Icons and weed wackers

This newsletter shows when to use icon symbols — and when not to.

Our  puppy has decided to “landscape” our lawn by digging multiple holes, with amazing speed. Now our lawnmower won’t mow — the lawn isn’t flat enough. So I was excited to find a weed wacker, that would serve for cutting grass, for $10 at a local yard sale.

Cryptic icons

Later, while I was looking it over, I noticed this warning sticker (above).
Some of these icons I understand, but others still baffle me. In the 5th icon down, why is that poor man being attacked by arrows? In bottom icon, what is the strange triangle overlapping a circular saw blade? I guess I’m being warned to keep away from Skilsaws.

Best practices

Icons are supposed to communicate a specific idea thru a simple symbol. But sometimes they just don’t work.

If you plan to develop an icon, consider:

Complexity. The icon should symbolize one action or thing, that can be expressed in one word. Think “washroom”, “print”, “stop”.
Context. Icons work best in a controlled setting that where there is a coherent system, like highways or operating systems. Note that these systems are designed for repeated use. Familiarity and repetition make icons more effective.
Cross-cultural applications. Who is your audience? How universal does the icon need to be?
Size. Is the icon displayed large enough to be understood? Tiny icons are useless.
Finally, would words work better?

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About us

LevinsonBlock is a Brooklyn-based healthcare marketing agency that specializes in mid-sized organizations. Our clients include healthcare providers such as FQHCs, disease foundations, and healthcare technology firms.
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