3 Classic Icon Families

And why they matter

Helena Zhang
7 min readJun 1, 2020
More in the iconography series:Foundations of Iconography7 Principles of Icon Design5 Ways to Create a Settings IconIcon Grids & Keylines DemystifiedPixel-Snapping in Icon Design

Icons communicate so much with so little. When they’re successful we hardly notice them—a pedestrian sign, a back button, a notification bell. I’d like to examine a few enduring examples that have not only solved the design problem at hand but further left an imprint on the way we approach design as a discipline.

It has been a joy to redraw the icons for this article.

Olympics Games Event Icons

Tokyo, 1964. People all over the world come together for the first Olympics in Asia. Here more than ever, a communication system was needed to bridge language barriers.

To answer the challenge, designers Masasa Katzumie and Yoshiro Yamashita developed a standardized system of 20 event icons, as well as 39 general information icons. This was by no means the first time Olympics events were represented visually, but prior icons were more illustrative than schematic.