In the project I am currently working on everything is based around the essence of "interests". One of the most important and bold UI elements in this project, is a button that when pressed gives us the feedback of "I found this really really interesting".

We would like to prototype/standarize a pictogram (an icon actually) to indicate that positive feedback and we would like to stay away from a star, a heart or a thumbs up button. On hover the button will display a tooltip with a text like "I find this interesting" just to make it clear for not accustomed users but nevertheless the user should eventually train himself to understand the interesting button wherever he sees it.

What would you suggest?

closed as off topic by Benny Skogberg, Rahul May 20 '12 at 9:26

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    Why do you want to stay away from a star, heart etc.? – Raffael Luthiger Nov 26 '11 at 14:05
  • That would be because the heart and star are most often used to indicate "favorite", which we also intend to use along with interesting. In addition to that, the star icon is solely used to indicate "favorites" on the iOS platform for which we're also preparing a product. Finally we want to avoid the thumbs-up/Like button because due to Facebook's overuse of it, the users are used to click it while having a broader essence of appreciation on their mind. I am not sure if I can explain this better. Thanks. – Thanos Nov 26 '11 at 14:13
  • @Thanos for what its worth. stumbleupon.com is based around the concept of "interests", and they simply use thumbs up/down to determine them. – DasBeasto Mar 29 '16 at 12:59

11 Answers 11


It doesn't matter.

Pick a unique, easily-recognized icon. Put it in your interface in a place where people will click on it, guessing its approximate meaning.

Make it easy to discover, and safe-looking so people are willing to chance a click on it.

Make its meaning discoverable: When the user hovers, tell them it's for marking things 'interesting' and what that means. Tell them they are training the system. In other parts of your interface, report on what the user finds interesting, using the same icon. This will reinforce the meaning.

People get way too hung up on the perfect icon for abstract meanings. Users will learn the meaning from the interface; the icon is just a mnemonic.

  • +1 because the important thing is that it is appealing/poisitive, discoverable, and consistent. – Schroedingers Cat Dec 26 '11 at 14:07

I would try an on/off light bulb icon. I think it differentiates the element in a visual way, and light bulb is associated with idea.

enter image description here

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    Does the idea have to be this big? :-) – LarsTech Nov 28 '11 at 13:50
  • nope :) I just used a photo link from web – Roland Pokornyik Nov 28 '11 at 13:59

You come up with an "impossible" request, which is to visually distinguish between two twin functionalities: like and interesting. This is something no graphic designer should be asked to do, nor should he accept, no matter how expert he may be.

My experience as a UX designer tells me that there is something seriously wrong with your requirements. The User should not be put in front of such mind traps. Go back to Product Management and ask "Why do we need this? What is the User trying to achieve with this action?". Then try to figure out how that fits your plans. Do you need to engage him? To present more relevant content? Something else? There are more than one ways to do those things, I am sure that you will find another way :)

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    Harris thanks for your answer, it's much appreciated! However, there's nothing wrong with the requirements and the request is not at all "impossible". I am pretty sure if a designer managed to create hundreds of road signs that indicate probably other hundreds of different meanings it should be fairly easy to create something that distinguishes interesting from like. For example you might like a pretty girl but you may not be particularly interested in her ;) – Thanos Nov 26 '11 at 22:40
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    @Thanos You still haven't explained what "interesting" means, what happens when a user marks an item as such, and how it's different from "favorite" or "lIke." – Patrick McElhaney Nov 28 '11 at 2:24
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    "Interesting" gives positive feedback to our algorithm that emerged the particular content from a pool of all the other, as relevant. it's a way of the user telling "good job" to the system. Favorite, besides doing that also saves the content in a permanent list. – Thanos Nov 28 '11 at 8:17
  • How does that differ from "like"? How about "+1" or simply "^^" or ":)"? I hate places with only icons, they should have the text next to the button like "+1 Like" or "+1 Interesting" imo. Trying to figure out what the dozen or so icons in a "share..." dialog does is a pain in the ass... – Oskar Duveborn Nov 28 '11 at 15:17

Firstly, I'm not really sure why you want to avoid the existing thumbs-up iconography. You need to make your application easy to use, and that means employing common convention to ease users into understanding your product. Trying to seem original or keeping a distinct visual identity will just lead to confused, unengaged users.

Secondly, it's difficult to say without knowing the context or the workflow. I don't know if your users are going to read through a feed of items and see which of their peers have marked their interest, or if they're going to be reading a history feed for a particular person. I also don't know what workflows, interactions or consequences surround marking something as 'interesting', and that would affect iconography also.

Sorry to give such an unsatisfactory answer, but without knowing the context, no-one is going to be able to do much more than guess.

  • Hello, Jimmy. Thanks a lot for your answer, it's really responsible. As for the context, the particular "interesting" iconography will be used to declare that the content of a post item is relevant to the users interests so our filter will keep it in mind when displaying other content in the future. It's an action rather than a label or a tag on an item. – Thanos Nov 27 '11 at 11:32
  • Ah, I see. So it's something users will only see after they've flagged something themselves? I suppose my question then, is, can this functionality be merged with 'favouriting', or are the two actions in your application quite distinct? – Jimmy Breck-McKye Nov 27 '11 at 17:49
  • The interesting button appears when a user has consumed the whole piece of content. To be specific it's hidden until the user scrolls until the end of the page. The favorite button is similar to interesting in the way that if you favorite something, a flag as interesting is also implied. – Thanos Nov 27 '11 at 18:58
  • Sounds like a checkmark... – Oskar Duveborn Nov 28 '11 at 15:21

If it's purely a matter of becoming trained to relate a recognizable shape to a meaning - I might try testing out an interesting drip or droplet shape, possibly 3D like these at shutterstock which has no specific meaning but is nevertheless in itself an interesting sort of shape.

I was playing with some ideas around this concept (as below) and a flash of inspiration made me realise what you need is quotation marks.

If someone finds something interesting, they quote it at people, or if writing, they put it in quotes.

Simple, effective, meaningful.

enter image description here

  • Hello, Roger! I couldnt agree more that it's purely a matter of training to relate a shape to a meaning. An interesting shape could easily leave the essence of "interesting" in general but I am not sure I'd go with a droplet. If you feel like contributing with a small drawing or a slight mockup that'd be highly appreciated. Thank you in advance mate! – Thanos Nov 26 '11 at 22:54
  • Added examples and a brainwave! :-) – Roger Attrill Nov 27 '11 at 7:42

I think the difficulty with the problem is that you are trying to preserve the like/favorite classification while introducing the unfamiliar "found this interesting" classification.

Users can always be trained to learn a new iconographic system, but that creates friction when old conventions are mixed in with new, unfamiliar systems.

Rather than looking for an icon to solve your problem, I would consider dropping the favorite/like classification altogether and try framing the interaction with this new classification of "interesting". If you look at services like Stamped, Amen, Quora, or Reading.am, they are all about reframing the context of content creation and interaction. Amen is nothing more than a rating application, but it reframes the user's approach to creating and commenting on content, and that is what makes it interesting and valuable. Quora teaches users to think in questions, Stamped frames the world in emphatic stamps of approval only (similar to Amen), and reading is a way to simply broadcast your reading activity.

If the "I found this interesting" classification is THE compelling feature of your product, it's worth emphasizing that approach to use with your users. Otherwise, it might create more confusion than value.

I'd love to see what this thing is!


Just throwing in my suggestion here -although a light bulb was the first thing that came to mind. ..How about a flag? Microsoft Outlook, for example, uses it to define items that require a follow up. They might be interesting to read later or to tell someone about it when you get home from work. I think if you play with that concept, you could come up with something that perfectly defines something you flag as interesting.

Anyway, hope it helps :)


Commission a decent graphic designer to come up with a solution. Honestly! This is signage and to do signage properly, you need an expert. If this one and only proper solution is out of scope/budget (it should not be if this functionality/concept is crucial to your project), rather rely on a symbol that is commonly well known, even if it does not seem to fit exactly your intentions. Even more so if there is no other “like” button and such that would require semantic differentiation.

BTW, why not simply use text?

  • Regarding the graphic designer: how to find an expert graphic designer? – Mike L. Nov 26 '11 at 18:28
  • In short: look for a good portfolio together with convincing argumentation backing the solutions. The designer should be able to explain why a certain design was chosen and what benefits it provides in respect to the given problem. – Sascha Brossmann Nov 26 '11 at 18:43
  • Since we're a self funded startup we'd like to avoid outsourcing stuff at 3rd parties... at least at the moment. Despite the fact I am solely an iOS developer I can handle design quite good (I've read some books over here and there on History of Art, Geometry, Color theory) so I am looking for some thoughts on the matter so I can pull this out on my own. Your thoughts are kindly appreciated though, thank you very much. – Thanos Nov 26 '11 at 22:47
  • Thanos, do you mean because you are an iOS developer you can make good design? Is that the same argument woman use to proof that (just because they were pregnant) they inherently are the best people to teach their pre-school children? – Mike L. Nov 27 '11 at 9:04
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    Mike L, I only said I am trying to do good design my friend not that I am an expert on anything. After all if you clearly read my comment you'll see I used my role as a developer in contradiction to good design :) – Thanos Nov 27 '11 at 11:26

You could use thumbs up for likes, star for favorites and heart for interesting items. It make sense if you have all three together.


Some people mentioned that you should not design new icons, it just complicate matters for users, to adapt themselves with new system, but I think between answers something has not been told:

If you are designing a system in which a lot of people involved, and those people are ready for you new app, then it pretty good to have a new system, like Google+ which ntroduced Plus button.

If your project scale is limited then stick to the well-known icons.

I hope it helps.


Something like this

enter image description here

But it would probably work better if it was a contour of a profile, just the head.

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    Hm… what shall the silhouette indicate? Apart from adding unnecessary complexity, that is. ;-) – Sascha Brossmann Nov 26 '11 at 17:24
  • Apart from adding complexity, it adds context. An exclamation mark can mean an alert, a notification, and probably a lot of other things. – Vitaly Mijiritsky Nov 26 '11 at 19:29
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    I support this as long as it makes the MGS "Alert" sound effect every time it comes on screen. ! – Ben Brocka Nov 26 '11 at 20:50
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    @Kinokijuf That depends on the context. Would you think it means a banned user in a system with no bans and no users? – Vitaly Mijiritsky Nov 28 '11 at 4:23
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    This is very confusing to me. Does not convey "interesting". Maybe alert, caution, watch out for this guy, but nor interesting. – Matt Rockwell Nov 28 '11 at 13:07

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