Learning to See Iconography
Icons seen and used around Brooklyn, New York.
Neighborhoods in Brooklyn are diverse, besides English, locals communicate in Hebrew, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, & Polish, just to name a few. With a wide range of communities living here, icons play an important role; they convey information that needs to be universal and interpretable by anyone, no matter their native language. I went on a stroll in my neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant, and came across a fair amount of icon & symbols for this assignment, which includes the following icons:
The main street near my home, Myrtle Avenue, has several ongoing construction sites, and has put up a few signs to signal cars and pedestrians to be wary. I came across the sign below, warning people that there was ongoing construction and a secondary sign saying that the road was closed.
The symbol of a person shoveling is simple and straightforward, to convey that there is construction work happening. When I saw this sign, I was interested in how the shovel has ceased to be visible, and just looks like a person holding a stick and shoving it into an abstract shape. However, the message doesn’t seem to be affected, and is still recognizable by the public. When I was creating the icon in Sketch, I decided to add a more rounded form to the figure, for a more humanized design, yet still retaining the simplistic iconography.
The second icon I came across was a no pets sign outside a children’s playground. The sign showed only a dog, but with a large text saying ‘No Pets’ below it was clear that no pets of any kind were allowed. I thought that the icon was interesting because the dog looked like it was in front of the No symbol, and that it did not need the extra text below to convey the full message. When I was designing the icon in Sketch, I decided to include a white outline to the No symbol, so that the dog icon would look like its actually behind the No symbol.
The next sign I came across was an alternate side street parking sign, which was conveying to drivers to not park on one side of the street within a certain time window, so that the street sweeper can drive through the street and clean up the street’s debris. I thought that the icon to be smart in including a broom in the design on the No symbol, to convey two messages within one design. I found the design a bit challenging to recreate in Sketch, because I had to figure out how to fit a broom and a large letter P within the circular symbol, and not make it too cluttered.
The next icon I came across was not found on a sign, but from a wireless doorbell on the corner of a building, and randomly stuck onto the concrete wall, with no indication of whose door it belonged to. I found that the icon was unique in how it was conveying that it was doorbell with a bell, but also with a wifi signal included on top of the bell to convey the wireless feature. It took a few attempts for me to recreate the shape of the bell in Sketch, due to the different curves found in the shape.
The last icon I found was on a MTA bus stop sign, where waiting passengers can use their phone to track the next incoming bus via SMS messaging. I thought that the combination of the symbols of a bus and a wireless signal was the perfect way to convey the this feature, and could not be simpler. Creating this design in Sketch was a bit easier compared to the doorbell icon, because I already had a wifi symbol created, and just needed to adjust the thickness of the lines. The bus icon was created with a combination of rounded rectangles and the vector tool. I felt by the time I was created the fifth icon, I had a better grasp of controlling the vector shapes.
In conclusion, I think that icons are a very useful visual tool to convey information. I also found creating icons to be quite satisfying; Boiling down the symbols to the bare minimum and working with a limited color palette, to convey information.