Symbolism in Web Design and its Impact on Users’ Perception

Bookworms are referred symbolism to the late nineteenth-century art movement. It began spreading through Russia, France and Belgium as kind of protest against naturalism and realism in favor of spirituality, imagination and dreams. Sounds beautifully, isn’t it? The term “symbolism” has derived from the word “symbol” which, in its turn comes from the Latin ‘symbolum’, a symbol of faith, and ‘symbolus’, a sign of recognition.

Symbolism is related to the gothic component of romanticism. In painting, symbolism can be seen as a revival of some mystical tendencies in the Romantic tradition, and was close to the self-consciously morbid and private decadent movement.

Symbolism is concentrated on visual signs, so symbols can be used instead of words and people will still understand what is at stake. Sometimes, symbols are even more powerful than words.

Symbolism in Web Design

Symbols affect reader’s perception much more than plain text, so they are widely used by designers. Nowadays it’s impossible to find a single website without symbols. They are everywhere! And it doesn’t matter what kind of site it is: either a music top chart, or charity organization, or restaurant, or online shop and so on, this list can be continued ad infinitum. So why is symbolism so common on the Internet? The answer is simple as a pie – because of the powerful effect of symbols on human perception. It is a scientifically proven fact that our brain processes visual signs much faster than textual information. Moreover, common symbols (which we got used to see every day) have even more “strength” than words. Let’s give you a vivid example of symbols’ power. Say, you see the radiation symbol. You don’t need to read anything; you immediately understand that your health is in danger as you spotted a radioactive area or came close to a radioactive object. And even when you notice a message persuading you that the place is clean and safe next to the sign will you trespass? What will you believe? The message or the sign? Most likely you’ll refrain from crossing the line. Why? Because images look much more convincing than words.

It’s impossible to characterize all kinds of signs used in web design. That’s why we’ll focus on icons. Icons are probably most frequently used signs in web design. Developers utilize them not only in designs, but also computer programs. Icons may completely replace words and even sentences or make combinations with them. For instance, you don’t have to type “launch my favorite game”. It’s enough just to click its icon on your desktop. Quickly and easy, isn’t it? That is the reason why icons (signs, symbols) are so common. Icons save a lot of our time because their design becomes more and more intuitive, so we understand such simple visual presentation much faster than words. All stuff that improves user experience is highly appreciated by web designers, after all, they create for the users and their opinion and convenience is utterly important. Besides, icons help to save the design from clutter. They are small, but can easily replace loads of text making websites clean, simple and easy to understand. Icons can be called a kind of tool for designer’s expression and user’s interaction with the application.

Of course, the world of web design moves forward and old things go out of fashion while the new tricks appear on the scene. The same evolution happens to icons. They can’t stay aside as icons, like all other UI elements should blend with modern layout. As time goes by, web trends move towards minimalism, simplicity, purity, and flat, futuristic layouts. There is no any intrigue in fact that today flat design thrives and can be seen absolutely everywhere, including icons, of course. In addition to minimalist, flat icons, the outlined, sketchy ones are also on the peak of popularity. The skeuomorphic ones lost their garland at last and developers took their chance to turn virtual reality into a better world that follows its own laws and is not a reflection of reality all of us exist. Don’t you think that it’s rather daring to separate the two worlds, however, nothing ventured nothing gained. And now we have a place to escape to when we feel sad, tired or vice versa when we are on the seventh heaven and need to share the feeling with the world. Speaking about icons, we couldn’t help mentioning the ones that cast the long shadows. The trend appeared in 2013, but it looks as if it is not going to stay for diner. So, what icons to use to make your website look stylish and contemporary? We would recommend a mixture of everything mentioned above.

But let’s come back to the topic of our entry. Here, you see a kind of the decrypting table, designer’s cheat sheet. Peep into it in order not to lose your way on the internet. We hope they will serve as waymarks to your online success.

Default Icon

Symbolism in Web Design - Default Icon

Of course, we couldn’t leave you without a nice small bonus. As you might have already guessed, we offer you links to useful resources containing a heap of free icons. We hope some of them will become real trouvailles for your creative projects.


Symbolism in Web Design - Minicons

Here you will find 210 free vector icons for web designers.


Symbolism in Web Design - Webalys

Follow this link and get not only tons of vector icons, but also graphic styles and GUI elements.

The Noun Project

Symbolism in Web Design - The Noun Project

On this website you can gather your favorite icons into comfy kits and then use them in your projects.

Icon Shock

Symbolism in Web Design - Icon Shock

The icons on this website have unique designs, they look like… Handwritten scribbles, very unusual!


Symbolism in Web Design - Iconfinder

Entering the site you immediately see a huge search bar. This saves you much time and efforts.

They make icons

Symbolism in Web Design - They make icons

Here the icon styles are so varied that your eyes goggle.


Symbolism in Web Design - Iconspedia

These guys have really convenient tabbed navigation on site.

Find Icons

Symbolism in Web Design - Find Icons

And again we see a huge search bar that leaves us nothing to do but find the icons we need quickly and effortlessly.


Symbolism in Web Design - Hongkiat

Here the icons are sorted by style and themes.

Specky Boy

Symbolism in Web Design - Specky Boy

The icon sets are already assorted for you, so you just download the kit you need and work with it.

Web Designer Depot

Symbolism in Web Design - Web Designer Depot

The icons here are a real feast for visitor’s eyes.

Smashing Magazine

Symbolism in Web Design - Smashing Magazine

This is a great resource for quality icons, web design tools, plugins, fonts and other awesome stuff.


Symbolism in Web Design - Entypo

Like trendy flat outlined icons? Find them here.

Icon Dock

Symbolism in Web Design - Icon Dock

Here the icons are gathered according to their purposes which is rather time-saving.


Symbolism in Web Design - Iconmonstr

Like minimalism in web design? Find black and white sketchy icons fitting your current minimalist projects here.

Ico Moon

Symbolism in Web Design - Ico Moon

Here you will see very neat, spick and span icons that meet all requirements of the modern Web.


Symbolism in Web Design - Fontello

Here billions of nice icons are distributed by categories for your utmost comfort.

Icon Archive

Symbolism in Web Design - Icon Archive

The newest icon sets here are featured in a beautiful slider. A huge search bar is also very helpful.


Symbolism in Web Design - Dribbble

Each designer knows Dribbble and browses its vast inventory from time to time.


Symbolism in Web Design - Glyphish

Due to this fabulous resource, you don’t need to invent your own icons, so you can focus on more significant matters like code and design.

Instead of Conclusion

Nearly all elements of design consist of simple forms – symbols. So, symbols are used everywhere and they basically ease the life of both users and designers. The users don’t have to read a lot- they can understand the statement at a glance and designers from their side get the ability to make their websites more contemporary, welcoming and user-friendly. We believe that symbols are an integral part of design.

If you agree or don’t agree with all our statements and consider this blog post useful, please drop us a line. Any feedback and especially the kind one is extremely important for the author as it will help him make his future content more qualitative and practical.

Like the article? Share it.

LinkedIn Pinterest


  1. Inspiring! Symbol is universal and versatile language to use with Internet media :)

Leave a Comment Yourself

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *