I recently read an article that my colleague, Jason Williamson, wrote for Appliance Design magazine. In “Ten Golden Rules for HMI Design,” Jason talks about the importance of spending time getting your icons just right for a next generation product. I really liked his comment: “A picture can speak a thousand words—or the same word in a thousand different languages.”
How true! Jason’s sentiment brings to mind that old country tune – “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”
Good icons win – hands down – over text. With the presentation of simple graphical symbols, your product gains universal understanding and common feel in a family of products. Functions as basic as pause, play and stop are just the beginning. A simple gear image can communicate settings. A squiggly “i” can tell you where to touch for information. You can give these simple images your own “look,” but people all over the world still get your meaning.
Icons also offer a great opportunity to elevate the style of your HMI and, thus, your product. Too much text on an interface can make it look clunky and unrefined – cluttering up a typically small space. With icons, the possibilities for color, shape, position, and presence are only limited by the craftiness of your artist and the acceptance of your user. If you give time and great care to your icon development, your customers will notice…and your managers will thank you all the way to the bank.