We’re Surrounded!!!!! (by icons)
Every day, we gaze upon 100’s of symbols and icons. Do we notice each and every one of them? Absolutely not. We have been thought their importance and through our understanding of these icons and symbols, they have become invisible (kind of) to us. Take for example, the volume controls on your tv remote. Do you know where they are? Of course you do. You watch your tv every day right? But what happens when you go to a friends house or buy a new tv? That’s right, you STILL know where the volume controls are. And its all down to the icons and our experience with them throughout our entire lives.
In a recent assignment for DesignLab, I was tasked with researching everyday icons found around town or my house, sketch my versions of them and research their meanings. As it was quite cold that day, I chose the great indoors (John Mayer reference) as my hunting ground. I found 5 icons and began my assignment.
And yes, all the pictures are introduced with terrible song puns!!
#1: I GOT THE POWER
The power/standby button is found on pretty much ever powered device. In this case, it is located on my MacBook. I always knew what this icon stood for (turn stuff on, turn stuff off *IGNORANCE*) but I never knew the true meaning and where the symbol came from. I found it fascinating that it originated from binary (O=Off) or that the line partially in a broken circle actually indicates sleep or low power state. Thanks Wikipedia!!
#2: THE SOUND OF SILENCE
The mute button is pretty self explanitory to be fair. It is on every tv remote these days and has been since I’ve been old enough to use one, whic is about 25 years now. This icon has stood the test of time in my eyes. I am sure it has had some minor tweaks over the years but it is always easily recognisable no matter what tv remote you use.
#3:LOCKED OUT OF….OVEN?
I’m going to sound very old here but back in my day there was no such thing as these fancy glass electric hobs to cook upon. There was electric hobs but they would just heat up metal rings on the stove until they glowed bright orange (all the teens reading this must think I’m 100 years old). My first experience with this button was when I was around 15 and I accidentally turned the lock on while I was cooking and then couldn't figure out how to turn the hobs off. Apart from that experience, I have actually found this feature to be a smart move by the companies making these appliances. It is a safety feature that should have been implemented long ago.
#4: ITS TIMES LIKE THESE, WE LEARN TO DRY AGAIN
When I moved out of home and mum wasn’t around to help with/do all of my laundry, I had to learn to use these two crazy machines. One got my clothes all wet and the other dried them off…it was a nightmare. Luckily, these days the washing machine and dryer are like second nature…except for last when I shrink my fiancé’s new top, but that hasn’t happened in years…I still blame the top! Anyway, these days I find it easier to use these machines for one reason, they have simplified the controls. Icons and symbols on these things use to be quite confusing. Nowadays, they are clearly marked with icons that represent what they do. Like my example above, the time for drying is clearly indicated with a little clock icon. Now, if only there was a “non-shrink” icon……
#5: EJECT!! EJECT!!
Much like the mute button discussed earlier, my experience with this symbol has spanned 2 decades (this post has made me feel very old). Ever since I received my first Playstation for Christmas in 1995, I have seen this symbol pretty much every day since. As a gamer and general tech nerd, this icon has always been self explanatory. It is always located next to the disc tray, which clearly indicated that “this is how you eject the disc tray”. The same can be seen on DVD players, laptops etc.
Seeing the light
Once I began studying UI/UX Design, I began noticing these symbols/icons again. I rediscovered my appreciation for their importance and how they are continued to be used when new devices are manufactured. I then began to notice icons within website and mobile apps. The hamburger menu icon, personal profile icon, shopping cart icon etc. It was like I was seeing these icons for the first time again. I began to appreciate the need for them within these sites and apps, their importance in the visual hierarchy of the designs and how they could dictate the flow of certain sites and apps. Their simplicity has led to millions and millions of people (not just designers) understanding these icons.
Icons are universal and span across billions of devices around the world. The same icons I look at around my house can, no doubt, be found is households around the world. The same can be said with icons in web design. All these icons (hamburger menu, shopping cart etc) can be found on millions of websites around the World Wide Web.
I’m not quite sure how to end, so I will just apologise for the song puns and bid you a good day *TIPS CAP*.