Evolution of an Icon


Turbotax Icons

In my technological travels, I recently came across a computer screen with at least 4 different desktop icons for the same software program. The software was Intuit’s popular Turbotax product, and each icon represented a different year’s version. While gazing at these icons side-by-side, I couldn’t help but notice the progression of the design over time. Technology may be my focus, but I can also be a sucker for aesthetics.

All of this got me thinking about how technology, like art, moves with the times.  When objectively analyzing technological progress, we tend to focus mainly on the less visceral and more practical elements. We’ll discuss the features or performance or intelligence while often neglecting what makes the technology just “feel” right.

When I look at the oldest Turbotax icon, the design reminds me of where technology was at that time – attractive but aggressive, interesting but complex or exclusive. It’s as if it needed to hit you hard to show you what was possible. Then as the design evolves, it comes to represent more of what technology is about today – minimalist, universal, and integrated into every aspect of modern day life. This aesthetic evolution can be seen not only in desktop icons, but in website design, smartphone design, and even printer design. A few other recognizable examples are below, with the older designs on the left and the newer ones on the right.

Microsoft Word Icons

Google Chrome Icons

Apple Photos Icons

So next time you are busy tapping away on that smartphone or clicking away on that desktop don’t forget to take a deep breath and enjoy all the scenery staring right back at you. It’s another profound reminder of where technology came from and where it’s going.

Necessary side note: Turbotax is a registered trademark of Intuit Inc., and we are not in any way affiliated with or endorsed by Intuit Inc. All icons displayed here are owned by their respective copyright holders.

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