The power of icons and symbols

Sometimes to describe innovation needs to take some back steps in order to analyse consolidated habits, to assert the importance of our instincts, to set the correct attention toward our past.
So a premise is needed; a premise whose double misfortune is to be born in a blog, and therefore to be extremely synthetic and to have the undersigned as author.
For thousands of years, man was exposed to the elements, dangers, all sorts of traps and enemies of any kind, including himself, but he always managed to get off. This has been possible thanks to a mixture of intelligence, common sense and attention toward everything that surrounds us . He tried all along, and often succeeded in taking advantage from events, in transforming the environment and the resources at his disposal on his purposes, albeit not always praiseworthy.
The use of senses, the animal perception of danger applied to the ability to find new solutions, has opened us uncountable ways, it allowed us to reach the level of life we live today.
The progressive increase of social complexity has only partially calmed our instincts, our need to attentively observe all that surrounds us, to seize the signs, to perceive new stimulus, to shape our present and future. Such abilities made us first shamans then popes, physicians, explorers, scientists. Such abilities taught us how to dress, in other words changed us.
We became conscious of us as Homo Sapiens with a history behind, our own history, rich of totem, of altars, of fashions, of new geometries, of imposing architectures, of innovative status, but also of symbols and icons.
Progress has never obstructed the value of symbols, whose significance went hand in hand with culture, democracy, innovation although sometimes anachronistically and even dramatically.
Web we are living today, the new virtual dimension, follows this indelible trace placing icons and symbols on a par, at least on a par with services and contents.
The simplest way to recognize an expert internet user is to verify his knowledge and skills in using symbols. The expert internet user knows that “that” symbol implies “that” service.
The icon, the symbol correlated to the service becomes the service itself, whose success passes also for the liking process, the fondness and the empathy that internet audience succeed in showing towards what it believes to represent its own image.
The first example is that of feed RSS, the subscription service, practically always free where news and contents on line come to be available directly on your own browser (or on a feed reader). The orange icon, symbol of the feed rss service, draws immediately my attention, it pushes me to click, to select the feed, to evaluate my true interest for that type of information.
Another example of a widely diffused symbol on web is the “I like“, true social brand, synonymous of “easy”, “immediate”, “sharable”, “attractive”, an outright global-popular phenomenon. It is not a coincidence if one of the most web popular symbols evokes a symbol and an ancient use, that of the gladiatorial judgment in the ancient Rome, this testifies how the use of icons and symbols is strongly deep-rooted in our history.
A small note taken from Wikipedia: the upward thumb (or horizontal), suggested the gladiator’s death and not his survival, over time we transformed an extremely negative symbol in a positive one, so symbols evolve and adapt themselves to the times.
Crossing a forest of symbols in which the birdie of Twitter chippers, we find useful the arrows that allow us to continue (our navigation), a lens that allows us to search better, an “X”  to get away from there, an envelope to write to a friend, a small printer to get an useless copy on paper, a gear to refine our research, a Shopping cart to buy what we like and so on….
Allow me to set two other important examples: the Apps, applications for mobile smartphone and tablet, are symbols themselves, you can use them by selecting the frame with their symbol; the application of a social contribution toward the network of friends or colleagues takes place by selecting the symbol corresponding to social network, a true global logo. In all these cases, it is a matter of symbols turned to be habitual for the internet user, easy to select, fast to use, coherent in behaviors, often similar to other symbols or real objects used in the past.
There is nothing new to be learned, just keep counting on our senses, our sensibility and intelligence so as to recognize and use the new services. Once more we find ourselves into the jungle, into a virtual one, and all we have to do is consign ourselves to our observation capacity to come out at our best.
I conclude this brief article with two suggestions. The first one is for users: let yourselves capture by symbols, colors, images and forms, just click and experience. The second one is for the web designers: do not underestimate the power and primordial charm of symbols. I have personally managed portals where the substitution of textual contents with symbols has determined unthinkable increases in terms of access and use of services.  I also invite you to not underestimate the application of simple solutions, do not hesitate to use colors on your blog or site or portal, leave the right space to images, do not use only the description, furthermore if it is a large one, this cannot be enough for a new web.
In the “virtual world”, the icon represents the most efficient way of a service presentation, the great web audience doesn’t see or expect something else.
A good content and a good service, must be sustained by a symbol, a clear connotative expression of the service itself.
Collaborate and participate, but do not forget to do it using icons and symbols.

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