Flat-Design Icon Sets: A Case for Universal Meanings?
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Nowadays, the Internet has reached a level of maturity that enables categorizing the main types of websites, the most common actions that the end-user can engage in, and the recurring patterns that characterize interactions. As users have become more accustomed to the shared features of websites and web applications (e.g., sign in, access cart, download file), pictographic icons have been increasingly used to replace text labels. Flat design is among the most recent developments in this abstraction climax. However, removing traits, affordances, and attributes increases the ambiguity of symbols, affects their recognition, and impairs the ability to associate them with their intended meaning. In this paper, we focus on open-source typographic icon sets for the web (e.g., Font Awesome). Specifically, we investigate to what extent flat-design icons have acquired a universal meaning and we analyze human factors and design aspects that play a key role in icon recognition.
KeywordsFlat design Icon ambiguity Typographic icon sets Font Awesome Human factors
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