April 8th, 2014


If you’re a contributor to The Noun Project you may have noticed a new activity icon in the top navigation bar of the website. Now whenever a community member downloads or purchases one of your icons, the activity icon will appear red. If you click into the activity feed, it will show you a chronological list of all the activity effecting your content. 

We hope this simple feature gives you a sense of all the people interacting with your beautiful creations. As with any of our new feature releases, please email info@thenounproject.com or tweet to us @nounproject with any feedback or questions. 


The Noun Team

March 25th, 2014

Designer-Developer Ellom Quist on Adinkra Symbols

The search for inspiration can take us from experimental books and ancient music to deep space and microbiology when all we needed to do was look around us. After going on a long journey to find inspiration, designer and developer Ellom Quist ended up where he began as a young boy: Ghana, Africa.  In this guest post he tells us about how came to recreate Adinkra Symbols.

Over the past few months I’ve found myself gawking at an amazing number of creative icon design projects, be it on breaks at my agency where I am a front-end developer & designer or during my spare time at home. The works I’ve experienced, such as the Japanese Prefecture Icons by Josue Herrera Feeney, icons by P.J. Onori and Eugene Artsebasov’s work, gave me the desire to contribute to the design community. I really could not decide on how, when and what I wanted to contribute, though.

In roughly the same span of time I read a lot - anything from old prose, magazines and business books - hoping to find inspiration. I constantly leafed through Domus (Italian Edition) a magazine about architecture, design, products and art. A friend recommended Rework by Jason Fried, and I probably read it a dozen times. The latter has several concepts and ideas I’ve come to hold dear. For example, “Inspiration is a now thing. If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work.”

The book refers to inspiration as something magical that motivates and multiplies productivity, however it doesn’t wait for you.

Although this book is not specific to design it made a huge impact and spurred me on to start designing all the icons I had thought of and avoid procrastinating. My desire to create something I considered useful finally turned into inspiration. I realized I had a thousand and one icons I could do.

I decided to recreate Adinkra Cultural Symbols in vector form using geometric shapes wherever possible, as the originals are all hand drawn. These symbols have fascinated me for a very long time. I’ve wondered who the original artists were, why they chose the forms they used and how people understood them. If I existed in those times and saw these symbols how would I know what they meant - were the meanings taught to people in a formal setting or passed on by word of mouth?

The symbols are traditional drawings, originally created by The Akan of Ghana and The Gyaman of Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa since the early 1800’s. The symbols are a representation of distinct philosophies, proverbs, beliefs and history. Adinkra symbols are used to visually communicate evocative messages that represent wisdom; norms, culture and ideals entrenched in the Ghanaian society.


- Fearlessness -

I’ve known about these symbols since childhood. They’ve been used in paintings, carvings, jewelery and for various esthetic purposes. As designer, I’ve used a handful of them in designing swatches for the manufacture of fabrics.

As a student in Ghana, I formally learned about a few of the symbols in History class in Grade 3. I was taught more them in my Grade 8 Social Studies class. I got a better understanding of the symbols and their concepts at that point.  The symbols convey messages I think everyone should know about. Mainly because I do appreciate the power of symbols as a language to convey simple and complex information.

My task was to redo these symbols in vector forms. Sixty-four icons are currently complete in phase one of this project. Additional research shows there are more than a hundred. I’ve got my work cut out for me. Work has begun on phase two as I hope to recreate every Adinkra symbol I can find. I expect to Travel to Ghana soon and hope to find a lot more in addition to what I’ve found through past research.

I stuck with a pretty simple design process by setting 3 guidelines:

  1. Use geometric shapes

  2. No Tracing

  3. Use the Pen tool only when necessary


The pathfinder tool was a great asset in Illustrator for my purposes. Uniting, subtracting, trimming and dividing shapes allowed me to work fast and reproduce the symbols to my liking.

I tried and failed to abide by these guidelines when working on some of the symbols. I could not use geometric shapes when creating the Fearlessness icon, for instance. I sketched the image and traced the image into Illustrator. I spent a few hours with the pen tool creating that symbol. Most of the other symbols I created with geometric shapes and required no initial sketches or tracing into illustrator.

My goal is to expose these symbols to as many people as possible. The Noun Project helps me do just that. In addition, I’ve developed a website that tries to help with pronouncing the traditional names of the symbols and translate their meanings as best as I could. Thanks to everyone who helped and supported this project, especially Josh, Alyssa and Adu.

Expect more Adinkra symbols on The Noun Project.

You can see and download the Adinkra symbols on Ellom’s Noun Project profile page.

March 24th, 2014

Introducing Icon Kits!


Organizing the world’s visual language just got a little easier thanks to a new feature called “kits.” Kits enable you to organize your favorite icons into collections that are displayed on your dashboard page.  All Noun Project users are now able to create their collection of personal favorites. Premium account subscribers get the additional benefit of creating multiple collections around themes, projects, or clients.

As our visual language grows, we want to make it easier for you to find and organize your favorite icons, whether it’s for a specific client or just for inspiration. To add an icon to a kit, simply hover over the icon and select the suitcase icon in the tooltip.  You can either add to your existing kits, or create new kits.  Kits are available for quick access from your user dashboard.  You can also rename the icons in your kits for quicker, personalized access.


We’ve also added the ability to “lock” a kit. This is especially valuable for organizations with multiple NounProject users. A Kit can be created and then locked to help keep visual assets streamlined for different projects or clients. 

We are always striving to make The Noun Project better, If you have any ideas on how to improve this feature or our platform please email info@thenounproject.com.


The Noun Team

February 7th, 2014

Introducing the Cards Against Humanity Icon Collection


Cards Against Humanity is a card game that embraces awkwardness and abandons civility. The game is a delightfully depraved version of Apples To Apples that the company describes as a “party game for horrible people.” As avid players, The Noun Project team is happy to be counted among these horrible people. Recently, the Cards Against Humanity designer, Emily Haasch, made some icons based on the game’s cards. We spoke with Emily to learn more about how this icon collection came to be and learn about the relationship between design and games.

The Noun Project: Thanks for meeting up with us, Emily. To start, describe the Cards Against Humanity for the people who don’t know about it.

Cards Against Humanity: Cards Against Humanity was created by eight friends from high school for a New Year’s party. It was a big hit with their friends, so they created a site where people could download and print the card game for free. In 2011, they crowdfunded a professional quality version of the game through Kickstarter. Since then, we’ve released a few expansion packs. We’re also really involved in the gaming community. We partner with other game designers and support their projects, like Werewolf, Samari Gunn and Ridiculous Fishing. And, part of our office is a co-working space where we rent desks to all creative friends of ours, including a photographer, some writers, illustrators, and other designers.

TNP: What do you look for in games that you’re going to support?

CAH: We look for something that’s unique. But, we also want something that’s playable and can appeal to many different people. The beauty of Cards Against Humanity is that it’s not really a gamer’s game - it’s something that everyone can play. It’s played by fraternity guys and moms and dads and professional young people - this diversity is very rare in the gaming world.

TNP: From a designer’s perspective, tell us about the overlap you see between design and games.

CAH: There’s a lot of UX involved in games. And, there’s an emphasis on storytelling in games. These things inform the player how they’re going to navigate their way through whatever experience they’re about to have. There are a lot of interactive design principles involved.

TNP: What inspired Cards Against Humanity’s visual design?

CAH: It’s intentionally very minimalist, which is kinda crazy for the gaming world. We refer to the aesthetic as The Swiss Design Dungeon. It was a reaction against the traditional, illustrative style that you see a lot in games. We created something very simple and very direct that lets people use their own sick, twisted imaginations to create the imagery.


TNP: How did the idea come about to create icons based on Cards Against Humanity cards?

CAH: It came about recently when we were thinking of ways to refresh what we were doing. We created these little buttons and patches that we could give away at conventions and I had this idea of putting icons inspired by popular cards on these products. Iconography fits really well within The Swiss Design Dungeon™. As I was designing the icons, I thought, “What if I submit these ridiculous icons to The Noun Project?” I didn’t know if you would accept them because our game is not exactly family friendly.

TNP: We love them. Plus, they’re really expanding the world’s visual language.

CAH: Yeah, it’s true. Now, when somebody out there needs a Falcon With A Cap icon or Jazz Hands icon, they’ll be able to find it.


TNP: How did you go about designing these icons?

CAH: I had to pick ones that were relatively visual. There are some cards that can’t be visualized and others that you just don’t want to visualize because they’re so…sick and depraved. Some of the cards are based off of crazy metaphors and it took a couple sketches to get through. But others, like Blood Squirting Lizard, are pretty direct.


TNP: Did you look for inspiration for the icon style?

CAH: No. I don’t want to be influenced stylistically. I wanted to contribute a different style of iconography to The Noun Project.

TNP: What advice do you have for other folks designing icons?

CAH: Represent something unique in your icons. Go beyond the standard UI set. The world is more than just UI icons. I’ve done this in my own icon designs and it makes things interesting for you. It’s also good to keep your guidelines simple. You want to create something that will make an impact whether it’s very small or very big.

TNP: However hilariously offensive that impact may be. So, what’s next for Cards Against Humanity?

CAH: We’re in the midst of releasing some more expansion packs. I’ll be working on finishing some games for our Tabletop Deathmatch Contest and redesigning the main site. We’re always working on partnerships with other game makers. There will be a lot of interesting stuff coming in the next few months.


You can download icons from Cards Against Humanity Collection at http://www.thenounproject.com/cah

To learn more about Cards Against Humanity, visit http://cardsagainsthumanity.com

More of Emily Haasch’s work can be found on her website, http://www.emilyhaasch.com

February 5th, 2014

Sustainable Food & Farming Iconathon


Agriculture has changed dramatically in the past few decades. Multinational corporations dominate an industry once made up primarily of small farmers, with vertical integration threatening those who remain. The majority of the food we eat is produced by a handful of companies, using technologies designed to increase efficiency, but often at significant cost to public and environmental health. Practices like industrial scale meat production and increased reliance on chemicals in crop production have drawn criticism from environmentalists and animal welfare advocates, as well as from consumers. More and more people recognize the importance of ecological farming practices and are joining the sustainable agriculture movement.

In an effort to help communicate the importance of sustainable farming, we are teaming up with GRACE Communications Foundation and Mother Jones to host an Iconathon around this important topic. The goal is to create a set of universally recognizable icons that will be used to help increase communication around food issues. Sustainable food experts from TEDx Manhattan, GRACE, and Mother Jones will work side by side with volunteers and designers from School of Visual Art's MFA Interaction Design, SVA|NYC program to create these icons. The final icons will be released into the public domain for use in journalism, local/sustainable food marketing, online sustainable food directories and mobile applications. 

The publicly open design workshop will take place on March 2nd at the School of Visual Arts in New York. The Iconathon is free to attend, but space is limited so please RSVP.

Iconathons are organized to engage the general public in the design process and participants include both designers and non-designers. No design or art skills are necessary, all are welcome to participate.

Image by Christopher Paquette

January 28th, 2014

Buzzword Bingo


Icon above: Deep Dive

Every professional realm has their own specific jargon, or buzzwords - terminology that individuals utilize to orchestrate ‘the big picture’ of their strategic endeavor to disrupt the marketplace. Basically, people are trying too hard to sound smart. Whether it be technology, business, or the arts, professionals everywhere are guilty of dropping elaborate interpretations of regular words. These desperate attempts to sound more intelligent have not gone overlooked, resulting in the Buzzword Bingo phenomenon.

Buzzword Bingo (also known as Bullsh*t Bingo) is a bingo-style game where players use bingo cards filled with buzzwords and check them off when they are used in the workplace, during presentations, at business meetings, etc. The game pokes fun at the ever so frequent use of overcomplicated words. To make the game more visually compelling, we iconified some of the most popular buzzwords used in the corporate setting. We also created a buzzword bingo card that can be printed and played at your desk. Enjoy!



Icons shown above: Sweat Equity, Push the Envelope, The Big Picture

This bingo card is available to download for free. Each icon is available to download as public domain on The Noun Project website.

January 24th, 2014

The Cross, The Crescent and The Crystal: Symbols of International Aid






The Red Cross, The Red Crescent and The Red Crystal are different symbols used by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to identify their humanitarian aid organization around the world. Each symbol allows this organization to relate to different cultural and religious contexts.

The Red Cross symbol was introduced in 1863, driven by the need for something highly visible, neutral and “universally recognizable” (1). Roughly a decade later the Red Crescent became an alternative emblem for the organization, which refers to a symbol popular in Muslim culture: the crescent moon and star. This change was made to avoid offending Muslim soldiers who were fighting in the Russo-Turkish War (2). Recently, the Red Crystal was added as another alternative symbol. This religiously neutral emblem will be used in countries “unwilling to adopt the red cross or red crescent” (3). 

1. http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/misc/emblem-history.htm
2. ibid
3. ibid

Image Credits
Flag of the Red Crescent uploaded by Jon Harald Søby from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_the_Red_Cross.svg

Flag of the Red Crescent uploaded by Jon Harald Søby from Image:Red Crescent.png

Flag of the Red Crystal adapted from Image:Red Diamond.png by Denelson83 and Zscout370.

Flag Photograph by PaddingtonX from Flickr

January 15th, 2014

Kilroy: was is here.

The Kilroy symbol emerged anonymously and pervasively along the front lines of World War II. This big nosed character could be spotted on French sidewalks, Italian buildings and German sign posts, always peering out alongside the words “Kilroy was here”. Kilroy’s exact origins are unknown. He has gone by other names like Mr. Chad, Smoe and Foo. He might have been inspired by a sergeant, a shipyard worker, a British cartoonist, an Australian cartoonist…the list of possible originators goes on. We do know Kilroy was popularized by the UK and US military who left the symbol across the warring world as a talisman for their comrades to find.


Photo taken by Sarah Stierch from Flickr

To the Allies, Kilroy was a familiar face - a “super GI” who went wherever they did, from battlefields to stations to encampments. For the Nazi regime, Kilroy was suspicious - a mark left by an elusive, graffiti-happy spy named Kilroy. This one icon signaled comfort and mistrust, alliance and aggression, conviviality and conspiracy.

Newspapers reporting on the war picked up on Kilroy’s trail and shared his image with readers around the world. Soon, the general public was drawing the symbol on suburban sidewalks, etching it into school desks and sneaking it into television shows. Kilroy became the subject of songs, poetry and books. He wasn’t just a super-GI anymore - he was a cultural icon.


By 1945, almost everyone knew the Kilroy symbol but no one knew Kilroy the man. The Lowell Sun credited Sgt. Francis J. Kilroy, Jr. as the originator while The New York Times attributed a shipyard inspector named James J. Kilroy. When a contest was held to find the “real Kilroy”, about forty people entered to win. Claims abounded, but the mystery persisted.

The truth is, there was never a single Kilroy. There were millions. In a time without instant communication, Kilroy was the glue that bound a world divided by war. At the dawn of the atomic age, Kilroy was an unwavering signal of humanity - in all its humor, hubris, compassion and determination. Anyone could draw Kilroy and when they did, they spoke to the world and brought it a little closer together. This wasn’t about one person. It was about all of us.


We’re thrilled that Joe Looney submitted Kilroy to The Noun Project’s collection. Download and leave it on the digital and physical spaces you pass by to speak, as Kilroy always has, to your unknown comrades around the world.  

January 8th, 2014

Meet Erik Wagner

Erik Wagner is easy going. He likes his coffee with cream, his pixels perfected and his designs gridded. We sat down with him one brisk morning in Chicago to learn about his story and how he created the Sporticons Collection.


The Noun Project: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Erik. To start off, tell us about how you became a designer.

Erik Wagner: Well, I graduated from a high school that didn’t offer any art or music classes. But, I was always interested in art, so I was always doing my own thing, like painting, drawing or sculpting. When it came time to go to college, I only applied to art schools. I was very interested in drawing and, originally, I wanted to study illustration but my dad wasn’t so keen on the idea. So, to appease him I started taking graphic design classes. It was an awesome accident because I fell in love with it.

TNP: How has your interest in illustration influenced your iconography?

EW: With illustration, it’s very much about hand craft. With iconography, I wanted to go in the opposite direction. Illustration inspired me to make the the digital nature of my icons much more pronounced. So, for Sporticons I created designs that were very obviously made on a computer.


TNP: How did you get interested in iconography?

EW: It started with Hlvticons. They were done in a new way that was inspiring to me. Like Helvetica, which I love and even have a tattoo of, these icons were strong and had a great contrast between hard and soft angles.

TNP: We’re always amazed by how many different visual interpretations there can be of a single object or idea. The degree of an angle can change the whole tone of an icon.

EW: I imagine that you have a tendency to look objects in a different way after working so closely with icons.

TNP: Definitely. We’ll see something in the world and immediately start picking out what features are most iconic about it - the things that the icon will emphasize. What was your process like for creating Sporticons?

EW: I’ve played soccer my whole life and I wanted to bring together my two passions: athleticism and design. Once I had this concept, I set up my stroke weight and my grid and just started. Over the course of a couple weekends, I completed the set.


TNP: It’s a great set. We’re glad to have it in the collection. Now, how did you start using The Noun Project?

EW: I started using The Noun Project in 2010, right when it started. For me, it’s a visual thesaurus that I use for inspiration to find different viewpoints. My design process starts with discovery, so I’ll use The Noun Project to see different perspectives on a word or image. I’ll saturate my notebook with as many words and sketches as possible. This helps me find things I’ve never thought about before and it sparks a great design concept.

TNP: Well, now you’re helping other people find new viewpoints on sports. What else are you working on these days?

EW: A few friends and I started a design collective called The Letter Society. Each month, one person creates a challenge for the other designers and then we share our work at the end. The first challenge was to create a set of twelve icons (that was my Challenge) and the second was to design a drop cap in honor of Jessica Hische. The most recently completed challenge was to redesign a bill of USD currency. You should definitely check them out. Everyone’s work is great.

TNP: How did The Letter Society start?

EW: Well, in order to maintain sanity you need to keep working on personal projects otherwise design becomes a chore. The Letter Society is a way to bring design outside of labor and make it more fun and something that is still very much our own - without anyone to report to.

You can download the Sporticons Collection on The Noun Project.
To see more of Erik’s work, check out his website.

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