Iconography is a very important aspect of a good GUI. Unfortunately in professional apps, icons are often seen as a decorator and as a last skinning abstract layer of a product design process. But especially in professional apps, icons are crucial communication tool and play an important role in overall "ease of use".

The main reason why icons are underrated in enterprise UX design is, that these icons often represents abstract objects and actions. It is almost impossible to find a real-world metaphor for verbs and nouns such as "JBoss storage" or "WebSphere profile". It often results in "whatever associated symbol" design approach and enterprise apps are full of flowers, pencils, dollars or cakes.

A joyful iconography of a professional enterprise app. Bubbles, pie-charts, rectangles, PC cases and monitors.

Even that there are de-facto standard symbols for items such as “database”, there is no common standardisation in other obvious actions such as “Save” (Seth Coelen).

Icon Design

Designing enterprise icons represent a specific product design challenge. There is no common wisdom or standardised symbol database. As any other aspect of the product user experience, the perception of icons has to be validated and tested with real users. A clear label with appropriate use of modern typography that supports correct visual hierarchy can sometimes do the job better than any other abstract symbol.

I am using this article to collect icon related resources that help me to design and decide on appropriate semantics, semiotics and icon content.


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