I want a read and write to device icons -- in this case RFIDs but that should not matter at all.

There generally tends to be an arrow to (write) and an arrow from (read) but what about specific colours? Is there is a colour standard, or best practices, for a "read from device" and "write to device" icons?

This is what I currently have for read Read and write Write.

  • Those icons look the same, because the arrow direction isn't clear enough. I don't think there is a color for "read" or "write".
    – user31143
    Jun 10, 2016 at 10:27
  • @dan1111: Can you tell I am not a graphics designer by trade? ☺ Yes, I am not very happy with those icons although i think that "improve my icons" would be thrown upon here. Jun 10, 2016 at 10:43
  • 1
    It's a tough one. Generally Red indicates an error, yellow indicates a warning, green indicates things are good, blue often denotes a link or in windows; that the element is selected/focused. I think the fact that no colour springs to mind indicates that nobody is going to be -expecting- anything in particular, nor are they going to have a mental breakdown if it's one colour over another. The key is, as JohnGB says below - consistency; whatever you pick, make sure that's THE colour for read-only indications everywhere.
    – Logan
    Jun 10, 2016 at 11:37

3 Answers 3


You might be good just switching arrow directions (pardon the ASCII art):

    Read:  arrow points away from the icon     []->
    Write: arrow points towards the icon      ->[]

I'm basing the suggestion on the data flow direction (when reading, data "goes out", when writing data "goes in")


No, there are no standard colours used for "read from" or "write to". So other than choosing icons which are clear in the first place (those that you show are not), the important part is that you are consistent in your colours if you decide that you need to have different colours in the first place.


Cubase (digital audio workstation) uses red for writing and green for reading automation values (it also uses 'W' and 'R') BUT you should never rely on colour for indication of status - especially if you're using red and green!

As has been pointed out in the comments, your icons are not clearly defined. Make sure they're easily readable in monochrome before you start adding colour.

Beside colour there are a number of things you could think about to help you settle on recognisable icons: Writing is generally a downward process and reading generally upward, The card is ether receiving or transmitting data, you're either moving data from the system to the card or from the card to the system.

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