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.

Iconathon for Games that Explain Climate Risk


We met Pablo Suarez nearly a year ago at our Urban Disaster Preparedness Iconathon in Washington, D.C.  We were immediately drawn to his passion for helping people around the world learn about and make choices around the different risks associated with today’s changing climate.  Pablo is the Associate Director for Research and Innovation at the Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre.  He’s one of the most well traveled people you’ll ever meet and is never in one place for long – most of our conversations have been during the seldom few days he’s in the States before jetting off to some of the most remote areas of the world.

Not many people will deny that there is clear scientific evidence that climate change is already happening, and will be one of the main global challenges for humanity in the coming century.  We are unfortunately continuously reminded of the sharp increase in weather-related disasters and extreme weather events.  People suffer due to entirely avoidable reasons, often lack of preparedness despite forecasts of imminent floods, hurricanes, or food insecurity due to drought. Many losses are avoidable.

But how do you educate people of the complex decisions and choices ahead of them?  How do you explain managing the risks of extreme weather to policy makers, farmers, ministers, shanty town dwellers, fishermen, and make sure the information is not only understood but also sticks?  This is where we became vested in this project.  Instead of asking people to passively listen through another PowerPoint lecture, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre decided to use a different, more active approach – participatory games.

Just like in real life, during these games participants experience decisions with consequences. They receive incomplete information about risks, have to allocate limited resources in a limited amount of time, and lose if the outcomes are unfavorable.  People work in groups, debate over decisions, and learn first hand the difficulty of making these life-altering decisions based on forecasts.

We’re hosting an Iconathon on Saturday, September 7th to help create a visual language around these Climate Risk games. The symbols we create in the design workshop will be released into the public domain, and used around the world to help navigate people through difficult decisions.  Plus, we’ll get to experience the fun intensity of one of these games first-hand!

Iconathons are organized to engage the general public in the design process and participants include both designers and non-designers. No design or art skills are necessary, all are welcome to participate. The Iconathon is free to attend but tickets are limited, please RSVP.

Event Details:

When: Saturday, September 7th from 10:30am to 3:30pm

Where: American Red Cross of Greater New York at 520 W 49th Street (between 10th & 11th), New York, NY 10036

RSVP: Seating is limited, RSVP for free tickets.

To learn more about Climate Centre’s Participatory Games for Climate Risk, check out the videos from Boston University and Senegal.

*Image of flood in Bangladesh by Amir Jina.

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.