The Noun Project recently asked me to write a short article on my inspiration and working process for Pocket Pictograms. Here’s it is…
For our latest blog post, graphic designer Ed Harrison explains his ongoing, interactive project Pocket Pictograms. Ed happens to be the brother of another extraordinary icon designer - Joe Harrison. I guess great design runs in the family!
Guest post by Noun Project contributor Ed Harrison.
One of Dieter Rams’ ten design principles is ‘Good Design Is as Little Design as Possible’ - less is better because it concentrates on the essentials. I have always been inspired by pure and simple design which follows this rule. A great example of this is Isotype’s symbol system, which was developed by Otto Neurath to explain and illustrate social and economic issues to the general public in the 1920’s. I distinctly remember the first time I came across Isotype in an exhibition I went to as a student. I was in awe! The prints were stunning and the precision of the original lino-cuts was incredible. It all looked so contemporary - I couldn’t believe the work on display was produced almost a hundred years ago. The design was way ahead of its time - simply timeless. Ever since that exhibition I have had a fascination with visual signs and iconography, which feed into my graphic design work.
'Pocket Pictograms' is a pro bono project that I independently created along side my commercial design work. It is an icon set based on the possessions that people carry with them in day-to-day life. You can learn a lot about someone's lifestyle just from these pocket possessions - someone's profession, culture, age, and hobbies can all be reflected. My objective was to produce a suite of well designed icons to represent these. I wanted the icon suite to have a distinctive look and feel. Experimenting with symbol size and stroke thickness led me to develop a simple yet playful 'Pocket Pictogram' style. This gave me a set of baseline rules to follow so I could maintain a consistent aesthetic and 'personality' for the icons.
As the collection grew I became eager to put the icons into application, both on-screen and in print. As a short mini-project I had a set of business cards printed – each with a large icon on one side and my contact details with three smaller supporting icons on the other. The printers did a great job and the icons came out very sharp, even at the smaller size. I then began thinking about how I could showcase the icon set online in a creative format. I developed a responsive microsite that pulls each pictogram out of a pocket as users scroll down the page. I also built in a link that enables people to download the pictograms at the click of a button.
Since starting this project I have found myself observing everyday objects in a different light - I am constantly drawing out ideas for potential icons on the move in my sketchbook. Having the Noun Project as a platform to showcase my iconography definitely gives an added incentive to expand the collection. So I guess I see this as an open project that I can build upon over time. I’m planning on creating more scale-based icon sets based on the design style of my Pocket Pictograms. Backpack Pictograms maybe… Watch this space!