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July Nuggets - Icon(ic) designs

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It’s July and we’ve been designing a few icon sets lately which got us thinking about our first experiences with digital icons, so for this month’s nuggets we’re checking out early digital icons.


Is it a font? Is it an icon?

Yep, we're talking about Wingdings. That weird font that we always saw near the bottom of the font list, always skipped past while font picking (seeing our text flit momentarily to a jumble of icons), and never actually used. Wingdings is a font made up of icons, and was created essentially as a time saving and space solution.

Wingdings made it really easy to insert an image into text and it didn’t take up lots of storage space on computers. But unless you are makinga printed poster, it isn't very practical in real life use. This is because there are different versions of Wingdings (1,2 & 3), with updates and revisions they are not fixed things. Since it is a font, if you send a document containing a Wingdings in it, you are relying on the person who opens it to have the exact same version of Wingdings as you )if they actually have it installed), otherwise they will see something completely different (or just a plain box).

But, it's still fun to read about crazy Wingding conspiracy theories and explore the full icon set for nuggets.

Here are some of our favourite Wingdings:

Some Wingdings
A simple browser, Crayola and a very old media storage device.


Wingdings is a Windows/PC thing, and was the inspiration behind the Apple version Zapf Dingbats (later updated to Zapf Essentials). Both typefaces/icon sets were created by designers: Wingdings from the work of Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes; and Zapf by Hermann Zapf.

The Zapf icons were created for everyday use, and have continued to change with the times introducing new icons for fax(!), email and mobile phone as these technologies became widely used. The set consists of 372 icons, whittled down from over 1000 original sketches by Hermann Zapf.

Here are some interesting Zapf icons:

Zapf Dingbats
A star with a solid drop shadow? Those pencil and peace proportions are nice though.



Early UI design

The icon set for the original Macintosh manages to be friendly, despite being made from a limited and basic arrangement of pixels. The set is full of personality packed icons which breathed life into the Macintosh interface, making it feel inviting to use. The designer Susan Kare used a grid, pencil and paper to create the 32x32 pixel icons in 1982.

Fun fact: the initial work that Susan Kare did was in exchange for an Apple II computer (Wiki).


Some iconic original Macintosh icons by Susan Kare:

Susan Kare's original icons for Macintosh
The original Apple watch!


Recent icon design

We've refreshed the Dunclyde website a little and designed some custom icons to improve the overall experience and look.

Dunclyde icon set


More on these stories:

Zapf Essentials - Linotype News 

Why does the Wingdings font exist? - Medium 

Why the Wingdings font exists - Vox 

The First Macintosh's User-Friendly Icons - Smithsonian