The Semiotics of UI Design

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The Semiotics of UI Design

Hi all,

Before I start on my first post, here's a little introduction. My name is Monica and I am the Visual Marketing Strategist for Hashmeta. My job, I design web pages and mobile apps, currently I have a new role that is to help company market their products/services.

This first blog post I wanted to share something more design-related since I am a designer. It's the semiotics of UI design. Alright so, here are 2 icons.

Which do you prefer? 

Red Realistic Icon or
Blue Symbolic Icon


I've posted this on my personal Facebook page, the feedback results were about 60-40.
60% prefers red realistic icon and 40% prefers blue simple sign icon. 

Nope, I wasn't the one who created the blue icon. To be honest, in order to show the contrast, I went on to search on google image, ugly email icon and this appeared. Hence, I've intentionally placed it next to the red realistic mailbox icon(yes, created by yours truly), so that my work will stand out a little more (hehe).

I did this mainly because I wanted to test the preference of the users. I've noticed bringing user interfaces to life has become a standard if you want people to talk about your designs and to become a player on Dribbble.

Here's an example of a Tastefully Executed UI.



More examples at

Designs like these need a lot of attention to details. Hence, it is time-consuming because designers have their reasoning in wanting to perfect every single pixel to perfection. The amount of highlight, shadows, gradients, bevels, glows has to be just right. Overall, it has to look great and stylish.

Having said that, based on my little test, clean and simple execution is not dead. Yes, drop shadows, bevels, blending modes etc can give you breathtaking graphics, however, in my opinion, these are all subjective. just like art. In fact UI design is an art. Minimalist and symbolic designs, if done with the right colours, grid and typography, won't be a plain jane, rather it is Suave.

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong, its only likes and dislikes. Which direction to go should be decided with intensive research on your target audience, user behaviours and the brand itself. Once these are sorted out, the experience is here to stay.

Which is your preferred choice? Realistic or Simplistic?


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