Okay, I’m a little late to the party on this one. On December 13th Mary Beth Raven posted about view icon changes in Notes 8 in her post New View Icons — Take a Look!. For the most part, the changes simply reflect the new UI and color scheme of Notes 8. On the surface this is a good thing since we want all aspects of Notes 8 to blend well. However, there are some serious flaws in the proposed modifications.
Below are the new icons followed by the current icons:
My first reaction to this was “nice job”. I like the soft colors and improved detail. But as I began to compare icon for icon I became increasingly disturbed. Starting from the top…
#9 Why change the lightening bolt to a sun? We already had a sun with icon #148 and it is still there in the new set, so why two? From what I have seen, ND8 still uses the lightening bolt icon to represent network communications, so why are we losing it from the view icons? But this goes beyond mere UI communications.
#10 The “reminder” finger-with-string icon is replaced by an alarm clock. I guess I’m okay with this one. It’s on the fringe of being a communications issue just like #9 because an alarm clock does not represent a reminder quite the same, but I can accept the possibility that a finger-and-string may not translate internationally.
#24 The old icon was red and the new one yellow. I’m not sure what this icon is supposed to be and have therefore never used it, but a color change from red to yellow could be significant to some application UI.
#33 The “refresh” icon has changed from the circle arrow to an arrow pointing right with a tail that partially wraps around. This looks too much like a “forward mail” icon. I have know of many applications that have used the refresh icon to call out attention to documents that need to or have been recently modified.
#35 Changing the color of the check mark from red to green is very bad because it changes the meaning.
#38 And yet another color change from red to yellow. Yellow simply does not convey the same message to the end user as red.
#39 The old icon was a document with a question mark and the new one looks like — maybe? — a calendar document that has been replied to. Either way, we have lost the question mark and therefore the entire message that this icon once conveyed.
#40 The exclamation point in this document changed from blue to yellow. I’m in favor of this change and pointing it out as a good modification. Even though we have a color change, I don’t believe that blue conveys any significant message while the exclamation point surely does as does the color yellow. By changing the exclamation point from blue to yellow only proves to underscore the significance of the icon. Good one!
#44 While the telephone icon did change color from yellow to blue, I’m not concerned about that with this icon simply because we never had a red or green phone, so I doubt that color is used to convey any message here. Of significance is that the phone no longer looks like a phone. It is interesting because while most of the new icon set received a more detailed icon, this one lost detail and no longer really looks like a phone.
#61 The old key icon has been changed to a padlock. But why? #62 was a padlock in the old set and is still a padlock in the new set. Once again the meaning of the icon has changed without any good need to do so since there are now two padlock icons.
#63 Changed from a calendar to balloons. Okay, fine, it represents an event, but it does not represent an event as clearly as the calendar icon.
#64 A clock icon has been changed to an hourglass icon. Again, this is a perfectly understandable change except that now there are two hourglass icons (#79)! And the #79 icon looks better, so why change #64? Why add identical icons when they don’t convey different meanings. For example, a red hour glass means time’s almost up and a green one means there is still plenty of time left. But these are blueish and grayish hourglass icons, therefore the color has no meaning and in the end it only serves to give developers less of a choice than with the old icon set.
#80 The international prohibitory sign (circle with a line through it) changed from red to a muted orange. This is another example of a change that I am okay with because the icon itself is so meaningful that the color is less important.
#81 And here we lose our red X to yet a second prohibitory sign, but this one is blue. Again, it loses the meaning that the red X had.
#82 A green check mark now is a green check mark in a box. Okay, fine, except what is the purpose of #83?
#83 The thumbs up has been replaced with a green check mark (no box). Why?
#84 Thumbs down has been replaced with an orange-ish X. So that’s were my X went! Why did it move? Was it not happy in spot #81? All my code seems to expect it there, doesn’t IBM’s code expect the same, or did the developers sheepishly agree to these changes without informing the design team what a big deal this would be?
#85, 86, & 87 A happy face, neutral face, and sad face respectively on both icon sets. Old icon set was yellow, white and blue, and the new set it yellow, green, and blue respectively. This is fine and they look better, but if the colors are going to be changed shouldn’t the happy face be green to indicate “good” or “go”, the neutral face yellow, and sad face red?
#88, 89, & 90 The thermometers are all still in place, but have changed from red to blue. I have never seen a blue thermometer before (might be cool though) and maybe this change is mostly insignificant, however I can’t help but to think that the color change has caused it — especially #90 — to loose all impact.
#98 The red diamond has changed to a yellow diamond. Again, the conveyed message has changed.
#101, 102, 103, & 104 The red arrows have been changed to yellow arrows. Need I say more?
#114 A green circle has changed to a yellow circle. Sigh.
#115 Red circle has gone blue.
#116 Dark purple circle is now dark yellow. Maybe purple doesn’t convey anything, but why two yellow circles?
#118 A dark blue circle is now gray. Okay, this isn’t bad because on the old set we had two blue circles. This time we eliminated one and got a new color.
#119 Purple circle is now green. Why did green move? This is frustrating!
#131 A red envelope icon is now white with an orange exclamation point. This is a good change. Even with the color change from red to white, the message of importance is still being conveyed with the exclamation point.
#133 An opened yellow envelope is now what appears to be a new calendar entry icon. You gotta be kidding me!
#134 An opened red envelope is now an opened yellow envelope. Why did so many icons simply move to new locations?
#147 The red umbrella changed to a green umbrella. Maybe not a biggie.
#150 The red exclamation point is now orange-ish. Again, since we didn’t have multiple color choices for the exclamation point previously and the color is really just a very muted red, and the exclamation still conveys the importance, this change is probably okay.
#158 The shaking hands are now a calendar entry with a person over it. This is a good change.
#159 The yellow star is now a green star. Again, not a problem because we didn’t have multiple color choices previously.
#160 A person raising their hand has now changed to a clock. This is basically the clock we lost in icon #64. What’s the point? The message is different.
#163 The secrete agent is now a closed door. Mary Beth says that they didn’t feel as if the agent translated internationally, but I have some doubt as to that statement. The agent in the trench coat is pretty well known in American cinema and all of these movies play in other countries. I would think it must make some sense especially to a developer who has agents that run on the server. I have seen and built application that use the agent to represent the out of office agent. If the secrete agent really does not translate, try again. A closed door does represent an agent either.
#164 An envelope with a padlock is replaced with a calendar entry with a yellow box or yellow door. I’m not sure what the new icon is, but it certainly portrays a different meaning.
#166 The glasses with fake nose and mustache is replaced with a mask. This one I personally don’t like as much, but this is probably a translation issue as well and the new icon still has the same meaning as the old.
#169 The stop sign with hand is replaced by an envelope with either a watch or yellow band around it. Again, the meaning is changed.
#178, 179, & 180 The forward and reply icons of envelopes with arrows have been replaced with just arrows. This works. It is simplified. Nice one.
#181 The red flag with exclamation is replaced by a yellow flag with exclamation. Though we still have the exclamation, the fact that we have multiple flag colors makes me feel that the importance is lost. I think the red needs to stay.
#183 The white flag is replaced with a smaller blue flag. This probably makes more sense since a white flag also represents surrender, however I think the color change is significant enough and that the icon should not be smaller than the other flags.
#184, 185, & 186 The indicators as to whether or not you are included in the To or Cc field have been replaced with <<<, <<, and < respectively. I don’t know how widely used the previous icons were, but again this means code changes to anyone using them.
#188 – 196 These are new.
I know this was a lot of negative to throw out there, so let me make sure that it is understood that I do like most of the changes. I am not by any means advocating that IBM trash the new icon set, but rather that they leave the current icons meaning intact. By the additions of icons #188-196 we can clearly see that there is no issue adding new icons, so why not do just that? Modify the existing set while retaining all of their meaning, and new icons as needed from #188 onwards seems the best solution to me.
(Update: re-added the view icons as the GIF file had accidently disappeared.)