Empirical perspective on visual icon design

Andrew L. Sears, Julie A. Jacko, Byron Brewer, Lylliam D. Robelo

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The primary objective of this study is to evaluate two methods for assessing the quality of iconic representations of computer functionality. A secondary objective is to explore the relationship between frequency of use of specific computer functions and icon usage. These objectives were accomplished by investigating the identifiability, perceived effectiveness, and frequency of use of 34 icons used in the standard and formatting toolbars of Microsoft Word 7.0. More specifically, our data provide information regarding the perceived effectiveness of the iconic representation given its associated functionality, free-form recall of associated functionality given only the icon, frequency of use of the functionality (either by access through the icon or the menu) and frequency of icon use. To accomplish our objectives, we constructed and administered a four-part survey to 353 volunteers. The results compose the first empirically documented evidence that icon use is not merely a function of how frequently users access the functionality the icon is designed to represent. The results also suggests that the ability of users to correctly identify the functionality of an icon given only the graphic image may be an effective method of evaluating the quality of alternative icon designs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)448-452
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
StatePublished - Dec 1 1998
EventProceedings of the 1998 42nd Annual Meeting 'Human Factors and Ergonomics Society' - Chicago, IL, USA
Duration: Oct 5 1998Oct 9 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics


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