Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Graphic Design


Graphic Design

First Advisor

Lisa Fontaine


This graphic design research paper focused on the problems users have in understanding the meaning of icons used on mobile devices. This research was to find out why some graphical icons can help the user understand while others prevent the user from getting the meaning easily. If the icons are not meaningful to users, this study is also intended to explore how to re-design problematic icons to deliver the message more efficiently.

It is assumed that: a) People will have trouble in understanding some of the icons on mobile devices because they are over-simplified due to their reduced size. b) The design of icons on mobile devices can be improved to deliver the intended message without affecting their simplicity. This can be done through greater concern for recognizability, relevance, and uniqueness.

Two surveys were conducted to evaluate if subjects could have understood the meanings of a set of 5 problematic icons which were identified as being over-simplified to the point where they lacked recognition, relevance, and uniqueness; in response to the survey, a set of new prototype icons was designed. Subsequently, another three comprehension tests were conducted with new test subjects to see how well users were interpreting the new icons. The test results show that these subjects could understand the meanings of the new icons better compared with the test results for the problematic icons when the recognizability, relevance, and uniqueness of the icons were increased.


Copyright Owner

Fei Yang



File Format


File Size

134 pages