August 7th, 2014

Adding Color to Your World


Our mission at the Noun Project is creating, sharing and celebrating the world’s visual language. When we first launched the platform in early 2011, we envisioned our product mostly being used by web developers and designers. The simple black and white pictograms hosted on the platform were a great tool for creatives mocking up various designs and interfaces.

While some of our most loyal customers are still creatives, we’re also seeing our designer’s icons used in doctor’s offices, school projects, infographics, and a variety of websites and apps through our API integrations. The need to visually communicate information is not limited to web developers and graphic designers - it’s important to everyone.

Throughout the years our customers and product have grown and evolved, and our content should as well. Which is why we’re incredibly excited to announce that we are integrating color into the platform! We thought about this decision for a long time, and in the end it was clear that color is too powerful of a design element to completely exclude it from the platform. There are many examples where color is essential, such as the way it greatly increases user comprehension among the autism community. While black and white pictograms can communicate information quickly and concisely, color can bring an extra punch of emotion. We believe this will further our mission and add fun new ways for our users to express themselves.


For now we’re rolling out color as a limited edition through Collaborative Collections, color content will not display in search results or API calls. This will ensure an uncluttered user experience and provide designers time to populate the platform with amazing content full of color.


We look forward to seeing these beautiful icons out in the wild. If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you at or @nounproject.

July 30th, 2014

Introducing Collaborative Collections!


We’re thrilled to announce the launch of Collaborative Collections, our most social feature to date! Collaborative Collections enables the Noun Project design community to work together to create iconography around a central theme or design style. You can think of it as an online version of our highly successful Iconathon Design workshops.

Ever since we launched user submissions, we’ve heard a common theme from the community: what type of content should I create? Collaborative Collections helps solve this problem and also enables designers to share their creative process, techniques, and design philosophies with other members of the community.

Here’s how it works: each Collaborative Collection is created by a member of the Noun Project community, the collection’s “Creative Director.” Each director is responsible for setting the theme of the collection and outlining a detailed design brief describing the design process and specs for creating content for the collection. Armed with this information, designers from around the world can then collaborate and build out collections together.


This collaboration is incredibly powerful because it harnesses the creative brainpower of the crowd. Imagine if you had to design a collection of all the world’s monuments. This would be incredibly time consuming to do all by yourself. However, if designers around the world could pitch in, a beautifully designed cohesive collection can come together in no time. All you need to do is create the collection, build a design brief, and then allow other designers to help build out the content. Each designer still owns the right to their own content, gets the benefit of their work displayed on their designer profile, and gets paid whatever royalties are accrued.  But all the icons can be viewed and used as a set.

We’ve handpicked two amazing designers from our community to showcase powerful examples of how this feature can be leveraged.  John Caserta, Head of the RISD graphic design department, is leading the Documentary Collection, which aims to capture contemporary global culture using a timeless pictographic style.


Ji Lee, one of Fast Company’s Most Influential Designers in America, is leading the very timely Surveillance Collection which asks users to create a visual language around the topic of spying and surveillance.


We hope these collections inspire you to have some fun and design icons that contribute to the world’s visual language. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

If you are interested in leading a Collaborative Collection by becoming a Creative Director, please email your topic ideas to

Connection icon designed by Spencer Harrison


July 9th, 2014

Check Out These New Emojis for Foodies

written by Tom Philpott posted with permission by Mother Jones

On a frigid Sunday morning in Manhattan this past March, several dozen people, many of them design students, gathered at the School of Visual Art’s building in Chelsea. Their task: to perform a bit of pro-bono marketing for non-corporate food producers—the kind of small and mid-sized farms that grow produce without poisonous chemicals and tend their animals on pasture, not in fetid, polluting feedlots.
The meeting, organized by an innovative Los Angeles-based design firm called theNoun Project (whose founders my colleague Tasneem Raja interviewed here) and an accomplished New York-based sustainable-food advocacy group called the Grace Communications Foundation (the force behind the Meatrix video and Sustainable Table), was modeled on the techie concept of a “hackathon”—a bunch of people getting together to solve some problem. But whereas hackathons typically result in computer code, this “iconathon” would produce images, known as icons, that can wordlessly express concepts like “grass fed” and “heritage breed,” free for anyone’s use under a creative-commons license.
I was invited to help set the table, so to speak, with some remarks. I noted that the food system that has sustained the US for decades—and which is vigorously spreading to other parts of the globe—is failing. Diet-related diseases are mounting and workers are rebelling against the industry’s poverty wages. Meanwhile, I pointed out, the two most important US crop-growing regions, the Midwestern corn belt and California’s Central Valley, are both undergoing slow-motion and devastating ecological crises, involving soil and water, respectively.
After I harangued the crowd, I figured my work was done. Turns out, it had only just begin. The Noun Project

Yet despite these catastrophes, Big Food remains ubiquitous and highly profitable. One reason why, I suggested, is that like any smart industry, the food giants invest a portion of their annual profits bombarding the public with marketing. In 2012, fast food chains spent $4.6 billion advertising their goods, led by a cool $971 million from McDonald’s. As for the processed-food companies, Kraft alone spends about $683 millionhawking such delicacies as boxed mac ‘n cheese in the US; and Coca-Cola drops nearly a half billion dollars pushing its sugary drinks.

Those elaborate efforts paint a big smiley face on a grim landscape; and it is yourjob, today, I informed the assembled designers, to strike a counter blow on behalf of food producers who refuse to play along. Be their shadow marketing department, I exhorted them, their down-low Don Drapers, give them powerful images they can use to quickly tell their stories in a marketplace dominated by burger-peddling clowns.

I was quickly assigned to a group, whisked to a table, and confronted with markers, blank sheets of paper, and a list of topics to illustrate.

And with that, I figured, my work was done. After all, I can barely sketch my own name legibly, and the closest I’d ever come to participating in a hackathon was to watch The Social Network. But rather then repair to one of Manhattan’s excellent new-wave coffee bars, as was my secret plan, I was quickly assigned to a group, whisked to a table, and confronted with markers, blank sheets of paper, and a list of topics to illustrate.  It turned out that each of this Iconathon’s ten or so groups consisted of at least one designer along with a concerned citizen and a subject expert—a role played in my group by me. Each group was to go down the topic list, come up with ideas for each, and present them at the end.

Before I knew it, I was immersed in discussions about how chickens and pigs can’t be “grass fed,” because (unlike cows) they can’t thrive on grass alone; and how “aquaponics” means growing plants and fish in a closed nutrient loop. I even surprised myself by throwing out image ideas—and was delighted to see a design wizard in my group sketch them out quickly with a few strokes of a pen. I savored the give and take—the messy, fun, thesis-antithesis-synthesis process of brainstorming vague ideas and then moving them into concrete existence through consensus. As a writer, I work alone; the Iconathon reminded me how energizing it is to collaborate with people of diverse skill sets and perspectives—a lesson I last learned while helping run Maverick Farms. Here’s what it looked like:

Photo: The Noun Project

In the end, after much discussion and a tally of votes involving entries from each group, we settled on our favorite images. The Noun Project’s ace designers, working with volunteer designers who attended the meeting, cleaned them up and have now released them. Our efforts didn’t solve the nation’s food-related problems or come close to balancing out Big Food’s marketing heft. But it’s a start. Here they are, and you can download them here:

July 7th, 2014


You send the sketch. We make the icon.


New ideas are conceived every day. We want to iconify these new ideas with something called Sketchathons. A Sketchathon is a great way for YOU to get involved with the process of making beautiful icons to represent new concepts. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: We will announce the weekly Sketchathon topic on Twitter and Instagram.

Step 2: You do the fun part – think about how to visually communicate the concept and sketch it out. Send your sketches to @nounproject on Twitter or Instagram and use the hashtag #sketchathon



Step 3: We do the work – we vectorize the best ideas into icons. The icons will be uploaded to The Noun Project for everyone to download. 

Let’s get started! The first Sketchathon topic is 'ephemeral'

Ephemeral def. – lasting a very short time. 

There is a growing trend of ephemeral things, whether it be digital content, products or services, that are meant to be short lived. Snapchat is the perfect example of ephemeral social media because it provides content that is consumed and never seen again. Other examples of ephemeral products and services are ZipCar and ‘Pop-up’ shops or restaurants, that all provide short lasting access things that are limited.

How would you visually communicate ‘ephemeral’? Share your sketches with us on Twitter & Instagram @nounproject #sketchathon

June 23rd, 2014

Icons Help Reduce Food Waste


What does your favorite local restaurant do with their food scraps? Do they simply toss the scraps in the trash or do they organically recycle them? You might not think this is important, but food waste is a major contributor to green house gases and global warming.

Because of this massive problem Noun Project teamed up with Hennepin County Environmental Services in Minneapolis, MN to host an Iconathon focused on developing badges of honor that reward local businesses for participating in recycling programs. We thought if people knew which restaurants donated their food scraps to a local food shelter, or what businesses recycled their organics by participating in local composting programs they would choose to support those businesses over others. We wanted to give participating businesses a competitive advantage to further incentivize organics recycling.  

We’re happy to announce these badges are beginning to appear on storefronts of businesses throughout Minneapolis, and we hope this trend spreads nationally!


The Design

The design process for the badges started by learning about the various forms of organics recycling. 

  • Recycling - separating products that can be re-used
  • Food to Human - donating unused food to local food shelters
  • Food to Farm - donating food scraps to local farmers to use as animal feed
  • Composting - mixing food scraps with soil to create organic fertilizer

Once the various forms of recycling were identified we then started to investigate different shapes for the badges and how these shapes could work together as a set. This was critically important because many businesses would be displaying a combination of the 4 badges. We experimented with many shapes, but in the end we decided on using a simple square because of its modular properties. We then used the golden rectangle to divide the square into the graphic and text sections. 


With the basic shape of the badges determined, we then focused on how to graphically communicate each one of the forms of recycling. We wanted the designs to be understood in a blink of an eye so we made the graphics simple, bold, and playful.


For the recycling badge, we leveraged the existing learned association between chasing arrows and the notion of recycling to create a dynamic energetic composition. 


The composting badge uses a gently curving horizontal line to represent the soil line. Underneath the soil we included simple versions of a carrot, apple and a fish. 


The food to human badge shows an outstretched hand receiving an apple. We thought showing an open hand was a great way to communicate generosity, giving, and service. 


The food to farm badge shows a simplified pig eagerly staring at an apple. We chose a pig because the majority of recycled food is fed to hogs. 

Finally, you can see we included the logo of Hennepin County in the upper left corner of the design. This instantly gives the badge credibility and shows the county is involved in the verification process. When these badges scale to other municipalities their logo can be inserted in this corner. 

It is our hope these badges can become a catalyst that accelerates the adoption of organics recycling not only in Minneapolis but in cities all across the world. Thanks to all the participants of the Iconathon, Hennepin County Environmental Services, University of Minnesota and Public Interest Design for making this a reality. 

June 20th, 2014

"Yo" - Iconified


We made a pictogram for “Yo.” Yes, the one syllable word which is now a trending mobile app burning up the tech blogosphere. 

Yo is an incredibly “lazy” word and we wanted this quality to come across in the design. When you say “Yo”, the sound starts at the bottom of your throat and then spills out of your mouth, it completely by-passes the sound formation area of your mouth… try to say it a couple of times, you’ll see what I mean. 

We hope you enjoy the design - yo. 

June 19th, 2014

Remembrance by Ed Harrison

You might know Ed Harrison from his Pocket Pictograms collection featured on The Noun Project. He is a talented designer from Brighton, UK, and he is currently raising money for his Kickstarter campaign ‘Remembrance’. This post comes from Ed Harrison himself. We hope you enjoy and support his campaign

Remembrance: Remembering Yesterday Today from Ed Harrison on Vimeo.

"The First World War is slowly losing its relevance to younger generations - not because we don’t care, but because it doesn’t appear on our ‘world’s radar’. The older generation who kept the stories and memories alive are no longer here. Old photographs of trenches, gas masks and war horses don’t truly reflect the hardship inflicted, simply because we can’t relate to them. For something to be relevant it needs to be brought into our periphery, cause empathy and understanding, so that we can connect with the experience. 


Remembrance is a web campaign that aims to connect younger generations to events of the First World War 100 years ago. The website combines contemporary design, animation and interactive info graphics to create an engaging and inspiring narrative that will develop and evolve over the next 4 years of the Centenary. The outcome will be a meaningful and dynamic experience, which can be revisited and shared as we recall the war years.


Pictograms are a fundamental aspect of the campaign design, creating a visual language that younger audiences can understand and relate to. A layer of interactivity is added through the online experience – the scroll or hover of a mouse, or the touch or slide of a finger, can bring the pictograms to life when navigating through the website narrative.


My bank of WW1 pictograms will naturally grow over the next four years, as I continue to develop visual content for the campaign. I plan on sharing this collection online through the Noun Project, with the hope that others will download them and create their own personal projects that pay tribute to those involved in the First World War. 


I am currently raising money to fund this ambitious campaign through Kickstarter. I have produced a range of printed and digital memorabilia alongside the website, to be sent out to all those supporting this project, to serve as reminders of the Centenary.

Please support the Remembrance campaign by making a pledge to the Kickstarter page, and share it with others who believe in the cause.”

-Ed Harrison

June 17th, 2014

Collection Etiquette

Hey there, this is Skye from The Noun Project, I help manage submissions to the Noun Project language.

As one of the people working behind the scenes here, I thought it would be worthwhile to go over what I like to call ‘Collection Etiquette’. With the option now to upload an entire set of icons at once, it’s important to understand what a collection is, how to title and tag it.


Collections are meant to be a cohesive set of icons that work together in expressing a specific theme or concept. This can range from submitting a collection of icons for user interface elements, national monuments to a series of arrows. The best part about collections is being able to see your beautifully designed icons in one place, side by side as one strong unit of work.


(icon collection by Matt Brooks. View his work here.)

Collection Titles

When ready to submit your set of icons as a collection, it is important to know how to title it. The title of your collection should embody the concept or theme of your icons themselves not necessarily the defining design aesthetics. It should also inform the user of what contents are inside the collection. A great title example for icons of a cow, pig, and bull would be ‘Farm Animals’. You could also add some more personality to it by calling it ‘Farmicons’!


If you are submitting multiple versions of the same icons with one as filled and one as line, don’t use titles like ‘Farm Animals - BLACK FILL ONLY’ and ‘Farm Animals - OUTLINE ONLY’. 

Collection Tags

Once you’ve settled on a great title for your collection, it is crucial to correctly tag your icons using collection tags and icon tags. Collection tags are different from icon tags because they get applied to each icon submitted in the collection. So when choosing collection tags make sure to only be inputing tags that relate to the overall theme of the collection. If you were submitting the collection ‘Farm Animals’ you should tag the collection with: farm, animals, farming, domesticated animals, domesticated, but not cow, pig, and bull because collection tags get applied to each of the individual icons. The main purpose of collection tags is to be able to easily input tags that apply to your overall collection but don’t necessarily represent the individual designs themselves. 


After you’ve chosen your collection tags you can input individual icon tags by pressing the tag symbol in the top left:



(icons designed by Stano Bagin. View his work here.)

Or by pressing tab immediately after typing in the icon’s title:


It’s been inspiring seeing the collections of icons you’ve all come up with, so keep up the great work! I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little bit more about this great new feature and feel free to email me at if you have any questions.


June 16th, 2014

In The Hospital

Two designers from Poland, Michał Jawiński and Wojciech Zasina, have created a stunning set of hospital themed icons. Their friendship started in design school and has continued into their lives as professional graphic designers. The idea spurred from their desire to collaborate on a fun side project, and the results are extremely impressive.



The intention when creating ‘In The Hospital’ was to make beautiful navigation symbols and icons suitable for web and mobile applications. As more health services begin to operate digitally, these flat icons will be useful for developers making health related apps and websites (read more about flat design from a developers perspective). The style of the collection was heavily influenced by the new iOS aesthetic - a style that is light and modern. When making each icon, Wojciech used specific design constraints: the same outline style, grid size, stroke weight, and rounded edges to achieve consistency throughout the entire set. 

What makes this collection especially unique is the presentation. Michał’s animation brings the icons to life, helping it stand out in the static world of flat icons. We can learn a lot from Michał and Wojciech. They teach us that design constraints are essential to achieving unity, that good presentation is key for any project, but most importantly, that collaboration can foster some amazing results. 

You can view and download the collection on The Noun Project.

Check out more projects from Michał Jawiński and Wojciech Zasina 

June 9th, 2014

Collection Upload


You can now upload entire collections of icons to Noun Project by using the collection upload feature! Icon collections are groups of icons that were created to work together as a set, both from a thematic and aesthetic standpoint. These collections are very useful for creators because if you’re using one icon for a project chances are you will need another similar icon, and you’ll want those two icons to work together stylistically. 

Before this update, uploading collections was a pain. First, you had to notify us that the icons you uploaded were a collection, we would then have to manually create the collection on our end. Secondly, if you were uploading a collection of 100 icons, you would have to manually tag each icon in the upload process. This was a huge pain, since many times those tags would be the same for each icon. Finally, over time, if you wanted to add to your existing icon collection you would have to notify us and we would have to manually add the additional icons to the collection. This whole process was not efficient at all. 

We’re happy to announce all these pain points are gone! Now if you’re uploading a collection, you can choose the collection option, and you’re on your way. Simply create a name for the collection, choose the license for the collection, and then input the common tags you want for each of the icons in the collection. All this info will then be pre-populated for each one of the icons. At any time after the initial upload you can add additional icons to the collection as well. 



We really hope you enjoy this new feature. As always we would love to hear your feedback, you can contact us at

the Noun Team. 

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