One example is the SMILEY universally its meaning is clear. Icons tend to permeate cultures through the mediums of film & music.
Visual Icons began to be become popular in the 1960’s when TV was gaining global momentum as the entertainment medium, & glossy magazines began to take readership away from the serious reporting in newspapers, to niche markets interested in fashion & music lifestyles.
Some examples. From the 1950’s T SHIRTs became a popular fashion statement, and in the 60’s the common T Shirt became a medium for a message. The photo of Che Guevara was taken by Alberto Korda in 1960. This image soon became aligned to the cause of the oppressed around the world. Its single meaning REVOLUTION. There were a lot of revolut
ions in the 1960 in art, fashion, music, race & human rights. This image has become a symbol of ROCK MUSIC, from the ROLLING STONES and Mike Jaeger’s personal flamboyant style.
A more political statement is made by this symbol.From the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
WHAT ARE THE EMERGENT SYMBOLIC IMAGES OF TODAY THAT ARE CARRYING MESSAGES FOR A GLOBAL CULTURE ?
As a starting point check out :