Let’s begin with a brief thought exercise: What is the first word or concept that comes to mind when you see all of the following images?
Hopefully you guessed something along the lines of “communications,” which is exactly what these icons represent — at least for the Noun Project community.
Wander over to thenounproject.com and you’ll discover countless icons created and uploaded by people all over the world – from the US to Poland to Hong Kong to Lebanon.
All you need is a free account — and the willingness to get temporarily lost in an immensely cool repository of iconography.
Icons, as simple as they can look, are integral parts of what we produce here at Maga—whether it’s a map, a website, an app, or an invitation to an office birthday party. They often prove to be quick answers to visually-based questions.
Need to direct a reader or viewer’s attention to a key idea?
Want to convey a concept or object in a single picture?
Or maybe just want to spice up that PowerPoint presentation you made for an upcoming meeting?
Icons will be your dependable friend—like a dog that loves you unconditionally (as all dogs do), except you don’t need to walk it, bathe it, or potentially surrender your personal objects as chew toys for it.
At Maga, we’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated group of designers and design strategists who can create icons for our work products. But not all of us are wizards in Adobe Creative Suite.
Many of us don’t consider ourselves artists.
In fact, for some of us (we’ll call them Muggles), just being able to make a colored rectangle in Illustrator is a minor accomplishment. Yet no one at Maga is exempt from having to make the occasional brief or PowerPoint deck.
And because we all like to practice what we preach, this means that the Muggles of the bunch—including yours truly—often have to find simple, easy ways to make their presentations more visually engaging.
See also: Beginner’s Guide to Graphic Recording
This is when Noun Project proves to be an incredibly useful tool. Adding icons into a document allows that document to catch the reader’s eye in ways that blocks of text couldn’t.
It also allows the author to arrange content in more interesting or compelling way. With Noun Project, an appropriate icon is only a search away. And once you’ve found the right image, a quick download is all that stands between you and your visual aide.
One noteworthy aspect of Noun Project is that its contents are not limited to traditional, concrete nouns—that is, to people, places, and things that you can see or touch.
A search for an abstract concept will unearth a myriad of interpretations. For example, here’s what turns up for “solution”:
Is a solution an idea? Yes.
Is it a technological fix? Yes.
Is it putting two things together? Yes.
Is it a chemical mixture? Yes.
Is it an answer to a math problem? Yes.
In some ways, then, Noun Project highlights the complexities of the human language. Mitigating this complexity is always part of the challenge at Maga, but it’s also a big part of the value that we provide: visual communications that are easily understood by varying audiences.
So next time you’re trying to enhance a presentation or document, check out Noun Project. You can almost always find what you’re looking for…or, if not, you’ll at least stumble upon something humorously unexpected along the way (looking at you, R2-D2).
Icon Creds: Luis Prado, Jose Campos, Christy Presler, Demetria Rose, Marcio Duarte, Gabriele, Malaspina, Yazmin Alanis, Mister Pixel