[Tango-artists] Facing direction of icons

Rodney Dawes dobey at novell.com
Mon Jul 17 08:48:29 PDT 2006

On Sun, 2006-07-16 at 22:57 +0100, Daniel Pope wrote:
> The guideline must be that icons face right. Think of menu items with
> icons. The icon is invariably to the left of the menu text. You need the
> icons to face right for the 'flow' to carry from icon to menu text (in
> left-to-right writing systems; it would actually be better to have
> left-facing icons in right-to-left writing systems).

There will always be icons that face different directions. The obvious
example is of arrows. There will always be an icon facing one direction
for "back", and a complimentary icon facing the exact opposite direction
for "forward". Some icons would just look weird, as well. The speaker
icon for the volume control would just look really odd if it were facing
left, instead of right. A microphone icon "facing" the opposite
direction of the speaker icon, also only seems natural. It exemplifies
the flow of data through the system.

> I've tried to find an online reference for graphic design 'flow' to
> justify this but I can't at the moment. I do however hold in my hands
> the very good "Design Basics Index" (ISBN 0-7153-2053-X) which devotes a
> whole chapter to it :)

Icons are about flow, and not about uniformity. If every icon on the
system, simply faced in the same direction, there would be too much
monotony, and the system would seem very boring, and odd. If you're
looking for books to back up suggestions, some examples you might want
to look at for design, would be Feng Shui books. Designing UI and art is
about so much more than simply consistency of style and direction. As
with other things in life, there must be balance.

If anyone can point me to actual user studies which point out users
being confused by the direction of icons, please let me know. I would
love to see such data. :)

-- dobey

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