Join Dave Schultze for an in-depth discussion in this video Iconography. Can you picture it?, part of Design Foundation 3D: Shape and Form.
- Iconography can be described as when a design is visually representative of another object that can look exactly like what they do or something else to get your attention. In interface and UX design, this is an icon for a typical phone app. The message is perfectly clear so there's no need to analyze. People see it and instantly get it. The best icons require no text and can communicate in any language. The dark side of icon use is the opposite or lack of clarity.
It's okay if the icon does not directly relate to the product or use. But the icon's design should be simple to avoid confusion. This bad example shows what happens when an icon gets too abstract or complicated. What is going on? This tissue dispenser was designed by Mauricio Affonso for Umbra, called Casa. It's a very strong and simple house form. It communicates this idea, a house, instantly without many details. But is there a connection between a house and tissues? Yes, if you make the tissues represent smoke from the chimney.
A-ha, this design is so simple and efficient that it sells for just $5 to $10. This next design is completely literal. Here we have an icon for a camera. It even looks a little like the old Instagram logo. Now, I present the Polaroid Sociamatic camera, which takes and prints instant photos in about three minutes. This one is weirdly interesting. It seems to be an icon of itself. But the strategy can work well to get attention.
Now we can see that the previous Casa tissue box was actually a nice surprise. Sometimes an overly literal design comes off as just a little too predictable. One of my favorite architects and educators is Michael Graves. A true Renaissance man, he started his career teaching and designing buildings, but then expanded into products, furniture, textiles, and just about anything else you could name. In Walt Disney World, Graves designed two themed hotels that are perfect for a theme park.
The Dolphin and Swan hotels exhibit lively imagery of these two creatures. Surrounded by water, the mascots also work well in the colorful and aquatic environment. You might also notice that these are carefully organized to create vistas and approaches. This is not always possible in a dense urban area. Our next example is called the Juicy Salif, used for making orange juice. It was designed by Philippe Starck for Alessi in 1989. You might have seen it before and not even realized what it did.
The form is very sculptural, and maybe even a little aggressive. To me, it's an obvious spider. But other people see different things. That nicely breaks our rule because it can still communicate something. Let's take a look at his design sketches. Just like in the movies, these were done on a stained restaurant napkin. But it is very cool to see his thought process. You'll notice the form is so strong and well defined, he captures it perfectly with a small, rough sketch.
This really shows that using simplified Iconography can capture your entire idea very quickly. As we have covered a few times, designs can fall short for a wide variety of reasons. But Iconography is a very useful strategy. By simplifying the message, you can make a very fast connection to your viewer or buyer.
First, see how the same idea can be applied in a smaller 2D scale—like graphics and print, fine art, and advertising. Dave then blows it up in 3D, and showcases examples from product design, furniture, architecture, and urban planning.
Projects and concepts are presented in an engaging and sometimes irreverent manner with images, videos, and personal and professional stories from Dave. Check out this fast-paced tour as it covers topics ranging from grids and axes to designing with humor.
- Design exploration with sketching
- 3D exploration with organic forms
- Grids and axes
- Defining space
- Color and contrast
- Texture and patterns
- Minimalism. Less is more.
- Retro. It's back!