Sunday, 14 April 2013

Redesigning the save symbol

There’s an interesting discussion currently taking place on Branch about the relevance of the ‘Save’ icon; the 3.5 inch floppy disk that sits in the left-hand corner of most word-processing systems.

I haven’t used a floppy disk since the demise of my Acorn Archimedes in the early 90s and the discussion about replacing the symbol in the interests of relevance is an interesting one. Aside from suggesting a number of alternatives to the humble floppy disk, there’s also a fascinating argument relating to the semantic implications of choosing a new symbol.

Dane Petersen provides my favourite comment:

“The interesting thing about the floppy disk icon is that it isn't an abstract representation of the data object itself, but an anachronistic representation of the act of saving itself.

It sidesteps the issues of, say, a document icon being too specific (and not an appropriate symbol for, say, saving an edited video), or a circle icon being too generic (and not recognizable as representing a data object), by not attempting to represent the object at all. The floppy disk icon is brilliant in its idiocy.”

There’s also an argument about whether the save icon needs replacing at all. On his blog, Conner Tomas O’ Brien makes a strong case for keeping the status quo.

“Once a symbol enters a culture's visual language, it can convey meaning on its own, even after the physical object it ostensibly represents is obsoleted.”

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