The Noun Project

Documenting symbols in an ever-changing world

The International System of Typographic Picture Education, or Isotype, developed by Viennese social scientist Otto Neurath in 1925, heralded the need to develop visual representations of the objects around us. Original pioneers of the system, such as Gerd Arntz, set to work depicting Vienna in a clearly defined and organic way. The resonance of Isotype is still felt today despite originally being comprised of a very small group of designers.

Now, The Noun Project is making the idea of an image-based system of communication open to the interpretation of not just designers, but everyone. The result is astounding. Some contributions are utterly brilliant, eclipsing commonly-held symbols currently in use. On the other hand, if you find yourself in need of conveying the idea of imminent ninjas nonverbally, well, that’s there too.

Born from one man’s sketchbook, The Noun Project is an attempt at creating a symbol for every single object in the world, from the ubiquitous and practical to the beautiful and absurd. The website is a reminder of the significance of universally recognizable icons that transcend culture and language. Because of this, the project has been a resounding success, with thousands of icons submitted by users from around the globe.

Will Buller, our design creative director, added that most icons have been standardized since the mid-nineties.

“A printer means print, envelope means email,” Buller said.  ”They have been recycled an overwhelming amount of times even though the technology we use to do those actions has evolved drastically. The Noun Project is allowing the design community not only to organize iconography for nearly everything in one centralized location, but to offer new ideas to replace what we all just accept as the ‘standard’ icon set.”

As professional purveyors of the visual realm, 42 finds The Noun Project fascinating on a number of levels. As such, we had to get our feet wet by contributing a few symbols that would be effective for use in our office (along with a few silly nouns as well). We encourage you to bust out Adobe Illustrator and help add to this ever-expanding collection of human experience.

Click here to download our vector .svg file to use them in your own project.

Or check out all of our designs on the Noun Project website:

Banana

Banjo

Bomb

Bullett

Chalkboard

Hourglass

Squid

Video Game Controller

WiMote 1

WiMote 2

*All image vectors by Tom Duong unless noted otherwise

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