I'm designing a user interface where the user will be editing letter templates. I'm wondering what a folder corner (earmarked page) represents in UX design. Thanks!

Like so: Like this

  • Do you have access to your users? Or a small sample? Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 20:37
  • It's a product that users will be using to create, what are essentially, documents. We will not be having access to these users at all. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 20:40

5 Answers 5


Icons are subject to a broad range of interpretations by users.

From my understanding, the fold is a holdover metaphor for a physical piece of paper (i.e, creating a document, and the physical property of the document (a sheet of paper once you print it). Without that 'fold' in the current icon, you would have a simple rectangle.

You'll also see this in physical printers, where an extended fold (revealing the lines indicating content) instructs a user which side with the content should be inserted into the printer feed:

enter image description here

Ideally pair an icon with a text label if possible

From the research at Nielsen Norman: Icon Usability

There are a few icons that enjoy mostly universal recognition from users. The icons for home, print, and the magnifying glass for search are such instances. Outside of these examples, most icons continue to be ambiguous to users due to their association with different meanings across various interfaces.

The document icon with a corner fold is quite common, although many also have some lines mimicking some text. But without access to users and the larger context of your app, you might run into some misinterpretation. That is always a concern for icons that don't have a text label.


This is a quite universal icon for file or document. See the capture below:

enter image description here

However, it is true that sometimes icons are ambiguous, so be sure to use labels as well


That icon has been used to mean "New File" in Office products (and everything that emulates their UI) for 25 years now, starting in Word 2.0

Picture from Jensen Harris's (MS) blog on the Ribbon UI

Even though there's no toolbars in Office 2016, the same icon is still available for use. enter image description here


The dog ear paper icon represents the concept of "Document" either as a present object (file) or the action of creating a new one ("New document"). It is also used togheter with the pencil to signify "Edit" (as in "Edit document"). Today with higher resolutions it's not uncommon for this icon to show contents (such as the type of document, or logo of a software, for example).

I believe the dog ear style paper was first designed by Norm Cox as icons for the Xerox Star. The full team of designers were Wallace Judd, Bill Bowman, Dave Smith, and Cox himself.

His first attempt was the following:

Cox Xerox Star icons

You'll notice the dog ear is on the bottom left (but already identified as a "Document" icon). An odd choice since a dog ear in a book is typically upper right. In any case a later iteration of this produced the icon we know today:

Later icon concepts for Xerox Star

You'll notice that in both examples the icon refers to the concept of "Document". An "Edit" icon typically overlaps a pencil over this one.

Note: check this for a visual tour through the history of icons.

  • 1
    This is great! Thank you for taking the time to research this. The visual history of icons is awesome. Also for "You'll notice the dog ear is on the bottom right (but already identified as a "Document" icon)", you mean the "bottom left" right? Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 21:00
  • @asfeynman Yes, indeed it is bottom left (I've corrected the text). Thanks.
    – armatita
    Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 8:01

That's mostly speculation, but,
historically, when choosing an icon to represent a document, they wanted to go with a "blank piece of paper", which, essentially, is just a white rectangle, which is way too ambiguous. So they cheated, curving a corner of it to look more like a sheet of paper.
And now it's way too widely recognised to change it, so they keep using it to represent documents.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.