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In our application, the user must select the position of a mobile phone relative to a head.

Among the possible position, there is

  • beside head left side.
  • beside head right side.

I can't upload it here because of property problems but there is the corresponding icons. Just a gray shape of a head and a phone with black background.

Actually the combo-box look like this.

  • beside head left side. |O
  • beside head right side. O|

Where O is the head and | is the phone.

So the phone is presented at the left when you select left side.

Some of our users find it disturbing because it imply the head to be seen from back and they image in it from face.

Any advices, or links to similar problems are welcome.

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  • Can't you just put a face on it to show it's the front. Related except it's full body. but the part about the face and the labels still apply.
    – DasBeasto
    Sep 14 '15 at 12:23
  • Thanks for the link. Sadly, those are small icons (24x24) details are hard to add... We have the same issue with the phone in the hand...
    – Orace
    Sep 14 '15 at 12:41
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    Can you simply ask them which hand they hold it in? If their using their right hand you can be fairly sure they'll put it on the right side of their head. And its fairly simple to fit a left and right hand icon instead of the phone head.
    – DasBeasto
    Sep 14 '15 at 13:00
  • @DasBeasto I agree in general, but a hand icon won't help much... is the hand shown palm up or palm down? Sep 14 '15 at 13:23
  • @JacobRaihle that's true I was picturing it with a little 'R' and 'L' shown on the hands which I think you'd have room for now that the heads gone but if not it could still be ambiguous.
    – DasBeasto
    Sep 14 '15 at 13:27
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If you insist on using icons, make them bigger. They have to be detailed to understand the meaning, which means you need more pixels.

Which side of the head is, as you found out, difficult to sketch or to imagine. If you know in which hand they hold the phone you also know to which ear they hold it. The icons that address this could look something like this:

1:enter image description here 2: enter image description here

But to keep smaller versions of those icons clear they still need more than 24 pixels. Obviously the question need to change to something along the lines of "In which hand do you hold your phone?". People will answer the question from their own perspective, so offering the options "Left" and "Right" should be clear enough, making the icons unnecessary.

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Even if users imagine the head from the front, many users will assume it to be mirrored. For this reason, LCD displays on video cameras have a mirror function, when the display is turned around, because many people find it disturbing to look at themselves in a not mirrored way. As you ask for related resources, this is something I would google.

I would advice to draw the logo in a way that makes it clear it is from behind (show hair in front of the neck), You might consider writing the word "LEFT" and "RIGHT" to make it clear. (People usually have a concept of left in the direction they are viewing)

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I think your problem is to take this concept in an absolutely literal way, which is not a good approach for iconography purposes. Personally, I can't imagine any scenario where you can add a phone and a head in a 24px icon and not being ambiguous. Just the thought of a line being understood as a phone is really weird, without proper labeling I wouldn't get that meaning in a million years. Furthermore, from your proposed solution I'd get " input / output " , so I'd rather explore more direct meanings with less interpretation

Proposed solution

You need to get to the most basic unit of understanding, which in this case will probably be the letters L and R. If you really want to add some pictogram, simply add an ear figure, you could even add an ear with an L and the other one with an R inside to reinforce the meaning.

The above being said, labeling is something you'd consider as priority, at least as tooltips or onboarding/coachmarks on mobile

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Use hair and/or color to denote it's the front of the head.

e.g. enter image description here

You can still tell from the black and white icon that this is front and not the back. However it's much easier to tell when you add in color.

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