guidelines for the feed icon

grayscale feed icon for archGFX

i've been working on my redesign (yes, my aspirations are loftier than just this header). i checked in on matt brett's feedicons.com to see if it had rebooted (to see if anyone else had made a minimal version), and found out that Frank Hecker had only just now come to a decision on the licensing of the feed icon. first, he wrote this:

"the feed icon is closer in spirit to a "community mark" than a traditional trademark. Our goal is that the icon be adopted universally by the entire community of people producing and using innovative products and services based on open web syndication formats, and be conceived of as belonging to that community rather than to any one organization."

Sounds good, right? The goal is just to assist the icon in transformation to something as genericized as a stop sign. Except not:

The guidelines state that you can't use the icon with a proprietary format, or change the colors of the icon, or any of a bunch of other nefarious deeds. Like orange is some sort of holy manna handed down from Dave Winer, and I'm already an apostate deviant for using an aqua feed icon. So Mozilla are now the guardians of this semi-proprietary mark, and they're going to protect us all from those evil closed source bastards? I guess that's why they had to go and write their own license, this free beer stuff is still kind of confusing.

Let's talk semiology and color theory for a second. Orange is a color for alerts and notifications. It never blends in. That's one of the reasons i like it so much. and I admit: it's absolutely perfect for browsers and auto-detection. It signifies an available action. On a web-page, that action is tertiary. The primary action of the feed icon is a link. Thusly, i've colored my feed icon to match my links (and removed the mime type so clickers have access to the web service buttons in feedburner's excellent XSL Template.

My punishment? they'll be "boycotting the violator's products and services, and so on". I certainly fucking hope so. Anyone who misunderstands roland barthes so badly that they think it's possible to give an icon real meaning, without absolutely surrendering control of the icon, shouldn't be reading my blog anyway.

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2 thoughts on “guidelines for the feed icon

  1. Scott

    I’m actually a fan of the feed/rss/xml icons of FamFam fame (had to write that), specifically those with the Silk collection. Actually the square ones.

    I also saw the new New York Times icons (also fun to write) and I think they look good—even though the text is comical at best.

    I’m stil not convinced that the orange, square icon will become gospal. And I hate to cite this man, but I did giggle at Jakob Nielsen saying that the feed icon was “meaningless.”

  2. sunburntkamel Post author

    while the famfamfam icons (c. K2 b2 r167) were alright, now they would fall under the usage guidelines in mitchell’s world view.

    nielsen’s comment makes sense (cringe) in the way that phil ringnalda’s comment does: an XSL template that makes the feed usable in a web browser is more important than a standard icon.

    the other idea that’s been rolling around my head is that should the icon achieve widespread understanding to mean “a means of fetching updated content” to non-tech users, the icon will have to do more within firefox than just be made a live bookmark. users will need to be able to send it to another app, get their choice of chicklets, as the jump from live bookmark to full blown web reader becomes more common.

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