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When it comes to technology, the user interface or UI is every little thing developed into an information device with which a person can communicate. This includes the monitor, computer keys, mouse, light pen, desktop, lit-up characters, and help messages. It’s also the reason behind why an app or a site encourages interaction and how the device responds to it. In simple words, they are the symbols that you recognize, even without a thought, to complete your daily tasks. They are the road maps you instantly identify — icons you press, characters you click, signs you watch out for numerous times a day when you’re working with a computer or handheld device.

All outstanding interfaces share a number of characteristics. They all have: 

  • Transparency – they avoid ambiguity.
  • Concision – for instant recognition, they are uncluttered and they make sense.
  • Familiarity – the symbols have familial elements connecting them with their purposes.
  • Consistency – they don’t deviate from the pattern.

Because there’s no way to avoid UI, there are a lot of symbols nowadays which people instantly recognize. A two-second flash of an icon can easily transmit the call-to-action response you need to do or the message it wants to convey. Like when you see the Power Button, you immediately think of turning on your device. When you see the Bluetooth icon, you easily think of sharing a file to someone else. When you see the “@” symbol, email addresses instantly pop in your mind. The “trash” icon will make you think of the junk in your Recycle Bin. The thumbs-up symbol will automatically make you think of your Facebook page. To say that there are a lot of UI symbol is an understatement but the great thing about their abundance is they make life easier.

You see them every day. You use them in your daily life. But have you ever thought of why the pause symbol looks like a vertical equality sign or even an electrical socket? Why the symbol “@” is read as “at”? Why does the USB symbol resemble a trident? Why is there an outline heart, a solid heart, a solid heart with zero width, a broken heart, and a broken heart with zero width? Same goes with the solid star and outlined star symbols.

These UI icons and symbols all have stories to tell – not just with their purposes but with how they’ve become the icons and symbols that they’re now. Here are the origins of ten of the most common UI symbols you should know.

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Posted by Igor Ovsyannykov

I'm a digital nomad and entrepreneur bouncing around South East Asia. When I'm not working here, I'm out taking photos or writing travel articles for Nipananlifestyle.com. Follow me on Instagram: @igorovsyannykov

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