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July 15, 2009

What’s behind an icon? (video)

LONDON, England – That’s what Nokia designer Rob Williams set out to discover in this video made in London. First Rob took a look at the different (hundreds) of icons and signs he sees on his journey to work. Icon design is indeed a craft, but not one I’ve ever given much thought to. You see an icon and it’s instinctive as to what it’s for. There’s been a big leap in Nokia icons over the last few years, particularly as the range of services and applications has grown.

In this video Rob takes us through the stories behind music, games and navigation icons that are now familiar emblems on Nokia devices all over the planet. What do you do, for example, with maps which are well used in Europe, but much less so in China or India? The designers at Nokia turned to the compass as the international symbol for navigation and the new Nokia Maps icon was born.

Rob introduces icons as a global language that everyone understands. With literally billions of Nokia devices in use across the planet, icons play a big part in their usage and usability. No surprise then, that Rob says it can take months to get an icon that everyone can understand.

It’s the icon designers mission though that surprises. They consider it a success (or at least Rob does) when the icon disappears, and becomes so instinctive, users don’t give it a second thought. No place for the designer’s ego here then!