Icons everywhere

I guarantee there are icons right in front of you right now. Look down at your keyboard. You will see arrows, a search icon, and perhaps a play button. Now changing your view, look up at your desktop monitor and if you are a Windows 10 user you’ll see your battery icon next to a volume icon at the bottom left of your screen. Icons are everywhere in our digital environment. They suggest actions, and inform us about what is to come.

In fact, most can be interpreted by everyone around the world. Icons are universal, and it’s function has been influenced by many decades of social approval.

How to see Iconography: The Exercise

For my Design lab UX Academy, I was to go out into the world and identify practical uses of icons (Go ahead try it out!). I looked all around the house to see what I normally wouldn’t point out.

Here’s what I discovered…

Top of the Box

This is a normal Amazon cardboard box that I received a while back. When you look to the top right hand corner, you will see two arrows pointing up with an underline. Although this can be interpreted differently, depending on the circumstance, my belief is that it is pointing to the top of the package. That you should open the package on top. In addition, it may suggest that the package should be handled face up.

Car & Window Locks

In the drivers seat of a car here are two buttons which include an icon with two separate symbols. It turns out that both have outlines shaped like a door. In the one to the left, it has a key which indicates the toggle to lock the car or unlock the car. To the right, there is a symbol of an ‘X’ which normally indicates some sort of restriction. In these case, the driver has the ability to restrict the usage of opening and closing windows by all passenger doors.

Washing Symbols on fabrics

I had to do some research for this because I was baffled by these symbols. These can usually be found on the inside of your clothes, pillows, and linens. But by looking at them at first, they make no sense. For times sake, I just will talk about the first row. I will explain their meaning from left to right.

As pertaining to this pair of jeans…

(Far left symbol): Washing synthetics
(Triangle with ‘X’): Triangle= Bleaching; X=Do not
(Square with Circle and dots): Square+ Circle= Tumble Drying; two dots= use high heat
(Iron with dots): Iron= you can iron the product; two dots= you are allowed to use medium heat
(Circle with a P inside): Circle means the garment is suitable for dry cleaning; P= indicates what type of chemical wash and method a dry cleaner should use.

More info linked here regarding washing symbols

Video Game Controller D-Pad

This is my Xbox 360 controller and it has a game pad which can be universally recognized and related the video games. Specifically this D-Pad allows a person to navigate through their video games interface for the actions ‘up, down, left, right’.

Garage door control switch

Like the Xbox controller there are arrows which suggest navigation actions. In this case, the up and down triangles are a button to allow the garage to move up and down. We also see a lightbulb icon which is a button to turn on or off the garage openers lighting.

Home phone

Like many other smart phones, this less capable phone has a battery. The battery icon outlines bars within it which show how much stored power is left within the device. Next there is a book icon which is the contacts/phonebook action of the device. Last is the icon that looks like a speaker with arrows pointing in two directions. The speaker relate to a change in volume, and the arrows indicate that there is an action to move through two phases. In this case, by pressing the button your can turn on the speaker phone or turn it off to talk normally with the device up to your ear.

Water heater cautionary labels

Normally, things that may cause danger in this case a heating function like gas burners, propane tanks, grills, or in this case a water heater provide labels to protect individuals from harm. First a triangle with an exclamation mark is universally interpreted and related to the word “caution”. There is also a hand icon that suggests that you should prevent causing physical harm to yourself or to the actual water heater. It’s probably red because if touch it, you may burn your hand. It’s probably best that you not touch it.


Hello I’m Gavin Basuel, and I am a User Experience Design student at UX Academy by Design Lab. If you like this article hit that like button! If you like my writing make sure subscribe. Want to talk UX? Comment below and join our UX discussion!

Like always, thanks for reading!