Reflection Point: Icons

Thoughts on a few everyday icons found around my home

Photo Credit: Harpal Singh

As part of my DesignLab UX Academy lessons in UI Design, I quickly snapped a few everyday icons I noticed around my home. It made me realize just how many symbols and icons are found on products we use every single day. It took me about two minutes to find 20+ examples. Here are some thoughts on icons I came across on a clock, printer, stove, over, coffee maker, and a TV remote control.

Digital Clock — Alarm Icon

This is one of those wake-up light style alarm clocks. To me, the most interesting icon on this product is the alarm button shown as a bell. Press this button to set the time the alarm will go off. The funny thing is, this product does not make a sound, it instead lights up to wake up the user. However, this icon makes perfect sense as it is commonly accepted as an alarm and not just sound itself. It also avoids confusing the user with the brightness adjustment button that uses a light/sun icon.

Speaker — Volume Icon

These are the three buttons found on a Sonos PLAY:1 speaker. I like the way they treated the simple volume adjustment indicator. In my experience many product use some type of speaker image with a few pulsing lines. The growing level triangle shape between the + and - is enough to tell the user this is a volume adjustment. I think they are also able to get away with this due to the limited number of buttons found on the product. It doesn’t take much effort to figure out how each functions.

Printer — Paper Feed and Stop/Reset

Here are couple buttons found on a Canon printer. The icon for paper feed seems pretty clear to me. You have the down arrow combined with a rectangle shape with a little wave to emphasize a paper quality. The other purpose of this button is to stop/reset (triangle in the circle) and, to be honest, I had NO idea. I had to look it up in the user manual. After digging around online, this does seem to be a common icon on printers, but it’s a little too abstract for me. If anyone knows the origin and symbology, I would love to know!

Coffee Maker — Hot Water Icon

This is the interface on a Keurig as it sits on standby. Their “settings” icon is a little odd to me. I’m used to this lower case i being an “information” symbol, but it is not hard to figure out once you press this button, you are adjusting settings on the coffee maker. However, I like the plain and simple approach to the button that dispenses hot water… use a droplet image to represent water and add an H. The only downside is that the letter limits its understanding to just English speaking users.

TV Remote Control

TV remotes are the BEST (or maybe the worst). You have a little bit of everything packed into one little device. Numbers, letters, abstract symbols, pictograms, both conventional and nonconventional.

This particular LG remote uses a number of methods to represent button functionality. While they did choose some obvious conventional icons like stop, play, pause… a couple funny favorites are the roof icon added to the button that says “home” right on it as well as the door icon next to the word “exit”.