Climate Change Awareness Game Icons


Climate change is a huge global challenge that we’re all faced with. Last month more than 12 million people in the Philippines were affected by Tsunami Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms on record. Homes and crops were destroyed, many people were left with nothing and have to start rebuilding their communities from scratch. How can we address issues like natural disasters that are out of human control? Maybe the answer is through education.

In many cases, people are suffering due to avoidable reasons, often because they lack knowledge of disaster preparedness. With the increase in weather-related disasters people need to be educated on how to prepare for such disasters. Pablo Suarez, Associate Director for Research and Innovation at the Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre, is tackling this problem by teaching people with fun, participatory games.

The Climate and Gender Game is used to raise awareness of climate adaption strategies. During these games participants experience real life scenarios and must make quick decisions based on made up forecasts. The decisions they make are followed with hypothetical consequences. People work in teams and learn first hand how to make smart, reactive decisions for potential weather disasters. They learn how to make smart farming choices that will impact their income and ability to provide food for their families. There are rewards, winners, and losers. While playing the game people are laughing and having fun, and most importantly learning how to make effective choices. It beats a boring power point any day!


We hosted an Iconathon to create symbols that will help people navigate through decisions in the climate change game. Since these icons are intended for use during a game, they have a more playful aesthetic than out traditional Iconathon symbols. The characters show more emotion and have personality to emphasize the good or bad possible outcomes.



The symbols are now available for free download as public domain. Thank you Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre, Pablo Suarez, and our civic minded volunteers that helped create these icons.

Innovation in Education Symbols

We are happy to announce the release of some amazing, new icons! In October we hosted an Iconathon with Duke University and the Innovation Co-lab to make symbols that visually communicate the changing landscape of education. As more and more people around the world gain access to technology and the internet, the more opportunities people have to educate themselves. Inventions like Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) allow anyone to take college level courses from some of the most prestigious Universities, for free! We teamed up with Duke, the Innovation Co-lab and volunteers to create icons that communicate and explain these new innovations in education.


We started off the event with an inspiring and illuminating talk by Julian Lombardi, assistant vice president with Duke’s Office of Information Technology. Julian asked us to re-evaluate the current education system. What is the real value of a college degree if one can learn the same skills and information online? Julian affirmed that universities will have to adopt to the new realities of a world connected through technology.

New concepts like Flipped Classrooms and Blended Learning are utilizing the internet to make class time more effective. Open access information gives people the chance to educate themselves in order to provide for their families and communities. And things like Mircolectures are becoming more prevalent for teaching information online.



The Innovation Co-Lab is a creativity incubator which facilitates events like this Iconathon that encourage students to take a more active role in their technology experience and participate in shaping the future of learning at Duke.

Thanks to Michael Faber and the Innovation Co-lab for making this event possible. And a huge thank you Julian Lombardi and all our volunteers!

The entire set is available for download and all the symbols have been released into the public domain.

New Health Care Icons added to public domain


We recently had the pleasure of hosting an Iconathon at the Denver Art Museum in the beautiful Denver, Colorado. We teamed up with the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to create icons around the topic of expanding healthcare access and coverage. The goal of the event was to create a set of icons that will help people quickly navigate across the new healthcare system set up by the Affordable Care Act.

Members from the Medicaid community, including technical workers, providers, stakeholders, and other state employees participated in the event. They collaborated with designer volunteers and sketched ideas for concepts like Integrated Health Systems, Preventive Health Care, Coordinate Patient Care and more.

The symbols generated will be used in a variety of applications, including training materials and brochures. The icons will help the Department and others in the Medicaid and health care community communicate important Health Care Access and Coverage ideas visually, reaching across language, cultural and socioeconomic barriers.



A huge thank you to the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and all the volunteers who participated.

The entire set is available for download as public domain.

Cultural Heritage Symbols

We recently hosted an Iconathon with The Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO). Our goal of the workshop was to design cultural heritage symbols intended for use in institutions like libraries, archives and museums.


The set we are releasing today visually communicates to patrons the different services and activities offered by cultural heritage organizations. Our volunteers worked to iconify concepts like job center, business incubator, makerspace, and art conservation. We made it a priority to give these symbols a playful yet elegant aesthetic.



Here are some of our favorites:

Interactive Exhibit stands out as a favorite because it clearly illustrates an action occurring without looking static. The use of the index finger puts strong emphasis on the fun and exciting things that can happen in an interactive setting.


The most challenging symbol to create was Digital Object because it is such an abstract concept. Digital objects exist in many different forms, so it was also a challenge to design a symbol that could represent all types of digital objects. For the final design we used symmetry and drew inspiration from computer circuit boards.


The symbols are now available for free download as public domain. Thank you Metropolitan New York Library Council and thanks to civic minded volunteers that helped create these icons.

Investigative Journalism Icons now Available


Superpacks. Drones. Gerrymandering. Dark Money. How do you quickly illustrate these concepts in a way that is meaningful and impactful to an audience of different education levels and cultural backgrounds?  That was the challenge set out before a group of 60 volunteers at anIconathon The Noun Project hosted at The New York Times back in February.  Journalists, editors, graphic designers, web developers and engaged citizens brainstormed and sketched ideas for icons frequently needed throughout news editorials and applications.  The goal of creating these symbols is to help guide readers through the in-depth stories investigative journalists help uncover, to provide a graphical shorthand that helps navigate readers through complicated concepts, as well as to help illustrate infographics that help people better understand important facts and correlations.

The final set of 22 Investigative Journalism symbols are now included in the Iconathon suite and available for anyone to use as public domain.  We’d like to thank all the attendees who participated in the Iconathon,The New York Times for hosting us in their space, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews for sponsoring, and ProPublica and Hacks/Hackers NYCfor being vital partners in organizing this event.



Disaster Relief Icons Now Available


In October we teamed up with the American Red Cross in Washington D.C. to host an Iconathon around the idea of urban disaster preparedness.  We are happy to announce the concepts generated at the event have been successfully turned into symbols, and are now available for download in the Iconathon Collection.

It was sobering to think of all the use cases while designing these symbols.  Living in California, the symbol for Earthquake was particularly relevant to us.  The group at the Iconathon thought the best way to communicate this concept was to show the earth cracking, and this crack extending into a building which has been damaged.


The new symbol for Animal Shelter that we created during the Iconathon could have been helpful to organizations like the ASPCA during the recent Hurricane Sandy.  The animals displayed under the shelter roof can be swapped out or added, depending on if the shelter allows farm or exotic animals, for example.


As natural and human-made disasters continue to be more and more frequent, we look forward to working again with the Red Cross and other relief organizations to create more disaster-specific symbols to help in the most urgent of times.

Clean Water Icons from Charity: Water Iconathon


Our latest Iconathon brought us to the Future of Web Design Conference in New York City where we partnered with Charity: Water to create a new set of clean water icons.  It was fascinating to learn more about the Charity: Water mission and how the lack of clean drinking water is at the root of so many problems in developing nations.  Learning about these struggles really gave a great sense of purpose to the day.

The referents we created symbols for during the day ranged from “Dirty Water” to “BioSand Filter.”  Creating a universal way to visually communicate these ideas is important because so many languages are spoken in the developing nations where water is scarce.  Below are some examples of the symbols created. You can view all the symbols here.




Rainwater Catchment


BioSand Filter

A big thanks to Future Insights, Charity: Water, and all the volunteers who helped make this possible.

New Energy Efficiency Symbols now in the Public Domain

With Earth Day fast approaching many of our thoughts are again turning to the environment and how we can help preserve and sustain our beautiful planet.

The Noun Project recently partnered with Cree, Inc. to host an Iconathon to create new symbols for Energy Efficiency and LED Lighting.  One of the goals we’ve set out for Iconathon is to add to the public domain a set of graphic symbols that communicate universally recognized concepts, in particular those that have yet to be visually defined.  Although the idea of Energy Efficiency has been around for many years, it is just now gaining the kind of exposure and focus that requires it to have its own visual language to represent concepts like wind and solar farms, electric charging stations, and sustainable energy.

Thanks to the help from our Durham Iconathon participants, we’re thrilled to release 15 of these new symbols into the public domain.  The symbols below can be found for download in our Iconathon Suite.

Energy Efficiency Event

Why a New Symbol for LED Lighting?

We asked Ginny Skalski, CREE’s Social Media Specialist this exact question.

“At Cree, we’ve been talking for a long time about the need for a symbol to represent LED lighting to help get people to think beyond the energy-wasting incandescent bulb and ugly fluorescent lighting. But we weren’t really sure what the symbol should look like. By teaming up with the Noun Project for an Iconathon, we were able to put a lot of thought into the symbol for LED lighting and other energy-efficient technologies.

The Iconathon process really allowed a diverse group of people to discuss the merits of a variety of designs. And through the critiques,  many strong concepts emerged. It was remarkable to see sketches from the iconathon take on a life of their own as beautiful digital symbols.

Our hope is that these new symbols become the go-to images for the Lighting, Energy-Efficiency and Design industries. We’d love to see the new symbol for LED lighting become as universal as the first aid or no smoking symbols.”

LED Symbol Design Process

One of the core themes that emerged from the group critique was that LED is a radically different light source from any of its predecessors, and because of this we all felt it was appropriate and necessary to break free from any past “light bulb” design precedents.  LED needed to have its own distinct and identifiable mark.

As a group we decided the two essential elements that needed to be present in the final design were the semiconductor microchip that produces the light, and of course light itself.  During the group critique we observed that many of the sketches used a square to represent the chip.  The final design uses this concept but displays the square as a three-dimensional diamond shape, thus creating the illusion of depth and volume.  Representing the second element, light, turned out to be the greater challenge.  When limited to black and white with no gradients, designers only have a few options to graphically represent light.  Most of the sketches created at the Iconathon used lines emanating from the microchip to communicate a light source.  However, after the event there was a realization that so many other icons used this same “emanating line” technique to represent a variety of concepts (i.e. sound), that we came to the conclusion that there should be a more unique and memorable way to illustrate light.

The solution we arrived upon is to use negative space to represent a powerful focused beam of light rising up from the microchip.  We felt this created a much more dynamic, memorable, and bold design that still contains the same original elements agreed upon by the participants of the Iconathon.

Finally, we view these symbols not just as purely utilitarian, but also representative of where we are as a society, and what we want our future to look like.  Creating symbols for these powerful ideas helps disseminate them by providing people with the visual tools to make their voices heard across contemporary communication platforms.  We can’t wait to see how you use them and we hope you enjoy these symbols as much as we do.

LED Symbol

Sustainable Energy Symbol

Iconathon Symbol Suite is Here

A little over two months ago we set off on a cross-country design tour with Code for America and hundreds of passionate volunteers with the goal to create new civic minded symbols for the public domain.  After countless hours of designing and refining from volunteers all over the country, we are proud to announce the Iconathon Symbol Suite is now available on The Noun Project.

The initial set contains 40 symbols within these topics: 311, Health & Nutrition, Democracy, Neighborhoods, Education, and Transportation.  Each symbol was conceived at one of the six Iconathon design charrettes and created with a “Design for Good” attitude.  The symbols are designed to work together as a set, each being the same size and having a consistent design aesthetic and line weight.

By placing these symbols into the public domain we hope they can be put to good use in your community and make a positive impact.  We hope teachers and schools can use the bully symbol to educate their students about the damaging and lasting effects of bullying.  We hope the food bank symbol can help guide the hungry and less fortunate to a nutritious meal.  We hope the peaceful protest symbol can be used by protestors around the world trying to fight for change and a better life.  Most of all though we hope these symbols can be used as an example of what can happen when you bring together volunteers who are passionate about their community.

We are still receiving symbols from our volunteers, and plan on continuing to add more civic symbols to this set over time.  We’re excited to see this collection grow year after year. Thank you to everyone who participated in the Iconathon events, hosted us, supported us, and helped us get the word out about this Design for Good endeavor.


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