Iconography is the study and use of images and symbols to represent ideas, concepts or information. It is a fundamental tool in visual communication because it allows messages to be transmitted quickly and effectively, especially in an era where visual content plays a prominent role in our society.
Aspects of Iconography
Within iconography it is important that we take into account a series of aspects, which are important to know if we want to make use of this tool when designing:
- Symbols and signs: Icons are usually simplified representations that convey a specific idea or concept. For example, a heart symbol can represent love, while a shopping cart usually indicates a shopping section in a website.
- Cultural and contextual: Icons may have different meanings in different cultures or contexts. What is familiar and understandable to one culture may be meaningless or even offensive to another.
- Style and trends: Like other aspects of design, iconography is subject to trends. For example, with the popularization of flat design, many icons began to adopt a more simplified look without three-dimensional details.
- Consistency: In interface design or branding, it is important that icons have a consistent style and size so that the user or viewer can easily recognize and understand them.
- Semiotics: This is the science that studies signs and symbols. In graphic design, it is essential to understand how icons and signs are interpreted and given meaning, so that they fulfill their communicative function effectively.
What does Iconography contribute to Graphic Design?
Iconography is a valuable resource that brings multiple benefits to design, improving visual communication and enriching the user or viewer’s experience. How can iconography enrich your projects?
- Immediate communication: Icons and symbols provide a quick way to convey a message or idea. In a world where the user’s attention span is limited, being able to communicate something in a split second is invaluable.
- Universality: Well-designed icons can transcend language and cultural barriers. For example, symbols for men’s and women’s restrooms, or a no-smoking sign, are often understood around the world, without the need for words.
- Consistency and coherence: The consistent use of iconography in interfaces or design systems creates a more predictable and fluid user experience. This is especially important in interface design, where consistency aids navigability and usability.
- Space saving: Icons can represent complex ideas or actions in a small space, which is useful in interfaces where space is limited, such as in mobile applications.
- Aesthetics and visual appeal: Good iconographic design can add aesthetic value to a design, making it more attractive and pleasing to the eye.
- Brand strengthening: Custom iconography can be a distinctive element of a brand, helping in its identification and recall.
- Guiding attention: Icons can be used to guide the user’s or viewer’s attention to specific points or important actions.
- Encourage interactivity: In interface design, iconography can indicate interactive areas, such as buttons or links, encouraging the user to interact with them.
- Reinforce information: In educational or informational contexts, icons can be used to reinforce concepts or ideas, facilitating understanding and retention of information.