ccording to the dictionary, an icon is just a pictorial representation of something. However, for those who are asked to find or create designs that will take the place of words, the search can be daunting. The reason being that true icons are objects that can be seen, but not all words or word combinations are so qualified. Which means the temptation to include so-called icons on Web pages for their ability to load quickly, or on traditional pages because they're readily available, can be less than fruitful. Seldom do all members of a group, such as might be suggested for a family of Web links, entirely satisfy the individual requirement of having an image that can fully transmit its own meaning. Here's how it sometimes goes: apple, pear, banana, peach (ok,so far) and vegetable. Can't draw "vegetable", so let's add a word, which generally means all of them will need words for the sake of consistency.
A better approach is to recognize the pitfalls early in the process to ensure that icons, or maybe illustrated titles, really are the best solutions.
The difference between an icon link and an illustration.
Which says "service" faster, this picture, the word and the picture or the word all by itself? That is the question we asked before cluttering Idea Site For Business's Web site pages with many little graphics that might confuse rather than communicate.
In our first design, we moved away from the practice of using icons as links to help decorate pages. As shown in the righthand sample below, it seemed more sensible to include such images to help define section headings, rather than distract from main content. That is, through faster and less obtrusive html links, readers have been better able to focus on the point of the site
If a picture is to replace a word, the rule of thumb should be that it work as quickly. Otherwise, it is an illustration that provides word support and should be recognized as such.
Creative direction, art direction, design, illustration and photo illustration*