“According to communication specialists, almost eight percent of human interaction is nonverbal. Thoughts occur as images, which are mostly visual.” (Joy et al 2009 p.10)
An area of behavioral analysis that has come under the spotlight with growing intensity is that relating to the behavior of consumers on the Internet and trends that have evolved with its usability. The all-encompassing area of iconography has progress and evolved with technological advancements, where consumers now have an active involvement with the experiential aspect and dictating the evolution of iconography. In layman’s terms, everyone can now rehash their own icons and online design to personalize their web experience.
As mildly alluded to in the above quotation, Joy et al (2009) have pointed out that scant attention has been directed towards the consumer behavior insights into interaction at the visual level, which is critical to the understanding of the selection and interpretation of imagery metaphorically and cognitively. More specifically, iconography online has become sharper, more polished, and easier on the eye. All of which, I argue, has been a major contributor in pushing web usability, navigability and trends in online consumer behavior. Visual content and attractiveness of a website is just as important as text content. Furthermore, icons help support content, engage consumers, and draw them to action.
Social Media Icons
I like to best manifest this insight into the evolution of iconography online, by illustrating the progression of the early ‘The Facebook’ logo to the latest installment of the ‘Facebook’ logo. When the first Facebook logo came on the scene with ‘The Facebook’, social media was still in its infancy which was mirrored in the design of social media platforms. As the infatuation with social media increased, the design and appearance of the Facebook logo evolved with it to a higher state of design. A quick search of the Facebook logo on Google search gives an array of Facebook logos that the everyday person has designed themselves; a manifestation of brand co-creation of sorts. This design your own Facebook logo has helped push the boundaries in the use of social media, the evolution of how people communicate online, and also the ease of using these dynamic channels.
The redesign of the Twitter logo mirrors the Facebook logo illustration – the Twitter bird transcends borders, languages, cultures to represent communication, collaboration and broadcast of information. The design of the logo has also undergone somewhat of a constant transformation throughout its lifetime. The polished and refined logo we see now has helped foster a culture of information dispersion and an infatuation with the media platform, where everyone has become their own independent reporter and journalist.
As popularity of these social media brands online increases, similarly, the icons need to be tweaked rather than redesigned completely. A number of ploys are often used by marketers in redesigning or giving a logo a shot in the arm; dropping the letters in the brand name to a single letter (see here); simplifying the logo to just the illustration element (see here), a portion of the original logo (see here), or a redesign to an acronym (see here). This, combined with a new sheen or simplified design, can empower the brand to become more transparent, open and conducive to interaction on the web.
A Tour de Force of Brand Co-Creation
A consumer behavior alluded to earlier was the idea of brand co-creation. This entails the empowering of consumers to take control of the brand, derive their own meaning, and the emerging phenomenon this notion; the digital co-creation of brands “situated creativity” of brands. An example of a brand embracing the idea of enabling co-creation of its icon is AOL’s Artists campaign. The creative cloud illustrates the creativity that underpinned the redesign of the AOL icon, which enabled it to achieve a new identity and reconnect with its audience and improve engagement with the brand exponentially.
Consider this with another facet of iconography that has undergone a transformation online; the evolution of e-commerce icons on the web. The evolution of these icons has helped influence the online purchasing decision-making process of consumers. I am convinced that, similar to the sentiments expressed with the previous examples, this evolution to a more polished and streamlined look has helped reduce the formality of committing to a purchase and a monetary decision. Namely, the introduction and redesign of the shopping cart logo on such websites now embody a sense of openness, transparency, and most importantly making it conducive to clicking-through.
A more simplified, sharper, and rich media-look shopping cart icon immersed in a similarly themed web-layout will help negate the actual stress or worry factor of divulging financial details online.
Share-Buttons on the Web
The relatively new face of share-buttons and the infatuation with social bookmarking has had a major impact on trends in the dissemination of information on the web and influencing how one navigates through the web. The placement and design of share-button icons constitute a significant subliminal element in navigating through the web and factoring in trends related to search. Below is a cloud of an array of the icons that now represent education of the masses and storing silos of information online.
A more psychology savvy individual may offer a more educated insight into the decision-making process and, specifically, how cognitive processing, derivation of meaning, design and impression, and experiential aspect of imagery all affect the mind (phew quiet a mouthful there). Rather, I will offer my marketing and consumer behavioral analysis two-cents; the share-button icons are now pioneering the way in web usability trends, social bookmarking, and fostering a culture of connectivity and sharing.
Whereas this blog post started offering an insight into the effect of icon design evolution online has led me down a different avenue of investigation and a subset of studying iconography online; the implications of social bookmarking and the mechanics of this trend. Utilizing share buttons and social bookmarking is now the modus operandi for keeping up appearances online and I intend to reveal its hidden underbelly.
Hint: Bookmark this blog post immediately for future use and reference.