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The Noun Project, A Global Visual Language of Open Source Icons

As someone who has had to communicate with people of different cultures, I love the idea behind The Noun Project:

The Noun Project is an ambitious effort to create a global visual language with open source symbols and icons. Anyone can contribute icons to the project’s online library, or download and use the icons, all free of charge. Icon users can pay a small fee to use icons without attribution (commercially or otherwise). The Noun Project periodically holds public icon creation workshops, or “iconathons.”

These icons wouldn’t be used in face-to-face communications. Voice apps will eventually hook up well with translation apps, and it’ll be smooth sailing to type a phrase in English and have Siri say it in Mandarin. But the icons will be very helpful in signage, as we all are familiar with international symbols for services like emergency or food establishments. There is definitely room for more internationally-recognized symbols.

I signed up on the site. I wish I were a graphic designer because I’d love to participate. One thing I found interesting: There’s no icon for the noun project. So I asked myself, what is a noun? It’s a Person, Place, or Thing. So I searched the site for those words and came up with this:


a black and white simple representation of a person, a historical monument and a plain box

person, place, thing = noun

The symbol isn’t recognizable, it isn’t designed well (I can’t do much better, sadly!), and I don’t have an icon for “project” but we must start somewhere. The irony of The Noun Project having no icon is just too much for even this irony-addicted Generation Xer to bear.

Exciting stuff! Modern-day hieroglyphics, really. Love intercultural communication and anything that helps make the process enjoyable.



The Noun Project, A Global Visual Language of Open Source Icons


The icons above are used under a Creative Commons license. The designers of the icons are as follows:
Person: Björn Andersson, Sweden 2012. Place: Iconathon, Public Domain. Thing (box): Cees De Vries, Netherlands