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    These icons look terrible to me (not an icon designer…) It seems what they did was try a few designs and ask around in some kind of association game until no one was able to associate the icon with anything and then define them to be protein and fat. The approach at least seems a good one, ask many people around the world for feedback to avoid the obvious mistakes, but maybe they took it a little too far.

    “We have accomplished our mission: keep the information simple, easy to understand, language-free and top line.”

    The “Calories” icon sure has a lot of text for being “language-free” /s

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      I think if you judge it on “do I know at a glance what this icon means”, I’d agree.

      However, I doubt that’s their primary goal: I think McDonalds is trying to find universally acceptable (i.e., not evoking negative images) iconography so they can have one homogeneous icon set used around the world with local translations to satisfy local labeling requirements.

      In other words: it’s cheaper to do the design and layout once for all their cups, containers, etc. and a spot on the menu that says (three circles) = “salt” (in whatever language).

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        From the five final icons, I would have only guessed the calories one correctly. The “universal icons” clearly don’t seem to be working for me.

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        You know how at the beginning of civilization we used pictogram to represent everything and then somebody invented the phonetic system where a bunch of characters are strung together to represent words and they found out this new method is much better and people stopped using little drawings to represent stuff?

        Now we are going back.

        Why not just use words? kcal, protein, fat, carb, salt are all meaningful. Even if you do not know English, it is not anymore difficult to learn these particular combinations of lines than it is to learn those particular combinations of line.

        Instead now everybody has to learn that three boxes = protein. A bunch of vertical lines with a hump in the middle = fat. An analog readout = carbs. And three circles with two circles partially out of frame = salt.

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          It’s very narrow-minded to simplify thousands of years of language development to “they found out [alphabets are] much better and people stopped using little drawings to represent stuff.” A lot of what we perceive as “effiency” or “ease of use” is just the consequence of history’s coin flip.

          I think these icons are pretty stupid too, but to say that everyone should use “kcal” instead because that’s somehow more “meaningful,” “Even if you do not know English,” is pretty humorous. The amount of effort it’d take you to remember what “kcal” means if you didn’t speak English is around the same as it’d take you to learn what the icon means.

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            So if you know english then the words are easier to learn. If you do not they are equally easy to learn.

            So then what is the advantage of using the pictograms?

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          I appreciate the detail in this report. Designing non-linguistic icons is such a pain, and ENLASO has clearly done their homework to determine which symbols failed least-egregiously. I remember a presentation from an icon designer on the Google Maps team who described the difficulties of deciding on universal symbols. How do you show a temple or church without overt religious symbolism? Apple tried simply using the symbols on their maps, and got complaints directly to Tim Cook for showing Hindu temple swastikas. What about “H” vs. a cross for hospitals, when the two are used in incompatible ways in different cultures? Finally, archaic symbols like telephones or floppy disks when the referent is long gone? A child he was interviewing interpreted the common “save disk” to mean “putting a file in the garage,” and could not identify the picture of a telephone in a contact list.

          Why not just use words: because not everyone uses the latin alphabet, or is familiar with latin roots when they do. Would we understand the Polish “tłuszcz” to mean fat, or the Russian “белка” to mean protein? Why expect the reverse of other countries?