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A Brief History of Computer Icons

30 years, appears in countless GUIs and has been rendered in many different styles, but you will notice that it has rarely changed for a different metaphor. The Amiga Workbench swapped the folder for a drawer but this didn’t see an industry wide change to the drawer as a standard design. So what makes the folder so successful? The answer lies in the way it communicates a meaning. There is a clear use for a folder, it is universally recognized, it can be drawn by almost anyone and has just one function.

In any style, the folder icon is easy to recognize and understand.

Technology Shapes the Way People Work In the latter half of the timeline we see that GUIs such as Ubuntu and Gnome are moving towards a look that’s uncluttered and inspired by touch-screen technology. The square style icons and dock-like menus are reminiscent of the Apple iPhone and iPad. What could be taken from this is that the rapidly growing market for these devices is shaping the way consumers expect to navigate programs and applications. It may also be a reflection of the kind of designs to be expected in the future.