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How to Make an Editor Swear

Typically, I don’t use salty language. So, if you hear an expletive while I’m editing, I guarantee it’s because of one thing.

Abstraction.

It’s the bane of my copywriting existence and the number one enemy of clarity. What do I mean by abstraction? It’s what happens when someone takes a simple, straightforward message like this:

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.

And writes it in an impersonal, indirect way, like this:

The intention behind the scaling of the incline was the retrieval of a water vessel.
An unexpected descent resulted in the breaking of a crown, with an occurrence of tumbling thereafter.

Sure, it sounds ridiculous in a child’s nursery rhyme. Yet this style is commonplace in corporate, academic, and legal writing. What audience has the mental energy to wade through all that abstraction to get to the real meaning?

This is where I come in, with my brutal red pen and my cussing ways. As I edit, I constantly ask myself:

Who are the main characters? And what are they doing?

I’ll be honest. It’s surprisingly hard to answer these questions when I’m dealing with abstract writing. Still, I figure it’s better for me to find the answers than to force the poor readers to do it. The best would be to write clearly from the start.

So, for the public good and my sanity – and to save my coworkers’ tender ears – I’m going to share two ways to avoid abstract writing. (I learned them from this book. My own copy is dog-eared from use.)

1.  Express the main characters as subjects.
2.  Express their actions as verbs.

It’s as simple as that. Instead of saying, “A solution to the problem was achieved,” you would say, “We solved the problem.” In the second version, the characters and their action are 100% clear. There are, of course, many other tips for writing clearly, and you can read some of them here.

Nonetheless, I believe that these two are the best way to fight our common writing enemy.

And send that $*&@ing abstraction to &*%$!

Visiting One of Spokane’s Oldest Neighborhoods

Been to Hillyard lately? If you haven’t, you’re missing out.

Not that I’m judging. Until last year, I didn’t even know that Hillyard existed. Apparently, I’m still a Spokane newbie. When I heard about a live jazz show at a place called The Bad Seed in Hillyard, I asked my husband, “Where’s that?”

(East of downtown and north of the river – in case you didn’t already know.)

I’ve since learned that Hillyard has a reputation as one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods. But it also has a fascinating history and some darn cool architecture too.

The Bad Seed itself is a great example.

The Bad Seed

This Tex-Mex restaurant and bar lives in the former Hillyard Public Library, a space that served the community for over 50 years. The Bad Seed balances a hip, eclectic atmosphere with the historical integrity of the 1929 brick building.

In a lighthearted nod to the building’s “storied” past, there are vintage books on the built-in shelf over the entry and – I believe – a set of encyclopedias below the beer taps. Although, based on the paintings in the bar area, the space isn’t quite as family friendly as it was in its former life.

With its tasty street tacos and solid room acoustics, The Bad Seed is the perfect spot to enjoy live music. There’s jazz on the second and fourth Monday of every month, starting at 7 p.m.*

I’ve been there. And trust me, you won’t want to miss that either.

——————–

*To find out who’s playing, visit Imagine Jazz Spokane.

Seeing the World a Little Differently

My son has a love-hate relationship with puzzles. He loves figuring out how the pieces interlock to create a bigger picture, but he hates that he can only tell those pieces apart by their shapes – not their colors.

That’s because he’s colorblind.

It’s a common condition. According to the National Eye Institute, some form of color blindness affects 1 in 12 males and 1 in 200 females.

Yet, contrary to what my son’s classmates believe, most people who are colorblind do see color. They just perceive color balance differently – sometimes much differently. My son, for example, has red-green color blindness, the most common form. He confuses purple with blue, brown with green, and pink with gray. For him, it’s almost as if the color red doesn’t exist.

He simply sees the world a little differently.

A few weeks ago, I started looking for puzzles made specifically for people with color blindness. I was surprised and delighted to find several options by a graphic designer on Zazzle. Here’s the one I ordered:

colorblind puzzle

You may notice that the designer used several techniques to make the illustration more accessible to people who are colorblind: high contrast, a limited color palette, and a variety of patterns and textures.

The result? It was my son’s first love-love experience with a puzzle. And now that I know what to look for, it won’t be his last.

I’ll admit that, while I’m familiar with accessible design, I didn’t really get its impact until I saw my son’s excitement over a simple puzzle. Sure, there are far weightier examples of accessible design. Still, this one made a difference in the life of an 11-year-old kid.

It wasn’t even the puzzle itself that made him the happiest. It was the fact that someone had purposely made a product for people like him.

And all it took was a designer who was willing to see the world a little differently too.

—————

This animation video by Yoav Brill offers an artist’s perspective on the experience of color blindness.

A Mascot You’ll Never Forget

What’s the most unusual sports mascot you’ve ever seen? For me, it’s hands down the pierogi.

Oh? You’re not familiar with this mighty mascot? Allow me to introduce you.

A pierogi is a tasty Polish dumpling with a sweet or savory filling. A pierogi mascot is a poor soul in a stifling plush costume who works summer days at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. During every home game, the Pirates Pierogis – and yes, there are several – take the field at the bottom of the fifth inning.

Around the same time many kids start losing interest in the game.

Jalapeno Hannah, Oliver Onion, and the rest of the gang race around the bases in comical fashion, while fans cheer for their favorite filling. (Mine is Sauerkraut Saul – in case you’re wondering.) Throughout the race, the crowd stays surprisingly engaged and invested in the outcome.

Here’s what’s so great about the pierogis. Not only do they provide lighthearted entertainment during America’s favorite pastime, but they’re distinctly Pittsburgh. Historically, the city’s steel industry attracted large numbers of Polish immigrants, and their culture and descendants have shaped the region for generations. To this day, Polish Hill in Pittsburgh remains a well-established neighborhood.

Sure, the pierogi has become a bit of a caricature, but it’s still the most well-known and beloved dish in Western Pennsylvania. That makes it an ideal symbol for Pirates’ baseball. After all, the purpose of a mascot is to express the identity and spirit of a school, team, or organization through a living character – one that’s unique and memorable.

The pierogi easily qualifies as both.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that the pierogis are unofficial mascots. Technically, they’re known as “in-game entertainment.” The official mascot of the Pirates is a parrot. Aye, matey, ‘tis logical. But also, predictably boring. Because, while a parrot may be cute, it’s rarely memorable.

Giant slaphappy dumplings that race around a baseball diamond, tripping all over each other, on the other hand, are impossible to forget.

The Power of One

Have you ever tried a dish that tasted nothing like its main ingredient?

It happened to me once at an expensive restaurant on the Seattle waterfront. I ordered halibut, my favorite seafood, and the pan-seared fillet came heavily topped with a spicy fruit salsa. Rather than enhance the delicate flavor of the fish, the bold spices and tangy sweetness overwhelmed it. I got a mouthful of heat and fruit, but I could hardly taste halibut at all.

It was a meal that disappointed my taste buds and my wallet, so I never returned to that restaurant.

Marketing communication often suffers the same fate. We try to season our messaging with so many clever and complex flavors that we obscure the main point. The result is communication that’s confusing, distracting, or even overwhelming – and that can cause an audience to tune out.

Recently, I saw an interview with Francis Ford Coppola, the renowned filmmaker. In it, he shared how each of his films is intentionally driven by a single theme or idea:

“I always try to have a word that is the core of what the movie is really about, in one word. For Godfather, the key word is succession. That’s what the movie is about. Apocalypse Now, morality. The Conversation, privacy.”

Coppola’s films are built around singular themes, yet the plots are still complex and engaging, and the characters are multi-dimensional. So, while simplicity may seem basic or even unsophisticated, it’s at the heart of great storytelling – and great communication.

A clear message starts and ends with a single, driving idea.

A couple summers ago, I ordered my favorite seafood yet again, this time at an unassuming restaurant along the wharf of Juneau, Alaska. The pan-seared halibut was cleanly flavored with an herb rub, one that enhanced the mild taste and freshness of the fish. It was the simplest halibut dish I’ve ever tasted.

And, frankly, it was the best one too.

Does Print Still Matter in the Digital Age?

print in the digital age

Would you expect someone from the most technologically immersed generation in history to pay any attention to print? No, me neither. And here’s why.

My youngest kid is Gen Alpha – the generation born between 2010 and 2024 – and not only is he tech savvy, but he’s also adept at integrating digital experiences into his real life.

For example, last year he discovered claw machines – those deceptively simple arcade games that are darn near impossible to win. He learned about the game, not from seeing a one in real life, but from watching a gamer play it on YouTube Kids.

Now, my son uses claw machine apps, like Clawee and Arcademy. If you aren’t familiar with these apps, they connect players via tablet or smartphone to real claw machines in a remote location. Any prizes that players win are shipped directly to them. Each attempt is videoed for instant replay, so players can share videos with family and friends.

I may or may not be subjected to said videos on a weekly basis.

So, given my son’s penchant for digital experiences, imagine my surprise when I found him on the living room couch last month, engrossed in a toy catalog that came in the mail. There he sat, for over half an hour, pointing out gift ideas and circling items he’s saving money to buy.

Isn’t it curious that the same kid who scrolls past digital ads without pausing will spend half an hour flipping through a glossy, old-school catalog? And then keep it in his room for weeks afterward? I understand the appeal of a toy catalog. After all, I grew up in the Sears catalog generation. But the allure of print advertising with a kid today seems surprising.

It says something about the enduring value of tactile experiences in an increasingly virtual age.

And it reveals that perhaps – just perhaps – in our oversaturated digital world, the old-fashioned print piece has now become a novel way to grab an audience.

Wayfinding: A Graphic Design Superpower

I’m convinced that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who are navigationally gifted, and those who aren’t. Alas, I land squarely in the latter group. Which means that I’m just lucky to find my way out of a parking lot.

Fortunately for me and others like me, graphic designers possess a superpower that can save people from getting lost in a confusing world. Their power lies not just in the ability to make a space easier to navigate, but to make it more engaging as well.

It’s a superpower called wayfinding, and you can see it at work here:

At the newly renovated Shadle Park Library, wayfinding shows up in everything from the outdoor signs and vinyl studio letters to the checkout kiosks and bookshelf labels. Each design solution helps library visitors seamlessly navigate the space and find exactly what they’re looking for.

But wayfinding offers more than just utility. It delivers impact too. Did you notice the graphic pattern in the privacy vinyl on the library’s glass walls? This one-of-a-kind pattern was inspired by a street map of the post-war Shadle Park neighborhood. It subtly adds interest and promotes a sense of space that’s unique to this Spokane community.

Wayfinding may not seem obvious at first, but once you start looking for it, you’ll discover it in the spaces you navigate every day.

And – whether you’re navigationally challenged or not – you’ll have a graphic designer to thank for that help.

Warning: Don’t Try This at Home

Some things are better left to the professionals.

Like choosing the right font for, well, just about anything. Except maybe a kid’s birthday party invite. And probably not even then. After all, what 10-year-old deserves to be stigmatized for the rest of fifth grade because Mom thought Curlz was cute?

(Pro Tip: Always be suspicious of a name that replaces the plural “s” with “z.” And if, God forbid, that name has a number in place of a word, run as if your reputation depends on it. Because it does.)

So, who are the professionals when it comes to type? Graphic designers. Because they know what the font they’re doing. These people think – and talk – about typefaces all day long. Trust me, I know. I work with them, which means that I’m forever hearing about font studies and kerning and leading and…the list goes on.

Earlier this week, I asked the helveticka designers what makes a bad font choice. Let me tell you, I was not prepared for just how serious they are about bad fonts. Don’t believe me? This SNL skit from a few years ago is a little closer to reality than satire. It’s worth watching, even if you’ve already seen it.

Aaron Robertson even admitted to me that he’s written a children’s book based on his hatred of Comic Sans. He swears that the language is G-rated, but as it is (yet) unpublished, I can’t guarantee that the book is safe for young readers. I can, however, share the ten fonts that Aaron and the rest of our team find most offensive.

Worst Fonts

While a couple of these should probably be retired for good, most could work under the right circumstances. But it takes a highly trained and experienced designer to recognize such circumstances. Non-experts, like me and maybe you, are wise to avoid them altogether. And stick to using the world’s best font.

Helvetica. Of course.

An Unexpected Christmas Gift

grocery store flowers

The Grinch tried to steal my family’s Christmas this year. But in the end, we were the ones who discovered the true meaning of the day.

It all started when my husband and I decided to spend the holidays with extended family out of town. Knowing we’d be gone for a while, we started to strategically empty our pantry in the days leading up to the trip. Because there’s no point in having a house full of food if no one’s home to eat it.

It seemed like a good plan – until the night before we were scheduled to leave.

Just as my kids had cleared the pantry and were licking the last few crumbs of stale granola bars from their fingers, he struck.

The Grinch. Or, as the weather service calls him, the bomb cyclone. And you know it’s serious weather when the meteorologist uses words like “bomb” and “cyclone” to describe it. In a matter of hours, our holiday plans were buried under a mound of snow and ice.

We had nowhere to go, no family to see, and no food to eat.

I’m not going to lie. For a while, there was no joy in Whoville. My family spent Christmas Eve moping around the house, complaining about the weather, and begrudgingly ordering takeout.

But by Christmas morning, we’d found our holiday spirit.

Four hours (and one long trip to the only supermarket that was open) later, we finally sat down to a lovely, if makeshift, Christmas dinner. And it was wonderful. No one even seemed to mind that the table was decorated with grocery store flowers and the wrapped gifts all came straight from the magazine aisle.

In the end, it turned out to be one of the nicest holidays I can remember. And we learned the very same lesson as the Grinch himself.

Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.

How Embarrassing! The Middle School Minefield

Phoenix class assignment

Getting through middle school is a lot like navigating a minefield. All it takes is one awkward moment – being picked last, leaving your fly down, crying in class – and boom! You’ve triggered an explosion of embarrassment.

Let’s face it. There’s no time in life that’s more awkward than middle school. We’ve got a lot going on during the transition between elementary school and high school…physical changes, mood swings, friend troubles. And, of course, weird smells.

*shudder*

But there is something schools can do to smooth the transition.

Promote school spirit.

According to research, having school spirit boosts students’ confidence in themselves, their school, and their community. It’s also linked to better school involvement and academic performance.

That’s why helveticka is inspired to see the staff of Yasuhara Middle School using their new mascot illustration and logo system to promote school spirit among the student body.

One sixth-grade teacher, for example, assigns a project that combines school spirit with cultural learning. She gives students a sketch of the Phoenix mascot and asks them to fill the outline with words and artwork that express who they are, including their interests and hobbies.

“It’s a way to build school spirit and reinforce the meaning behind it,” she explains. “Sometimes it’s hard for these kids to share things about themselves, but the Phoenix makes it easier.”

In a seventh-grade classroom, students can earn free time for art projects that incorporate the school mascot. The art teacher at Yasuhara has created a Phoenix stencil that students can apply to everything from face painting and pottery painting to tee shirt design.

Even the kids themselves are getting into the school spirit. Students are starting to embrace the “Yas!” cheer, and some of them will greet friends with a cool, “Hey, Yasgirl.”

But, whatever you do, don’t let on that we’ve noticed. Let’s keep this on the down low.

There’s no need to make things any more awkward than they already are.

Phoenix stencil

What’s a Snark Mark?! Quirky Punctuation You’ve Never Seen

perplexing punctuation

Get ready to have your mind blown. I’m about to share five obscure punctuation marks that you’ve always needed in your life but never knew existed.

Let’s jump in.

interrobang
I’ve used this one for years, but I didn’t realize it had a name until recently. The interrobang is a question mark followed by an exclamation point. Or vice versa. It’s used to express disbelief or ask a rhetorical question. The name is a combination of “interrogate” (to question) and “bang” (printers’ lingo for an exclamation point).

Back in the 1960s, typographers experimented with designing a single glyph for the interrobang by superimposing an exclamation point over a question mark. The result is hard to decipher, so I’d stick with the two-mark version. People experimented with lots of things in the sixties. Doesn’t mean it was all genius.

certitude point
The certitude point (AKA conviction point) is an exclamation mark with a hyphen through it. When you use it at the end of a sentence, you’re essentially saying, “End of discussion, capeesh?” If punctuation had a mike drop, this would be it. Use sparingly.

percontation point
Every bit as pompous as it sounds, the percontation point – or reversed question mark – has been mocking people since the 1500’s. Consider it the refined way to punctuate a rhetorical question.

Sadly, in our crude modern world, the percontation point has been replaced by the eye roll emoji. Isn’t it time to return to a more civilized era and use a respectable mark to insult strangers on the internet?

snark mark
The snark mark is simple – it’s a period followed by a tilde. And since the name is self-explanatory, it doesn’t need further explanation, does it? Does it?!

I feel like it doesn’t. Just use it already.

acclimation point
After so much aggressive (and passive-aggressive) punctuation, it’s only right to end with a friendlier mark. The acclimation point appears as two exclamation marks that share the same period – like little punctuation BFFs. It’s a nicer, more approachable way to express excitement. (Because exclamation points aren’t amiable enough already?)

Think of the acclimation point as the exclamation point’s more sensitive cousin. Which might make it the perfect mark for younger generations.

If only they used punctuation.∼

Our Most Expensive Blog Post Yet

They say that every mistake is a learning opportunity in disguise. If that’s true, I once had a doozy of an opportunity. And it came with a hefty price tag.

It all started one night when I was cooking dinner. There I was at the stove, stirring the spaghetti and half listening to a copywriting podcast, when the host dropped an unbelievable offer: a weeklong intensive class on writing sales copy for the unbelievably low price of $97!

Okay, okay. Looking back, the infomercial-style offer should’ve deterred me. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

I signed up. And to be fair, I got what I paid for. I spent every evening the next week, taking copious notes during the online class and applying what I’d learned to my copy. At the end of the week, I had some new ideas and a decent sales letter.

So far, so good.

But here’s where the story took a turn. As the class wrapped up, the teacher made another offer that was hard to refuse: a yearlong master class on copywriting. For only two grand.

If that seems expensive, it’s because it was. I’ll be honest – this guy was a master at manipulative sales writing. He pulled out every trick in the book. As I copywriter, I knew what he was doing. Still, by the third email, I was convinced the class would help me. So, I signed up.

This time, though, regret set in almost immediately. The class turned out to be a patchwork of writing hacks, shortcuts, and sales tricks. Each module offered Mad Lib-style templates and a handful of strategies to manipulate people into spending money.

It felt less like Advanced Copywriting and more like Smarmy Sales Tactics 101.

I didn’t learn much about writing at all. At least not the kind of writing I care to do. But I did learn two things:

First, integrity matters, even in sales writing. Especially in sales writing. Yes, sales copy needs to be engaging and persuasive. But it should also serve its audience with honesty, offering understanding and value instead of gimmicks. Manipulation may get the sale once or even twice, but it won’t build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

Second, there are no shortcuts. Truly great copywriting is a craft, one that takes years to develop and hone. It demands ongoing effort, creativity, and time. It’s not a skill you can hack with a few templates and an online course. The fundamentals of good writing are important because people will judge you by how well you communicate.

In the end, I’m grateful for the career lessons I learned, and I’m happy to pass them along in this post.

But next time, I hope they’ll be a lot cheaper.

Graphic Designers Use Jedi Mind Tricks

Look, I don’t want to freak you out, but graphic designers are hiding something from you.

They secretly tell people where to go and what to do.

Don’t expect them to admit it, of course. They’ll use innocuous words like “signage” or “wayfinding.” But it’s more like mind control. They’re guiding you, and you aren’t even aware of it.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Just visit the newly remodeled Central Library downtown. If you pay close attention, you’ll practically hear the signs and graphics telling you what to do.

“These aren’t the books you’re looking for.”
“You will take the elevator to the third floor.”
“You want to go to the café and rethink your life.”

How do designers pull this off? With design choices so subtle and attractive that you’d never suspect a thing. They’ll use a clean font choice, a consistent color scheme, sophisticated graphics, or – the sneakiest of all – a directory disguised as art, in a place where you’d need it the most but expect it the least.

Like an elevator door.

Central Library elevator door

Graphic designers use all these techniques – and more – to seamlessly guide people through complex spaces. Their work combines beauty and function to welcome us, delight us, and make us feel comfortable. They even help us create mental maps to navigate the space, so we know where we are, where we’re going, and the best way to get from one place to the other.

We follow their guidance without ever giving it a second thought.

The Society for Environmental Graphic Design calls it “spatial problem solving.” Yeah, right. Don’t be fooled. It’s more like the power of the Force.

And graphic designers? They’re Jedi Masters.

How Design Makes the Intangible Tangible

Even if you’re not a fan of jazz, you’ve heard of Miles Davis. His landmark album, “Kind of Blue,” is arguably the greatest jazz record of all time (and one I never tire of playing).

But this post isn’t about that Miles. It’s about someone else who shares his name. An artist who never recorded an album or played a single show, yet still left an indelible mark on the jazz world.

Reid Miles.

This Miles was a graphic designer and art director for Blue Note Records, one of the most respected labels in jazz. From 1956 to 1967, he designed the covers of nearly 500 Blue Note albums, including recordings by the likes of Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Lee Morgan, Sonny Rollins, and countless others.

Miles’ designs were modern, playful, and dynamic. His style was distinctively Swiss (like our namesake, Helvetica), incorporating asymmetry, generous negative space, minimalist shapes, bold typographical elements, and photography. You can see these elements in the cover he designed for Lee Morgan’s popular album, “The Sidewinder.”

The Sidewinder Album Cover

This design took the intangible qualities of the music – trumpeter Lee Morgan’s energy, drive, and precision – and made them tangible. And ultimately, that was good for business.

Because, as marketer Steve Woodruff says, “People buy tangibles.”

It was especially relevant in 1964, the year Morgan’s album released. Buyers had likely never heard the recordings, so they chose the album based on its front cover design and (sometimes) back cover notes.

“Miles made the cover sound like it knew what lay in store for the listener.”
– Felix Cromey, The Cover Art of Blue Note Records

“The Sidewinder” was a massive success. It became Blue Note’s best-selling record and kept the company out of bankruptcy. And Reid Miles’ cover art played a part in that success.

Yet, for all his creative genius, Miles earned a fixed commission of just $50 per album cover. After all, his work with Blue Note was only a weekend side hustle. During the week, he was employed full-time in advertising.

Nonetheless, Miles’ designs captured not only the unique sound of each artist and recording, but also the look and brand identity of the Blue Note label itself. He managed to make the intangible tangible.

To see more of Miles’ album covers, visit the Museum of Modern Art online.

Do Icons Improve User Experience? It Depends.

Which would you find more maddening…

Shrinking your favorite wool-blend sweater because you couldn’t decrypt the hieroglyphics on the label?

Or attaching the legs of your new IKEA chair upside down – despite scrutinizing the illustrations – because you (apparently unwisely) chose to get a degree in writing instead of engineering?

Personally, I think it’s a toss-up. And I may or may not have experienced both.

The point is, in each example, simple graphical elements that were meant to make a task easier complicated it instead. Graphical images – icons, symbols, and illustrations – will either add to or detract from a design. It’s a principle we see not just in the physical world but in the digital world too.

An iconic problem

When it comes to digital design, few elements are more popular than icons. They’re everywhere, from site navigation to application toolbars to product descriptions. Many companies use them for purely aesthetic reasons or to reinforce corporate branding. But they may be missing the real value of the icon.

In digital design, an icon’s purpose is to represent an action or idea in an easy-to-digest way. It’s like a visual shortcut. Unlike laundry symbols or IKEA illustrations, however, icons in the digital world don’t have a physical counterpart. A scissor icon can represent the task of cutting text, and an envelope icon can represent the concept of email. The best icons will add to a design, be easily recognized and universally understood, and ultimately make life easier for the user.

The problem is that it’s hard to convey complex ideas or tasks with simple graphical images. As a result, confusing icons clutter the digital landscape – distracting and even frustrating the end user. Icons are often subjective and context-dependent, conveying different meanings to different users in different situations. Take the simple arrow icon, for example. It could have multiple meanings: undo, back, reply, share, or forward. How does the user know which meaning to apply?

But icons don’t have to be boring, confusing, or frustrating. The right ones can be aesthetically pleasing and improve user experience. It all comes down to good design.

Some practical solutions

Aaron Robertson, one of our senior designers, believes that iconography has two main purposes in the digital space. He offers design tips for both.

(1) Action or Navigation

“These icons should be simple, clear, and concise. In this case, it’s all about universal recognition. The goal is to help someone find their way or complete a task.” Aaron says. “A great example is the shopping cart icon on a commerce website. It’s basic, and everyone knows what it means.”

“Here’s where it also helps to add labels or alt text to your icons,” he adds.

(2) Concepts

“It’s different when you’re talking about ideas or product features. That’s where the icons can be more unique, creative, and expressive,” Aaron explains.

“These kinds of icons work well with explanations, infographics, and statistics. They should be interesting, engaging to readers, and summarize the concept well. An example might be an umbrella icon that represents the concept of insurance because it protects you from risk like an umbrella protects you from rain.”

To learn more about iconography and how graphic designers help organizations create great icons, check out AIGA’s universal transportation symbols.

To avoid shrinking your favorite sweater, see Tide’s explanation of the laundry symbols. And to assemble your IKEA furniture, just consult directly with the National Society of Professional Engineers.

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