Signs, Symbols, and Icons

The images below all express the same idea.

Do these all communicate the exact same information? Which of these three are you most accustomed to seeing? Which would you prefer to have if you were chilling with someone who wasn’t a native English speaker? If you were playing a game with a child? If you were inebriated? Seriously- these are all valid cases for usability.

2 Replies to “Signs, Symbols, and Icons”

  1. While multiple symbols can convey the same information, that doesn’t mean the information is as easily understood or even interpreted in the same way by all who see it. You covered the obvious example of a non-native English speaker, who could have problems with the “five” or “5” die. You could also have included a side of a die showing “V”, which even some adults wouldn’t understand unless they saw other sides of the die with I, II, III, IV, and VI.

    If, while creating a symbol, it fails to be interpreted correctly by the audience, it is a failure of a symbol. Prince’s symbol is a pretentious failure of symbolism beyond the “yeah, we know you’re a really femme guy” angle. As ugly as it is, I’d consider our logo an effective symbol. Looking at the logo itself, it is relatively easy to figure out that it belongs to a Healthcare IT company (though I would guess hardware-related, not software, due to the stethoscope.)

    Poetry is all about symbolism. Frost’s path that diverged is clear and effective symbolism for practically any serious decision in ones life. Anyone can identify with it, and so it is an effective symbol. Poetry (or any form of expression) that seems to intentionally obfuscate its message is an absolute failure. Expression cannot be effective if that which you want to express is muddled and difficult for the target audience (be it a specific romantic interest, a segment of the population, or anyone at all) to understand.

  2. Personally I like the 5 as it generates the most work in my brain. You can understand the five dots without verbalization, and the word ‘five’ without knowing mathematical symbols, whereas the 5 is associated with both the quantity the the word. I don’t know if my response makes sense, but it feels like the ‘5’ would likely cause more neurons to fire..

    I imagine it is rather like the dots (quantity) -> five (English pronunciation) –> 5 (mathematical symbol)… I think that is likely the order you learn things in anyhow.

    So I’m most accustomed to seeing the five dots, if we’re talking about dice, and 5 otherwise. I’d prefer the five dots if I was chilling with a non-English speaker. I’d prefer the word ‘five’ if I was drunk, because I could likely make it out if I was seeing blurry/double and it would make no sense upside down. I’d prefer the 5 if I was playing a game with a child, as I’m guessing it would strengthen the association between all three.

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