Icons in everyday life. . .
When you take a drive to a location, whether that’s school or work for example, what do you see? Do you see traffic signs, grocery store signs, symbols on buses or cars, or on poles, etc? If so, what you see on these signs are called icons. Icons are a visual artifact to communicate, guide and inform users. Icons condense a lot of information and context into simple imagery. If they are made correctly and used appropriately, icons can also speed up and enhance understanding and context.
A traffic sign for example has an icon on it. See below for example:
This means no U-turn allowed. The only way we know this is context. Because you are driving on a road and see this sign, you will know that you aren’t allowed to make a u-turn because the way the arrow is pointing and the red symbol over the arrow that’s over it. If this sign was in a coffee shop, it does not make sense at all. As long as the icon is used in the right context, they can be very helpful.
Another example would be icons in the context of hiking/camping. Two reasons why I picked these icons. One, I love the outdoors, especially hiking. Two, I see these types of icons the most when I’m out taking a hike.
These icons can be found on signs everywhere on a trail up in the forest or along a mountain. They can be a guide. If you are hiking up a popular trailhead, knowing where the bike trails are will help you navigate away so that you don’t get run over. You don’t want to get in the way of bike riders, right? If for example you are lost after taking a long backpacking trip, and you see a icon of a playground, you’ll know that you are close to population.
Icons can be very easy to overlook just because of how small they can be and how many times we see them in everyday life. It almost becomes second nature. More than likely, if you see it, you’ll already know what it means. That’s how good that icon was made.