This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

The secret language of icons

If you have ever been somewhere where everyone is speaking a foreign language, it can make you feel pretty uncomfortable. If you are a typical American, you only know one language, English. But there are many more languages out there, and if you speak at least one foreign language, it can help you understand the *secret language* of icons on your computer, on your phone, on the dashboard of your car.

If you have ever thought that a twelve-year old is a genius because they can figure out how to do things on your phone, or on your digital camera, or on your computer, think again. All that they know is the language of icons. And like any language, you can learn it, too.

The language of icons wasn't invented to confuse people. It was invented because of space constrains. There just isn't room, for example, to write the words *air conditioning* on the little button on your car. A/C was used for a while, and now it's usually just the icon of the snowflake. If you've never noticed these icons in your car, it could be that you just learned where the buttons are. But jump into a rent-a-car in a hurry, and you will have to know the language! You may be able to find a translator somewhere, but why are you wasting time doing that? It's time to learn the language.

Like any language, you learn by doing it, and using it. For me, I'm not above cheating - looking at the owner's manual for my camera, cell phone, etc., to see what the little icons mean. There is usually some type of cheat-sheet in the manual, or in the pdf that you can look at on the web. Once you become familiar with the most-used icons, you can pretty much figure out variations, and new ones.

Speaking for myself, I speak English fluently, a little Spanish, and I also read music. I hadn't realized until now that I can include icons as another language! And, like all of the other languages I know, I am still a student, with so much more to learn!