There are entities that have a state. The states until now are:

  • New (plus)
  • Valid (check)
  • Canceled (X)

Valid, New, Canceled

And now I'm trying to introduce the "this is Old" state. How can I easily tell this to the user without ruining my design?

I thought of vintage look, spiders around etc, old fashioned stuff (an old hat or something) but all these are irrelevant to the simplicity of the existing icons.

The entity in my case is a "Visit" but this is not that relevant. Also, the entity will be usable (not disabled).

How can I say that an entity is "old" with an icon?

  • 2
    Is the 'This is Old' state separate from the others? Or to put it another way, can an entity be both Valid and Old, for example? May 8, 2013 at 8:25
  • @vincebowdren no, it is a standalone entity state
    – Odys
    May 8, 2013 at 8:36
  • 3
    When you ask about an icon your question is off-topic as stated in the faq. If you remove the references to the icon the question is a good fit.
    – Pesikar
    May 8, 2013 at 9:14
  • 2
    @odyodyodys This question needs to be about more than the icon. It needs to be about how you show state, and to ask that, you need to include an image of how you are currently showing it (in context).
    – JohnGB
    May 8, 2013 at 9:40
  • 1
    Is there another state than new and old? If not, absence of new icon would imply old naturally. May 8, 2013 at 13:44

4 Answers 4



Or nothing. Why draw attention to something that is old?

You might want to ask yourself: Will your system, after a longer period of use, mostly consist of "old" entities?

It also depends on what your posts are, what the meaning of being old is, and how your users would want to interact with these objects depending on their symbols. Does it for example mean

  • A. This info is old, you do not have to check it out again. Or

  • B. This customer conversation is getting old and you have not answered! You would want to look at this right now!

  • 1
    I think the most common form is indeed nothing. Seeing items without a new tag would be seen as not new. If specifically highlighting older-than-not-new items is required, then a spiderweb is the way to go. Slightly off topic: I think it would be awesome to see old articles covered in spiderwebs and such. For example add a spiderweb for each year an article has dated.
    – Deruijter
    May 8, 2013 at 11:09
  • I agree with this point. Is there a reason to draw unique attention to old entries? May 8, 2013 at 12:56

Icons without descriptions have their limits

Each icon likely has a history in context someplace else. While this is more about the design of the interface it does have an impact on the user experience when someone clicks an icon that means something other than expected. Icon design is not easy.

  1. + (plus) is usually New or Add

  2. (check) usually Valid or correct

  3. x (letter x) is usually cancel, close, or delete depending on context

  4. Clocks mean timed, time, appointments, history and possibly expired

  5. ! usually indicates notice, caution, warning, attention needed

When considering different elements for an icon you want to make sure not fall victim to common mistakes in icon design.


You could use a simple triangle pointing up or down , although triangles typically mean yield or caution, although on Stack Exchange it's vote up. In some applications an up arrow indicates previous version.

You might also use the infinity symbol as icon for history since a clock is much more complicated than your other iconography. I've not seen it used in interfaces recently so it would be able to be redefined as a visual metaphor.

Since my guess is that you're using it for versioning, you might also use an ellipsis ... to show more.

or a > greater than symbol to show other, although this is used to represent directories in bread crumb navigation paths, and forward.


You could use a clock as the icon.

  • 1
    I though of that also, but unfortunately a visit with a clock means appointment!
    – Odys
    May 8, 2013 at 8:23

I wouldn't use an icon at all. I'd display the text of the item in a slightly lighter (grayer) font tom show that it is less relevant (assuming that's what you mean by "old").

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