a new visual language for elementary particles

  • For my graduation, I designed a new visual language for particle physics. Since there are no clear rules about the visual representation of elementary particles, I came up with a new set of icons. These icons are based on the sketches of John Dalton, one of the founders of the modern atomic theory. Back in 1808, he came up with a visual language for atoms and molecules based on alchemical symbols. Only five years later, the symbols were replaced by the new chemical symbols and formulas introduced by Jöns Berzelius, which we still use as of today. The reason that Dalton's icons never became a standard, is because the symbolism didn't logically fit the particles they represented, and because there were more and more atoms and molecules discovered, making it too complex for a purely visual system. However, there are by far not so many elementary particles, making them a perfect candidate for such icons.
    Based on Dalton's sketches, I designed icons for all elementary particles (such as quarks, leptons, bosons), and made sure that the symbolism now does fit the represented particles, making them easy to remember. While the icons do work in black and white, colours can be added to make the different groups of particles easier to distinguish. The antiparticles are exactly the same as their regular counterparts, but then in negative.
    While this new visual language could be used in many different ways, I created three expressions as an example. The first is an infographic about the standard model explaining all the elementary particles in detail. The second is an animation explaining the phenomenon of neutrino oscillation, using the analogy of cinderella, all using the same visual language. The third is the identity of a fictional conference on elementary particle physics called "5sigma", where such a system could be introduced. Therefore I also used the icons in a purely visual way on the conference-poster, showing an explosion in a particle accelerator with many different particles flying in all directions in a seemingly chaotic way (though, some order can be spotted if you look closely).
  • A close-up of the conference-poster.
  • An infographic about the standard model, showing all the different elementary particles.
  • The animation about neutrino oscillation using an analogy of the fairytale of Cinderella.
  • The poster for the fictional conference, where the new visual language would be introduced.
  • Various sketches of the new visual language, and the original drawings by John Dalton in the top-right corner.
  • The layout of the graduation exhibition in Breda.
  • The flyers of the fictional conference.
  • A close-up of the poster-wall at the exhibition.
  • Various frames from the animation about neutrino oscillation.