This article investigates whether the diversity of mobile phone icons has a negative effect on user perception, as measured through unaided icon recognition. We designed an experiment involving fifty-two young users and evaluated twenty-five icons from five different mobile phone handsets. It was found that there are significant differences between alternative icons used for the same mobile phone feature. Moreover, we found that original manufacturer icons performed better than those offered by the wireless operator. Simple metaphors from the real world and consistent visual depictions across different handsets performed best for mobile phone icons, while abstract concepts had the lowest recognition rates. Designers of mobile phone icons have to balance a trade-off between the need of the manufacturers and wireless operators to differentiate their offerings through branding, and the need of the consumers for a familiar visual language in mobile phone menus.


Koutsourelakis, C. and Chorianopoulos, K. 2010. Unaided Icon Recognition in Mobile Phones: A Comparative Study with Young Users. The Design Journal 13, 3, 313–328.   BibTeX