Metaphors, Idioms and Why the Save Icon is Broken

Metaphors are great, until they lose their meaning. Then they become confusing, seemingly arbitrary phrases to those not in the know. The save icon is an idiom in visual form and there’s nothing good about that.

In a recent post I promised to write a follow-up article on why the save icon was “objectively” broken. I know this topic has run its course, so I will keep this brief. I’ve started to think more broadly about this save icon subject—specifically around using metaphors in design. The metaphors for computing concepts established decades ago are starting to show their age and time has exposed the weaknesses of relying too heavily on them.

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Why Redesigning the Save Icon is Important

The floppy disk has served as the representation of the save icon for decades. It’s widely accepted as a standard and well recognized. It is also a bad icon that we shouldn’t shy away from changing.

About a week ago, I started a Branch discussion on redesigning the Save icon. I never saw the Branch as the actual place where the icon would literally be designed, but I thought it would be a good hub for conversation. To my amazement, the thread took off and grew far beyond the bounds of that single discussion. As the days went by I found the meta-discussion more interesting than the discussion itself. A significant amount of people considered the exercise a waste of time for one pervasive reason. The icon, albeit antiquated, had become the de-facto for save and had transitioned into an abstract symbol. People know what it is, so why waste our time making something new? Continue reading “Why Redesigning the Save Icon is Important”