An Overview of Freely Available, Comprehensive Icon Sets
It is not unusual when designing up a new project that it is important to find a consistent set of icons for user interface or mapping purposes. Full libraries or icon sets can be important because mixing and matching icons from multiple sources often conveys a bit of chaos or unprofessionalism.
Structured Dynamics monitors freely available icons for these purposes and provides listings to its clients so that they may tailor and choose their own looks-and feel. The material below is the reference listing of about 20 comprehensive sets of open source icons that may be used for the open semantic framework (OSF) or sWebMap interfaces. Links to other listings are also provided. These references are kept up-to-date on the OSF TechWiki.
Here are some consistent families of general user interface icons. While there are thousands of free icons available from many venues (check out via search engines), there are fewer that have sufficient diversity and scope to encompass most user interface needs. Since it is noticeably jarring to mix icon styles in the same interface (or, at least to do so indiscriminately), it is important to have a consistent design image.
Here are the candidate choices we have found. Some are provided in either multiple size formats or in vector (generally, SVG), formats:
- The Silk icons from famfamfam is a set of over 700 16-by-16 pixel icons in PNG format (144 of which are also available as GIF mini-icons, see below). This is the standard open source set used as the basis for Pastel (see below), which is used in the various conStruct tools. There are also other free icons from this site
- Tango is an icon library that contains a basic set of icons for the most common usage. They come in 16×16 and 22×22 sizes, and some are scalable (vector). There are also a variety of extensions for specific purposes
- Pastel SVG is an icon set based on the Silk icons noted above from FamFamFam.com. Pastel uses the same style, but comes in the sizes of 16, 24, 32, 48, 64, 72, 96, 128 or 256 pixels square; a sampling is shown below
Pastel is the standard icon set chosen for conStruct tools.
- The Fugue icons by Yusuke Kamiyamane is the largest set available, and contains 3000 individual icons in 16×16 PNG format. Here is a sampling:
Alternatively, there is a smaller set of 400 icons called Diagona also available from the same designer
- Nuvola is a set of 600 icons in either PNG or SVG format from David Vignoni (Icon King). The PNG come in standard sizes of 16, 22, 32, 48, 64 or 128 pixels square. Here is a sampling:
Vignoni also has an alternative set of icons with a similar feel called Oxygen.
- The Crystal set of more than 1300 icons is organized into six different sizes, and is divided into the categories of actions, apps, files systems, devices and mime types. Here is a sampling:
According to the Open Icon Library, which has a nice gallery (but which also mixes sources), here are some other key sources of open source icons not already listed above:
See also the icon sets used within Wikipedia itself.
Lastly, and perhaps most usefully, peruse the 750+ icon sets on Icon Finder.
With the emergence of Web 2.0 and locational services, particularly the open API and “thumbtack” aspect of Google Maps, a new category of map markers for web mapping has emerged. This category is still new enough that an accepted terminology has not yet developed. Among other terms, here are some of the ways that these locational markers on maps have been described:
- Places of interest (POIs)
- Points of interest (POIs)
- Location markers
- Map pointers.
Here are some of the consolidated sources of open source markers now available:
- This is a sampling of 120 markers or so available within the Google MyMaps API (see further this link with shadows and this full listing). All have matching shadows useful for conveying a 3D feeling:
There are also about 250 standard icons provided within the Google Earth set. You can see those listed here. Also, to see the available icon libraries in Google maps (plus some others), see this link
- Map Icons Collection is a set of more than 1000 free icons to use as placemarks for POI locations on maps (originally designed for the Google Maps API). Most of these icon markers are square in aspect with a pointer, and are organized by color-coordinated categories such as numbers, cinemas, hotels, banks, etc. Here is a sampling:
- The Maki icon set consists of more than 100 black and white 15×15 map markers
- This listing provides three different colors in the Google Map “teardrop” style for all letters and 99 numbers
- Geosilk is an extension of the standard Silk icon set noted above. It is more applicable to UI icons relating to map functions than to map markers per se
- Green Map contains a set of about 170 monochrome (can be colored differently) POI markers, with an orientation to nature or ecological categories. There are also local extensions
- Map Pins provides 22 alternative map pins and flags:
- 50 monochrome POI and map marker symbols from the US National Park Service (NPS):
- There is a similar (and complementary in design) set of 50 monochrome pedestrian and transportation symbols from AIGA in cooperation with the US Department of Transportation
Some markers can be created dynamically with the Google Map API. Here are some background articles and links:
Various other listings, many with icons but perhaps not organized into the same uniform sets, include: