Re: Internationalization--Standard Icons

From: Asmus Freytag (
Date: Fri May 28 1999 - 19:10:39 EDT

At 02:36 PM 5/28/99 -0700, Geoffrey Waigh wrote:
>Michael Everson wrote:
>> Geoffrey Waigh wrote:
>> Thou beggest the question. I like the record/stop/off icons on my VCR just
>> fine. And the two vertical lines for pause. And as a member of the public,
>> too. Not _because_ they are in standards, since I was a user of them before
>> I was a standardizer.
>I didn't intend to dispute whether tape icons were well accepted but whether
>a spate of icon standardization would be accepted by the public at large.

The rule of thumb seems to be that the smaller the number of symbols is,
and the more frequently they are used, the more likely it is that
standardization can be successful.

Road signs are an interesting example if you remove the 'pictorial'
symbols, i.e. the 'cow', 'moose', 'tractor' and other images on caution
signs. The residue of icons and visual rules (e.g. digits in a red circle
(or on white rectangles) meaning speed limits) is very much smaller and
includes all the high frequency signs.

Using non-pictorial icons for rarely used features in a user interface is
usually a desaster, mitigated only by tool-tips or whatever the cute name
of the moment is for the little pop-up legends.

Pictorial icons by their nature, need less standardization. When I see a
'moose' on a warning sign while driving in Sweden, and a 'kangaroo' in
Australia, this seems normal and appropriate, and whether either of the
images is 'standardized' is beside the point, since I would never have
bothered to learn either one from a list, esp. not the one for the animal
I'm less likely to encounter. What matters is that I can recognize the
animal silhoutte based on my having seen photos and other images of the
animal in question. This is a task for an artist, not a standardizer.

The sports 'icons' have the additional complication that logo designers
love to run wild and each Olympics now seems to sport a new fashion of
these. Standardization, as the user community has demonstrated, has little
benefit to offer, when stylistic fashion is what matters. (The original set
was from the 1972 Olympics by the way, and of course by now are truly dated).


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