New: IconLocal Independent Iconathon workshops


Since launching Iconathons two years ago, we’ve heard requests from people around the world wanting to host their own design events.  We’re excited to introduce IconLocals - independently organized Iconathon workshops held on a local community level.  The Noun Project created IconLocals to allow independent organizations and civic minded people to host self-organized workshops.  We believe this will help spread the social design movement around the world.

IconLocals are a great opportunity to host an event around a civic topic you’re passionate about.  But just like with any event, organizing an IconLocal requires a time commitment and hard work.  You’ll want to make sure the participants attend an interesting and insightful event, and the symbols created communicate their intended concept elegantly.

To help you get started, we’ve created an application questionnaire that will take you through some of the important points to think about when considering hosting an IconLocal.  Once we know you’re committed to hosting an exciting event on an important topic, we will provide you with guidance and materials to help organize & promote your workshop. We look forward to working with you and announcing the new events on

Check out our new IconLocal page to get started! #IconLocal

*Image of Istanbul copyright by Moyan Brenn

Cultural Heritage Iconathon


The Noun Project is excited to announce a new Iconathon on Cultural Heritage, sponsored by the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO).

Iconathons are organized to engage the general public in the design process, so no design or art skills are necessary – all are welcome to participate.  The Iconathon is free to attend but tickets are limited, please RSVP.

“Institutions like libraries, archives and museums serve an essential function in providing access to knowledge, documenting and preserving history, and supporting the civic and cultural needs of their communities – communities often speaking a wide range of languages. A set of public domain icons will enable these cultural organizations to communicate better with patrons and elegantly and clearly visualize the breadth of services, activities, and collections they support and the vital role they play in society,” said Jefferson Bailey, Strategic Initiatives Manager, Metropolitan New York Library Council.

The icons created will be released into the public domain to be used in signage and interactives, as well as to illustrate on-site services, Web pages, online catalogs, mobile applications, and to identify and symbolize many of the other offerings of cultural heritage organizations.

Event Details:

When: Saturday, June 1st from 10:30am to 3:30pm

Where: Metropolitan New York Library Council at 57 E. 11th St, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10003

RSVP: Seating is limited, RSVP for free tickets.


*Image of the New York Public Library by stephs_photos

What might an icon for “encyclopedia-worthy” look like? An update from the Wikimedia Iconathon.

Posted by , Interaction Designer - Wikimedia Foundation.

Symbols serve as some of the best tools to overcome language and cultural communication barriers. The aim of the first Wikipedia Iconathon was to create a set of graphic symbols that convey vital concepts to editors and readers of the world’s largest free, collaborative encyclopedia. The Wikimedia Foundation design team organized the event with The Noun Project, with support from Muji in the form of sketch materials. This is a brief update from the design team, as we work on digitalizing the first iteration of icons from the event.
On a rainy Saturday morning, 6 April 2013, the mood among visitors at the Wikimedia Foundation office was upbeat and determined. Educators, volunteers, civic leaders, typographers, designers and Wikipedia editors joined us and Noun Project staff, coming together to collaborate on a set of 20 icons that represent key Wikipedia terms and concepts.
We began by discussing the core challenges of creating this visual language. First, it needed to work across 330 languages. Second, we had to avoid local concepts or metaphors — such as hand gestures, animals, and local humor — that people from other regions may not be familiar with. If icons conveyed directionality, they would have to be adapted for different writing directions, such as right-to-left languages like Hebrew or Arabic. To preserve cross-cultural understanding, it was critical that we come up with a universal representation, regardless of whether the reader is from Germany, India, or Botswana.
After the general discussion of our objectives, we formed groups and looked closely at our assignment. The concepts we needed to visualize ranged from being self contained, such as “rapidly changing article,” to systems like “anonymous” and “registered” users, “administrator,” and “bots.” Participants unanimously considered abstract concepts like “encyclopedia-worthy” and “no original research” to be the most challenging icons.
As the groups discussed each icon and got to sketching, Wikipedians provided context for the symbols as, answering questions like the following (among many others):

    • Is there more than one context of use for the icon?
    • Does it convey status or trigger action?
    • Should it invite inquiry or is it an entry point when a user scans a list?

We were committed to getting it right, even if it meant pulling out laptops to look at all the sample interface elements. We didn’t expect to get into the thick of interaction and behavior, but it helped align the team on tone, detail and playfulness.


After a few hours, we collected the sketches and pinned them to whiteboards around the room. Edward Boatman (co-founder of The Noun Project) moderated an intense group discussion.  Experienced editors helped evaluate concepts in the unique Wikipedia way of community-driven decision-making. We identified patterns across sketches and focused on connotations. For example, anonymous users don’t occupy a persistent identity, but they are an important part of the community, so a negative undertone was inappropriate.

We hope to expand the audience of participants to work with the remaining concepts and enable more people  to submit their ideas for Wikipedia icons. Given that The Noun Project receives more than 300 icon submissions a day from graphic designers, we’re confident we can leverage their network and their experience to develop engaging icons that are useful for Wikimedia projects.

Currently, we are digitizing the first set of icons that participants in the Iconathon collaboratively selected from our sketch stack. The next step, which we are really excited about, is socializing the icons with the Wikimedia community and getting them to respond and iterate on the concepts that we put forth.

Feel free to join the conversation on-wiki or in the comments, and stay tuned here for future updates. You can view more photos of the event on Commons here and on Flickr here.

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.



The Visual Language of Wikipedia Iconathon in San Francisco


How do you navigate 500 million unique visitors from different countries across a reference site available in 285 languages?  With over 25 million collaboratively written and edited articles, Wikipedia sets the standard for building user experiences that cross cultural and language differences.  To help in this effort, The Noun Project is hosting an Iconathon design workshop sponsored by the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that operates Wikipedia and its sister sites, to create a set of public domain navigation, editing, feedback and expression symbols that can be used not only by Wikipedia editors, but anyone on the internet, for free.

The Iconathon will bring together designers, students, civic activists, and Wikipedia-enthusiasts for a day-long workshop focused around creating symbols for best user-comprehension.  The Noun Project organizes Iconathons to engage the public in the design process, so no art or design skills are necessary to participate.

The open nature of Wikipedia has served as an inspiration for The Noun Project to provide a platform for a visual language anyone can use to communicate.  Given the extensive usage of Wikipedia by people from around the world, we are thrilled to collaborate with the Wikimedia Foundation on adding navigation focused symbols to the public domain. 

Event Details:

When: Saturday, April 6th from 10:30am to 4:00pm

Where: Wikimedia Foundation at 149 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

RSVP: Seating is limited. RSVP for free tickets.


Investigative Journalism Iconathon at The New York Times


A couple weeks ago we ventured to New York City for an Iconathon at The New York Times building – a suitable venue for creating symbols around the theme of Investigative Journalism.  Our goal for this Iconathon was to make symbols that will help visualize information and data in the news, as well as create symbols that can be used by reporters to discuss current events. A mix of journalists, editors, graphic designers, web developers and civic-minded participants volunteered their Saturday to help accomplish this goal.

Chrys Wu (Hacks/Hackers NYC), Scott Klein (Editor of News Applications at ProPublica), and Matt Ericson (Deputy Graphics Editor at The New York Times) started off the day with insightful presentations on how symbols help to share information with the public through new age journalism. In today’s digital era, symbols are frequently used on mobile news apps and interactive websites to effectively communicate information about current events in politics, government, environment, technology, etc.  Given the abundance and depth of information for a lot of these topics, visual graphics help tell these stories in a way that is easy for anyone to understand.


(Presentation by Matt Ericson from The New York Times)

After the presentations we split into teams and generated ideas for concepts like Gerrymandering, Wire Tap, Fracking, Dark Money, Abuse of Power, and Drone.

We ended the day with a group critique to discuss which ideas were the most successful at illustrating each concept. The open discussion allowed everyone to compare sketches and work in a collaborative effort to choose the most comprehensive symbols. The best ideas from each topic will soon be transformed from rough sketches into graphic icons that will be free to download as public domain.


A huge thanks to all of the volunteers who participated, The New York Times for sharing their phenomenal space with us, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews for sponsoring, and ProPublica and Hacks/Hackers NYC for helping to organize the event!

More photos from the Iconathon are on Flickr.


The Noun Project is excited to host an Iconathon during SXSW with (mt) Media Temple!

(mt) Media Temple has been an essential partner of The Noun Project ever since we launched.  We are thrilled they’ve decided to sponsor a fun 2-hour workshop to create a new visual language around inspiration and creativity.  What does it feel like when you get that moment of inspiration?  How would you visually communicate that feeling in a simple pictogram?  We’ll be working together to create a new set of icons to illuminate the world of “Ideas.”

For more than 15 years, (mt) Media Temple has been helping people bring their big ideas to life. In that time they’ve witnessed a lot of light-bulb-over-the-head, “a-ha!” moments. Together we’re fascinated by the challenge of illustrating that moment and that feeling.  The symbols created during this workshop will be added to The Noun Project as public domain for anyone to use.

So if you have an interest in art, design, or iconography–or good ideas, or beer, for that matter–and you’re planning on being in Austin on March 11th, come join us! No design or art skills needed, Iconathons are meant to engage everyone in the design process so don’t be shy.

Event Details:
Monday, March 11, 2013
Paste Lounge at The Blackheart
86 Rainey St., Austin, TX 78701
Seating is limited–RSVP for free tickets


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 67 other followers