I have a project where a lot of data look alike but however they represent different things. For example I have data that contain 0 or 1 but this could represent a text value or a boolean.

A good idea would be to associate to each type of data an icon, but the question is what type of icon would someone use to represent the fallowing:

  • String
  • Number
  • Boolean
  • Array
  • Object
  • Date
  • Bytes
  • File
  • Null

Any idea would be great.

Update 1

@timpone I agree with you but imagine the fact that the user might not be a programmer and wants to edit a set of booleans and he is expected to write down only 1 or 0 but if he is not aware what type of data he is allowed to enter he will not be able to use it properly.

However on a small display such a smartphone I find it hard to use a rich application like phpmyadmin on a daily basis, therefore this is why I thought that visual helpers like icons might be a good idea.

  • Could you provide some additional details? Where do you want to use type icons? – Renat Gilmanov Aug 14 '13 at 15:16
  • I want to design an application that browses data from Parse on mobile devices (Android for example). – Mike Aug 14 '13 at 15:25
  • why would an end-user need to know the format? a user is expected to know the difference between 0 and 1 meaning. PROGRAMMERS CAN'T EVEN AGREE ON THAT! – timpone Aug 15 '13 at 4:37

You are very lucky with data types' names. This set of icons provides cues and high learnability and memorability.
enter image description here

  • 1
    Having worked on this problem, I agree with Renat's statement: "it is really hard to invent clear and easy to understand icons" for data types. This is why I voted for this answer. The only potential problem with Alexey's solution is that the letters may change if the UI is localized. At that point, the letters may not be unique across the data types. – user1757436 Aug 14 '13 at 20:54
  • 2
    Does it scale? Is there any reason to have the same icon for Boolean and Bytes? It will confuse a user for sure. – Renat Gilmanov Aug 14 '13 at 23:45
  • The null symbol is probably a better alternative - a zero with a slash through it. It's an established symbol, where the dot doesn't convey much meaning. – Surreal Dreams Aug 15 '13 at 3:12
  • @RenatGilmanov, sorry, I've just missed it ). – Alexey Kolchenko Aug 15 '13 at 4:42
  • @user1757436 If your target audience is programmers (and I hope your project does not require non-techical users to work with terms like Byte and Array), there is not much to worry about localization. Programming related terms are used in English by programmers around the world. Even when a programmer prefers to use programming texts in their own language, they are familiar enough with the English terms to associate the icons with them. Note that I do not have experience in countries which strongly reject foreign language influences, e.g. France or Poland, so there may be outliers. – Rumi P. Aug 15 '13 at 9:20

I agree that the full term is simplest in this case, but in the context of an app sometimes an icon just can't be beat. And if it will be used often, a slight learning curve isn't the worst thing.

Half baked though they may be, here's a few ideas to start with.

enter image description here

  • I like this, but NULL shouldn't be a mystery. It's an established "value". Probably the ø symbol is better. – Andrew Leach Aug 15 '13 at 6:58
  • @AndrewLeach good point. I just like question marks ;) – plainclothes Aug 15 '13 at 16:27
String: "ABC" 
Number: "123"
Boolean: Lightswitch
Array: Stack of planes (squares) - or a rubik's cube
Object: A blue box
Date: A calendar
Bytes: A page of 1's and 0's 
File: A folder with a page in it 
Null: A red "0" with the line

Not exciting, but it would get the point across

  • T/F would be a good alternative for boolean. Otherwise we are very much on the same page. – Surreal Dreams Aug 15 '13 at 3:10

Can you use a programming language style syntax instead of icons to indicate data types?

String: "some string"

Number: 123

Boolean: true or false

Array: [ "s", 123, true ]

Object: { a : "s", b : 3, x: false }

Date: @22-July-2002

Bytes: #3A100F8244B6

File: $filePathName

Null: Null


Frankly speaking it is really hard to invent clear and easy to understand icons. So I would like to suggest not to use icons.

Anyway, just for your information, there are several not so bad examples (second example is far from being good) I know:

Option 1: physical size (source)

enter image description here

Yes, double is a nightmare as well as Object and others :)

Option 2: first letter (source)

enter image description here

Better solution: just use full name

You can use properly styled names (also use color coding in order to highlight different groups):

enter image description here


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