Ancient History or Modern Day? Pictographs to Icons


Rather than to Google the exact time when icons came into popularity, people tend to think instantly about the transition to everything mobile. Precisely when did humans start to demand small images to mean more than words? According to The Verge website with the article, “40 Years of Icons: the Evolution of the Modern Computer Interface”, Jessie Hicks states that, “More importantly, the Alto introduced the WIMP interface — windows, icons, menus, pointer — that defines virtually every desktop GUI in use today.” Xerox had created and finished this Xerox Alto in April, 1973. Then what about the iPhone where many more icons came onto a phone screen? The article: “The History of Smartphones: Timeline” on The Guardian website by Charles Arthur, Arthur notes, “Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple, unveils the iPhone, which he says is ‘a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone’. Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer calls it ‘the most expensive phone in the world’.” This happened in January 2007. With these two important events in mind, icons have and continue to evolve overtime. They definitely may make us sound like Ancient Egyptians with a language of pictograms of our own.

So what are icons made up of? They are simple vectored designs of objects well known. They do not require much complexity. Designers can create icons themselves in popular programs of Adobe Illustrator and or Sketch3. Or they can take ready-made icons from websites. The coolest thing about icons is rather than write out a word that defines the picture in every language, a picture can speak to every language out there just by itself.

Here are some very familiar icons I created with Adobe Illustrator only for practice and not for any commercial use of my own. These icons are many of which viewers can recognize on an iPhone.

Mimics of iPhone icons practice to include: Messages, Music, Chrome, Facebook, LinkedIn, Phone, Safari, Facebook Messenger, Netflix, and Camera.


Most of us loved picture books when we were children. Icons seem to replace them. They are easy to recognize and identify throughout any language all over the country. Just like in ancient history, they have much to represent in the modern day.