A Fascination with the Ordinary

How Noun Project came to be, as told by co-founder Edward Boatman.
Sketch of a Motorcycle

Our Story

We’ve had a lot of questions from our supporters about how we got started and where the idea for Noun Project originated.  

A Fascination with the Ordinary……

To introduce myself, my name is Edward and I think a good starting point for this story is my sketchbook. Back when I was studying design in college, I started drawing very simple sketches of seemingly ordinary objects like cranes, trains, trees, etc.  I was fascinated with their complexity and mechanics.  After a while, I had a nice collection of these sketches, and I began to think – what if I had a sketch for every single object in the world?  Now that would be great!  I also started referring to these sketches as “nouns”, after all the drawings were representing a person, place or thing, and I loved the simplicity behind the concept of a “noun.”  I even went as far as to design and draw a space where other artists could come and contribute to the project.  But like for so many other people, life got in the way of my idea and nothing came of it.

After graduating from college I started working at an architecture firm.  While there I began to notice a lack of good resources to quickly and effortlessly find free high quality symbols/icons for my presentations.  I started to think again about my old noun idea and thought what if instead of sketches we collected every single noun-symbol and placed it on one easy to use website. I thought people could really find that valuable.  Just like the first time though life got in the way of the idea and nothing materialized.  However, during the recession, I suddenly found myself laid off with a new-found surplus of time on my hands.  I convinced my wife Sofya (the business brains behind the scenes) to help me turn this noun-idea into an actual project.

We knew we needed a great website so we partnered with my old friend Scott Thomas and his design studio, Simple Honest Work.  Scott and his team helped shape the idea and before long we were talking about sharing an international visual language, which led us to the beautiful simple site you see today.

We’re excited about all the support we’ve received and look forward to what lies ahead!

Railroad Cars
More Machines
Space where other artists could come draw and contribute to the project
Noun Project Team
Noun Project Team

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