A recent favorite discovery of mine is The Noun Project which, according to its endlessly engrossing website, is dedicated to “Creating, Sharing and Celebrating the World’s Visual Language.”
It is a work of love by a whole community of graphic designers around the world who create icons to represent everything that might be a thing–hence the name.
Commercial type foundries made sets of “ornaments” in type metal for use in text and design. You can find a remnant of their work in computer fonts like Wingdings, Webdings and Zapf Dingbats.
But The Noun Project takes the whole notion to the encyclopedic level. It would be nice to think that there could be a picture to represent every concept; that’s how the Chinese written language evolved. Some things are pretty straightforward, “Bird” and “Acorn” by designer Sergey Demushkin, for example.
Some are a little more complicated. Among my favorites in this category is one by designer Dan Hetteix I found by searching at The Noun Project for “Rapture,” and another by Richard Cordero found by searching “Abduction.” A victim of the latter might be pictured on Blaise Sewell’s “Missing Person” icon which is, of course, a stylized milk carton with a tiny photo on it.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, despite the repository’s current collection of approx. 150,000 icons. A search for “Platypus,” for example, returned no results. And Lexi Larson’s icon set “Executions” only contains a gallows, a guillotine and an electric chair.
If you want to help build the collection, The Noun Project hosts “Iconathons.” According to the project’s Wikipedia entry, “The sessions typically run five hours and include graphic designers, content experts, and interested volunteers, all working in small groups that focus on a specific issue, such as democracy, transportation or nutrition.” Or, presumably, on forms of execution. But not, apparently, on marsupials.