Let’s Talk About Iconic Icons Design

When thinking about sharing, what usually comes to our mind is our parents telling us to share some toys with other kids. But also, we remember three little circles joined by some lines. Yes, this icon you have probably seen in your computer, smartphone, TV… even your freezer and probably your slippers. Pretty much everywhere. But have you ever wondered why this happens, how those little abstract elements have entered our everyday life, and now everyone knows them.

No one can deny that technology has connected our whole world. That’s why we need some elements that will help us understand each other, besides languages.  That’s where icons become vital.

What’s an Icon?

Icons are basically images that represent ideas and objects or experiences so different people understand something.
You can see them everywhere because they’ve been part of our life from the beginning of our time.
Just to paint you a picture, the first ones were found in ancient Egypt.
Many centuries later, icons became really valuable in the world thanks to the importance of signage.

What’s Signage?

Although there’s no accurate definition, we may say it is a communication technique that combines the usage of icons to inform and give instructions to a group of people.
This allows us to coexist under the same group of rules, even though we may not share the same language. Because it’s a system of icons, we can understand them on a visual level.

When Did It First Appear?

The origins of signage were found all across the Roman empire. They used this system to notify travelers about things. There were found signs that offered information about distances and directions to get to different towns.
Fun fact: in the XV century, in Germany, people who sold beer needed to show a sign that stated that they had a shop. These were the origins of our pubs and taverns.
Getting closer to our time, the computer world has given some of the greatest icons in history and in this article, we’ll talk about them.

Famous Icons Design


This “monster” appeared in December of 2006. It was developed by Alex King and bought by the “Share This” company (also, if you want to Share This article, that’s ok, we would love that).
The idea behind this icon is to show that you have something and you can share it with two other people (therefore, the three dots that are connected with two lines).
Even though it’s really famous, as time went by it has been left aside, mainly because brands such as Apple, Microsoft, and  Android developed for the same function, icons of their own.


Can anyone tell us when did a triangle orientated to the right become the synonym of playing something?
To tell the truth, no one knows.
Although some articles say that this icon appeared during the sixties, there’s nothing that confirms it. In fact, the only thing we know for sure is that it doesn’t come from the “computer world”, but from the music enviroment (we first saw it in some devices that had this triangle showing in which way the tapes should be played).
Somehow it has overcome the test of time and has been incorporated by cultures all around the world.


This one,  could be considered The Beatles of icons because it’s here, there, and everywhere.
What does it mean? It connects three basic shapes (a square, a circle, and a triangle) with some lines. It symbolizes its function because it lets you connect a wide variety of devices together.
A fun fact, its shape looks like a trident, in honor of the god Neptune. Why? Only God knows.
Another fun fact, the original USB logo looks nothing like the icon.


-How do you turn it on?
-Push the power button.
-Which one? Where?
-There. The one with the circle and the little stick thingy.

Where did it come from? The history behind it is interesting. During World War II, the engineering team used a binary code to show the state of different devices. 1 meant on, 0 meant off.
In 1973, the International Electrotechnical Commission combined both giving birth to the icon we know and love today. But, it was originally meant to show when a device is in a neutral state.
It wasn’t until the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers decided that the term was too vague that the icon’s meaning changed into what we use it today. The all-mighty power button.

As you can see, an icon can leave a really big impact globally because it helps us understand each other.
They are important, and whenever you start designing one, there are a few tips you must keep in mind.


Remember that icons are usually small. The simpler they are, the better and it would be easier to identify and recognize.

Have Its Functionality in Mind

An icon indicates something. It should give a directive to a user about what will happen when used, to give indications or information about a situation. Normally, an icon explains a feature or an experience.

Think About a System

Icons generally come in a group, so each design must have some sort of relation with the other ones. If you need some icons, you’ll find some of the best in Flaticon.

Avoid being literal

This is a must. Use abstraction to create a design that is unique but understandable.

Play With Colors

Colors can be used to share some more information, that will help you synthesize better what you need to inform with what you are designing.

The world of icons is really rich and for many, it’s like an art form.

To create your own, you will need some good resources to get inspired from. Find a great variety of styles and themes that will get you started by clicking here.

Which icon do you think is the most iconic of all time? Leave us a comment!