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The Story Behind 5 Icons Everyone Knows

  • by Gustavo Morais
  • June 7th, 2015

Press play.

We see a lot of icons every day and some arise in our day-to-day in such a natural way, we don’t even think of it. We all know the tumbled triangle that comes to mind whenever we think of the word ‘play’, same for the share button frequently seen in our social media timelines.
But have you ever thought, who designed them? Is there a reason behind their format? This week we will be taking an in depth look onto these so-known symbols and the intriguing stories behind them.

Play

icon-play-128
This icon is everywhere and across various media platforms. But we are left with the question, where did it come from?!
There is no exact idea of when this icon was originated. What we can say is that it was brought out from the 60s, the era of audiovisual and reel. The original triangle brought up the idea of time as an arrow, with its direction indicating whether time was going forward or backwards. The great success of this icon was due mainly to the globalization of the electronic equipment industry.
Through its success, others icons have been generated from the same foundation, the triangle.

USB

usb-xxl
We all have something with this icon. From the useful, ubiquitous and cheap, the symbol is present in many devices and cables. From chargers to external drives, amongst many others, simplifying the use of many cables.
The idea behind this symbol came up with Neptune Trident Dreizack. The trident symbolizes power, in the sense of being a single connector for multiple devices. The different shapes at the ends symbolize the drive.
As this symbol is rather abstract, often the three USB letters are used instead, and the icon is to be left this way until it becomes standard on a global scale.

Bluetooth

bluetooth
Of all the symbols on this list, Bluetooth definitely has the best story.
In the tenth century Danish King Harald Blåtand loved the blue fruit (blueberries) and so his teeth were always stained with blue. The English translation of his last name is – you guessed it – Bluetooth.
Bluetooth creates a secure way of exchanging data amongst several wireless devices and its predominantly Scandinavian creators recalled the legend of the viking king, Blåtand.
The king had an impressive ability to bring people together in negotiations without violence. The symbol represents the unified mountains of Scandinavia as his way with words went so far as uniting Norway and Denmark as a single territory.

On / Off

button-on-off_318-30091
One of the most universal symbols in existence, you will find this one across various devices. First originated in the binary system and used by engineers in World War II. The 1 means on, and the means 0 off.
In 1973, the International Electrotechnical Commission came to the conclusion that a circle interrupted by a small bar in the center represent the state of “standby” for electronics (going back to the binary system). However, the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) found this to be a very vague definition, and decided that the symbol should simply represent “on/off”.




Share

Very-Basic-Share-icon
The icon, looking something like a diagram, was developed by Alex King in December 2006 and bought by ShareThis in 2007. Originally made for the generic action to share a page, whether via social bookmarking or simply via email.
However, this icon is not uniform for all websites and social media, as you can see in several platforms. The icon is changing and left is the question of whether this one is to lead in the future.

Some symbols are universal, but that shouldn’t stop you from looking after your own. So why don’t you give us a call? Here at ST8 our design team is ready to take over and create the best icons and logos to fit your brand.

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