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Vol. 39, 2015; Pages: 68–79

From action icon to knowledge icon: Objective-oriented icon taxonomy in computer science

Xiaoyue Ma, Nada Matta, Jean-Pierre Cahier, Chunxiu Qin, Yanjie Cheng

School of Economics and Management, Xidian University, 266 Xinglong Section of Xifeng Road, 710126 Xi’an, Shaanxi, China.


Icon plays a critical role in computer interface design. Studies on icon taxonomy explain the way in which various types of icon represent the objects and provide designers creation rules by which icons are more in line with users’ cognitive psychology. However, along with larger and larger use of icons, the previous classification criterion causes the boundary between categories blur. What’s more, Single classification standard is not able to well illustrate the icons applied in today’s computer applications. The purpose of this paper is to present an objective-oriented icon taxonomy which proposes to categorize icons into action icon and knowledge icon. To assess this proposition, we analyzed a sample of icons that applied in computer interface and suggest precise application domains to both action icon and knowledge icon categories. The results of this practice manifested that action icon and knowledge icon implied a high relation with applied environment and explicated the development trace of computer icons. This work is one of the first to point out the notion of knowledge icon and to highlight the importance of objective of icon application. Findings in this paper could enrich icon use in computer interface design, especially provides possible way to improve online knowledge sharing by visual tool like icon.

Keywords: Icon; Icon taxonomy; Action icon; Knowledge icon; Graphical interface; Human–computer interaction.

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