Icons in Everyday Life
This is a DesignLab reflection assignment.
We see icons and symbols everywhere in our daily lives, but it wasn’t until I was searching around just my home that I realized how much icons invaded our lives. They truly are everywhere. Which makes sense because icons and symbols show us, as users, how to use something, and everything is essentially a product to be used.
Some products, more than others, would require more instructions and guidance on how to use them such as appliances, technology, and electronics, which is where I found the most icon use in my home.
Sony Alpha camera
My Sony Alpha camera is a good example of a technical product with a lot of unique functions that make it hard for simple icons and symbols to give meaning to their use. Unless you are an experienced photographer or really take the time to learn them, these symbols and buttons are not easy to use (which is why I hardly touch this camera except to use the Auto function). It is true that when a user doesn’t know the use of an icon, instead of poking around to try and learn them, they’ll just move on. It also doesn’t help that most of the symbols used are just letter representations of the function (how am I supposed to know what C1 means?). I think the most recognizable symbols are panorama, timer, and delete, all functions that are common across other cameras and devices. And the imagery used matches well with their intended function.
Electric Stove Top
Here’s another daily example of a more complicated product with unique functions. Although it uses a clean and minimal design, the lack of words really widened the learning curve for me, but unfortunately using the stove is something I have to do. This interface does use some common icons such as a key for lock, a clock for timer, plus and minus to add or reduce heat, and a power button. At first glance it isn’t obvious to the user how this works, but the simplicity of the design and common icons used helped.
Fortunately, my oven is one kitchen appliance that has more affordance and guidance on how to use this product. Accompanying the icons used are text copy of each function as well, which gives a clear indicator of how to use the product. Temperature and time use pretty common icons, whereas function uses an icon that I haven’t seen before and could signify anything, which is why having text is helpful in this situation.
Ceiling Fan Switch
I really appreciate this easy to use design and control for my ceiling fan. It is simple, gives clear instructions, and easy to use. The large arrow on top indicates which setting the fan is currently on, and each setting is clearly labeled as OFF, 1, 2, or 3. No confusion here about the icons.
Feminine Product Packaging
Finally, a product that is completely easy to use and doesn’t require any technical direction. But just some common icons to indicate how to properly dispose of the product. Also helpful is that each icon is accompanied by text so there is no question about what each means. In comparison with the icons on the other products, these icons are a bit thicker and more solid to stand out on the textured and colored packaging.
Overall, the icons were very easy to recreate because they were all so simple and common, and used distinct shapes and clear lines. Only the oven used icons that were unnecessarily detailed, and I hadn’t even noticed the detailing until I looked up close for this assignment.