Icons are everywhere

What is the icon and where does it come from?

More than 30,000 years ago, humans began to communicate with each other using cave paintings. The earliest painting dates back to about 40,000 years ago from Spain.

A painting of bison at the Cave of Altamira, Spain
Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Each pictorial symbols represent alphabet
Pictogram of Chinese characters
First commercial computer, Xerox Star and its User Interface

Icons are literally everywhere in our life

I began to search for an example of icons in my daily life. Surprisingly there were so many of them that I wasn’t even aware they were there- it almost felt like they are a part of written language that I didn’t even think that they are icons.

Volume down, and volume up!
My sketch of volume icons & digitized version
Hot, room temperature and cold water
My sketch & digitized version of water dispenser icons
Three arrows recycle icon. This one doesn’t even need a label to tell what it means
My sketch and digitized version of recycle icon


Whether you have noticed or not before, icons are everywhere, and it is a crucial part of our everyday communication. It is widely used because it helps us to understand a complicated concept, to interpret a message without having to think too much, or to save space when there might be too many words for describing an idea. If you have ever thought that icons are limited to web or digital world, step outside and try to spot the example of icons in daily life, and think about what idea it tries to convey and how. What if they are described in words instead of the icon? What difference would it make? You would be surprised of how much they are infused in our daily routine, and how much they make our life so much easier.



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