The Noun Project: Edward Boatman

Curator: Quite Strong
date: August 9, 2011
Categories: Brand & Identity Design, Information Design
Camera icon by designer Torsten Henning

There’s something I’ve always loved about symbols and icons. For me, a powerful symbol is like a delicious sauce: All of the good stuff is reduced down to something small, refined and bold. Symbols pack a punch! We use them every day on our streets, our maps, our mobile devices and nearly everywhere else in our world. They convey a message simply and visually to a wide range of viewers.

It’s no wonder why The Noun Project, a graphic design project by Edward Boatman, has me grayscale with envy. You may have seen The Noun Project on Kickstarter last winter when they raised $14,366 of their $1,500 goal—wow! Or perhaps you’ve spotted The Noun Project symbols out in the wild on T-shirts or in other design projects.

The mission of The Noun Project is to curate and build upon a collection of all the world’s symbols in one easy-to-use, totally free online location. The Noun Project includes more than 500 symbols in 11 categories. Some symbols are public domain. Others are licensed under Creative Commons and can be used with attribution. For example, search “Camera,” and you’ll find a public domain image; one from the National Park Service; one by German designer Torsten Henning; and several others by The Noun Project.

Available symbols range from those as recognizable as the female and male symbols, to those as specific as the Erlenmeyer Flask. It’s just plain fun to look through the website. The next time your project needs a slothfallout shelter, or piece of cake, you know where to turn. All of the symbols are free to use for anything you can dream up—just make sure to give credit where credit is due.

A detailed listing for Torsten Henning’s camera, one of several camera icons found on The Noun Project website

Various icons, many in the public domain, on The Noun Project website

The Noun Project recently announced something really exciting. They’ve partnered with Code for America on an initiative they’re calling Iconathon. This fall, groups of people from a variety of backgrounds will gather in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and New York (more cities coming soon). Each city will be given a theme and challenged to collaboratively create 30–50 symbols for the public domain based on that theme. The themes are all civic in nature: transportation, democracy, social services, community, urban planning and more. If you’d like to add to the wealth of symbols, look for an Iconathon event near you or keep an eye on The Noun Blog for updates on the launch of the User Submissions feature!

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