I am trying to come up with a standard to be included in a style guide for a software application. One of the difficulties with the guide is around documenting states/status that seem to have a standard icon/symbol but no colours, or ones that have standard colours but no icon/symbol.

Is there any list or standard for the most common states that objects share in software applications? The ones that I think are probably shared and can be clearly defined are:

  • New (something that is newly created or added, as opposed to an existing item)
  • Removed (something that is deleted or removed, but can be undone or restored)
  • Done/Finished/Success (something that has an action applied without any errors)
  • On/Active/Working (something that can be switched on/off)
  • Mandatory/Required - this is the only one that I can think of that there is a semi-standard of a red '*' symbol
  • Optional/Not required (something that can be ignored without major consequences)

2 Answers 2


Red and green are loaded with meaning, so you should be careful how you use them while representing state.

  • New - blue (or something else neutral) plus, or an icon that looks "shiny"
  • Removed - is the removed state something missing? then definitely a red x, but sometimes you might not want to make such a negative statement about removed items. In this case consider a neutral colour. (greyed out?)
  • Done/Finished/Success - green tick
  • On/Active/Working - green for on / active, but "working" should be a more neutral colour unless you intend to convey an "ok" state as well (sometimes something is "working" but you don't know if the end result will contain errors)
  • Mandatory/Required - red star
  • Optional/Not required - blue (or something else neutral)
  • I updated the definition of removed to include items that can be undone or restored.
    – Michael Lai
    Jul 28, 2014 at 23:49

You wont find any standards here.
The glyph-representation of a state will depend on the context and the usage of the system.

What does the end user need to know. Why and when.

Eg. do you only need icons for "state", or would you need icons for "actions" as well. If so, would it be misleading to use the same icon for action "Create new" and state "newly created".

Eg. can you have several states for an object? Like "New" + "Mandatory" + "Active"

If you seach for "overlay icons", you'll find a lot of suggestions. Like these XP-icons from GlyFx:
enter image description here

Version control solutions do also have some de-facto standard of file-states (but these can be confusing for inexperienced persons):
enter image description here

  • I didn't think there were any set standards, so I was looking for some kind of consensus among people that might help me decide on some appropriate choices.
    – Michael Lai
    Jul 28, 2014 at 23:48

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