The Noun Project

Website review by
Polly Conway, Common Sense Media
The Noun Project Website Poster Image
Visual language shows there are many ways to communicate.

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Educational value

Kids can learn that not all languages are verbal; people have used symbols to communicate for thousands of years. They also can learn to look out for symbols they recognize and think critically about icons the world may be missing. If they decide to create their own icons, kids will learn design skills as they go through the process of drawing an image and making it into a file they can upload and share with others. The Noun Project really inspires kids' creativity while opening their minds about the ways humans communicate.

Positive messages

Kids will feel good knowing they're contributing to a global visual language that can help people communicate.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Some of the icons depict wine and cocktail glasses.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the Noun Project is a website that's creating a global visual language of symbols and icons. With the hope that this language will help people from all over the world communicate, they're accepting icons from numerous artists and designers. Kids may be drawn to the goofier icons (a guy on the toilet, a dog sniffing another dog's rear), but there's definitely the possibility for learning or, at the very least, reflecting on what it would be like to communicate only visually.

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What's it about?

THE NOUN PROJECT is a website that aims to build a global visual language of symbols and icons that everyone can understand. Its creators believe that \"symbols can transcend cultural and language barriers and deliver concise information effortlessly and instantaneously.\" Users can either download previously created icons or add their own to the project. You can sign up for a free account with an email address and a password.

If you download an icon for your own use, you either must attribute it to the designer or pay a fee (usually $1.99) to purchase it unattributed. If someone purchases your design, the money will be deposited directly into your PayPal account monthly. The Noun Project uses Creative Commons licensing to give designers the creative rights to own and share their work as desired.

Is it any good?

Hundreds of artists and designers have contributed their own icons to the project, and, all together, the language they're creating is quite a sight. Some of the icons are silly, like the cupcake- and donut-laden Sugar Suite collection. Some are beautiful, and others are very clear visual representations. The project itself is a huge, ambitious undertaking, and it's neat to see it grow as more people add their symbols.

It's hard to figure out the end goal right now. Will the language become official at some point? Will the site include all the icons featured, or will it narrow them down? The Noun Project, a relatively new start-up, may still be figuring these things out, too. Some icon sets are repetitive; trendy moustaches and food items pop up everywhere, while more serious icons may not get the attention they need. Practical uses include helping autistic kids communicate; a fist icon from the Noun Project was used extensively during the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Ask your kids if there are any symbols on the site they disagree with. How would they rather represent that idea in a picture? Give them pen and paper and ask them to draw. 

  • Ask your kids to write a sentence, and then, while looking at the site, help them find the icons that match the sentence's message. What's different about communicating visually? 

Website details

For kids who love designing graphics

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