Graphics and Semantics: The Relationship between What Is Seen and What Is Meant in Icon Design

  • Sarah Isherwood
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 5639)


Visual icons can be considered as a means for designers to convey messages to end-users via the interface of a computer system. This paper explores the relationship between the users’ interpretation of icons and the meaning that designers intend icons to convey. Focussing on interface users’ understanding of icons, recent research has shown that it is the closeness of the relationship between icon and function, known as the semantic distance, that is of prime importance in determining the success of icon usability. This contrasts with previous research which has suggested that the concreteness, or pictorialness, of icons is the key to good design. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.


Icons Semantic distance Concreteness Semiotics 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Isherwood
    • 1
  1. 1.School of HealthcareUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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