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World of Icons

By 20. June 2020December 8th, 2020No Comments


World of Icons


Icons, symbols, pictograms – graphically abstracted information is encountered in all situations in life. In technical communication, we ourselves like to use them frequently. However, this extensively standardized field of expertise does not always offer a symbol for immediate use. Either it is not up to date or is not recognized by the users with its intended information. This article gives an overview of practically applicable information from national and international standards of symbols and, above all, of their systematic and standards-based extension.

A graphic symbol is defined as a visually perceptible structure for the language-independent communication of information. Graphic symbols are used on equipment for a wide range of applications. The understanding of such symbols can be improved by a uniform design. This is especially important when symbol families are used in one place or on similar devices. Good design helps to ensure the legibility of symbols when they are scaled down for use. Thus, there is a need to standardize the basic principles for the design of graphic symbols to ensure visual clarity, maintain uniformity and thereby improve recognizability.

The following standards and their implementation should be observed:

  • ISO 7000, Graphical symbols on equipment,
    Index and overview
  • IEC 80416-1 General principles for graphical symbols on equipment,
    Design of graphic symbols
  • ISO 80416-2 General principles for graphic symbols on equipment,
    Form and use of arrows
  • IEC 80416-3 General principles for graphical symbols on equipment,
    Guide to the use of graphic symbols
  • ISO 80416-4 General principles for graphic symbols on equipment,
    Supplementary guide to customizing graphical icons for use on screens and displays (icons)
  • ISO 3864-1 Graphical symbols Safety colors and safety signs,
    Design basics for safety signs and safety markings
  • ISO 3864-2 Graphical symbols Safety colors and safety signs,
    Design basics for safety signs for application on products
  • ISO 3864-3 Graphical symbols Safety colors and safety signs,
    Design basics for safety signs for application in safety signs
Standards as a basis
ISO 7000

This standard is a collection of graphic symbols from a variety of standards and can thus be used as a reference book for the selection, application and extension of symbols. The standard contains the symbol original, a symbol number, the German and English title and the source standard.

IEC 80416-1

This standard regulates the design principles of symbol originals. In addition to the basic figure, the following design rules are relevant

  • Simplicity
    (to enable recognizability and reproducibility)
  • Distinctness
    (clear differentiation from other symbols with which it could be used together)
  • Interpretability
    (self-explanatory or easy to learn)
  • Producibility
    (can be produced with the usual production and reproduction processes)

Basic form from EN 80416-1 with symbol

ISO 80416-2

This standard regulates the general principles and shapes for arrows used to mark various elements, forces, functions or dimensions.

  • Basic arrow shapes
  • Direction of movement
  • Movement type
  • Speed and acceleration
  • Combination of function and power
IEC 80416-3

This standard regulates the application of graphic symbols on equipment in order to maintain recognizability and a uniform design in use. It defines the allowed range of modifications of symbol originals, which are necessary for practical application on devices during reproduction.

  • Size
  • Line width
  • Rounded corners
  • Filled areas
  • Interruption of crossing lines
  • Negation
  • Arrows
  • Application dependent position
  • Application of colors
Implementing standards

When implementing the standards in a vector illustration software, the following points must be observed:

  • Basic form with its grid and elements
  • Line thicknesses
  • Lines or areas
  • Prevention of hairlines even with strong reductions
  • Color space
  • Formats
  • Administration
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