I speak english, not pictogram. The only platform I've ever seen that got icons right was Windows Phone, because it had a hard-coded "..." button that always did the same thing:
1) Show all the labels, and
2) Show all the additional text-labeled (non-icon) actions that were hidden by default.
So the first thing you did when faced with an unfamiliar set of icons was touch the "..." button which showed you the full list of things you could do.
That first part though, where I know what a bankers box is used for, really helps make the icon connect. I think this is important, but at the same time, it's difficult because it's not universal. The "floppy disk" save icon has already turned into an arbitrary symbol for younger generations, and I expect the bankers box is well on its way (if not there already). Maybe FBI evidence rooms in TV shows will help it hold out.
Floppy disk has an advantage because at least it's consistent across a ton of software. If you make up an icon and use it in one interface and then redesign that interface again in 4 years, you have a much harder time getting people to attach meaning to it consistently.
It's the visual equivalent of a text button with "Mloroab" on it. Yeah I speak English, but I don't know what that does.
One of the Windows Phone's designers had a really insightful article  about how they designed windows phone fundamentally for a technology native who doesn't need shitty metaphorical leather textures on his glass screen calendar. It is where the famous movement against skeumorphism started (and thank god for that!). WP was doing flat design before it was cool.
On an old MSDN post (maybe?) I remember reading that the inspiration for the Live Tiles was a user whose central interest was to use the phone as liitle as possible to do his task as quickly as he could before he rapidly replaced the phone back into his pocket to get on with real life. I remember creating a new calendar entry in WP7 took three taps from start to finish, not counting typing out the title. There weren't many other fields to fill besides the Title of the entry and the time/date, and it set a default reminder time of 15 minutes before start time. Perfection. Before facebook and the rest dragged the carpet out from under them, you could get your twitter and facebook feed within the contacts app so you could get it all in one place.
Edited to add: I'm on a bit of a love fest venting session so here's more. WP designers recognized that OLEDs were amazing, so they made the phone White Text on Black from the get go! Thus, great battery life. Further, all the icons were also uniformly coloured, making the whole experience so cohesive. All the apps also looked like all the others, so the learning curve was nonexistent. They recognized how little juice engineers of android could suck out of their bloated multi core processors, so they made their phones work phenomenally well on even shitty, single core processors.
I fucking loved windows phone's early verions. It's a shame they've gone away. But an even bigger shame that they had no confidence in their original designers, and ended up adapting the hideous, appalling, atrocious, fucking retarded hamburger menu before they went away.
I don't think MS had any confidence in anything they were doing over that time because they never seemed to properly commit to anything. Win Phone could have been bigger and competitive if they'd focused effort on it (marketing - and no not MS's standard marketing 'quality,' app dev funding, etc)
So much flat design fails the "which things are a button" test, WP did it right.
That said, the OS had some flaws on a design level at the start:
Wasted column on the home screen just for the swipe arrow. No notification tray - only live tiles.
Over-restrictive icons made it often hard to tell icons apart. Yes, I get your great design, but pure monochrome silhouettes is a bit too restrictive for app-specific icons.
I loved the idea that a person has a home-screen - that's something that every OS should steal. If I open up a person, I should see every social share they've made, every interaction I've had with them, and every interaction I can start with them. Then I don't care how many messaging apps Google launches, because I don't need to have any messaging apps on my home screen, only my Contacts.
it was somewhat annoying to watch the community go religious on flat design when "Apple invented it"
Seriously though, Windows phones sucked for many reasons (including lack of exposed features in the OS, especially in first versions, and of course lack of apps in general), but UX wasn't one of them. I guess they failed in releasing too much of an MVP, and then not following through properly. I continue to claim that Microsoft had a great UX vision for mobile, and that they're the only one with an OS that can turn tablets from consumption devices into productive tools.
On early iPhones this was within the reach of the thumb. On later iPhones they introduced the swipe to solve the issue posed by larger screens.
I like it
One sorry soul at my work hadn't realised you can expand the sidebar to reveal the labels. Watching him trying to find everything was quite amusing
- Hover over each symbol one-by-one until tooltip shows itself (sometimes takes multiple tries); or
- Google "how to find X in JIRA"
(No, not the "Tests" icon, its got the hole slightly off centre to the left. Or the "Calendar" icon, its fo the hole slightly off centre to the upper left.)
Don't trust a single set of new glyphs, cobbled together by designers, basically unilaterally compared to a huge marketplace of speakers, whose purpose is not necessarily to communicate, but sometimes, "to look good" or "match aesthetic" of the context.
Something developed without the same selective pressure cannot be trusted the same to be as effective.
We've already gone through this. It's called mystery meat navigation, and it was so prevalent and discouraged that it even has a wikipedia entry. Hopefully it'll go out of fashion again.
Mystery meat navigation is purely opaque, whereas icons like GMail's are at least trying to convey meaning via their imagery. The Wikipedia page for Mystery Meat Navigation actually has an example that is completely opaque as well, as does this example video by the coiner of the term: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=zZ...
I don't think it's quite fair to call bad iconography "Mystery Meat" because it's not executed well. The difference is that users can (and do) learn what the icons mean and then can find them visually, whereas in true MMN, you'd absolutely have to move your mouse over what you were trying to find.
GMail has the challenge of trying to not make their UI busy while at the same time trying to come up with iconography for "Archive", which is not as prevalent in the zeitgeist as "Bold" in a word processor.
I mean it's not like anyone ever met an arrogant Googler, right?
I'd be curious to know if she worked this "trick" out on her own, or if there's hidden shared knowledge out there where she learned this from her peers?
Now I am actually okay with it. For a product that is daily use, you get used to the icons fairly quick and am glad it doesn't take that much screen real estate.
What I hated is that it inspired a lot of other products that are NOT meant for daily interaction to do the same thing. For example I probably only interact with the dropbox desktop client once every blue moon and they have icons that make no sense (First icon is two squares for opening Paper which I don't use. Next icon is a globe which is for opening the web ui. All I want to do is revert a file!).
3. a one node graph
4. a three node graph
5. a two node digraph
6. the refresh symbol
7. an arrow pointing to a cloud
8. a page
I have no idea what any of these mean and I hate it. Plus, it takes 8 seconds to load anything so if you click on the wrong one it's extra annoying.
If anyone's curious, the answers are:
1. <>: source
2. </>: source, as far as I can tell it's the same button again
3. one node graph: commits
4. three node graph: branches
5. two node digraph: pull requests
6. refresh symbol: pipelines
7. array pointing to cloud: deployments
8. page: downloads
I'll wear it loud and proud at the cafe that's always got Atlassian devs in it round the block from here...
Here it is shrunk (not default): https://i.imgur.com/liRIiHG.png (left) https://i.imgur.com/zTOooiS.png (right)
Expanded: https://i.imgur.com/zj9P8d4.png (left) https://i.imgur.com/Fv2irRH.png (right)
 https://hub.spigotmc.org/stash/projects/SPIGOT/repos/craftbu.... I think they might be using their own hosted / reconfigured version of BitBucket, so maybe this isn't 100% on BitBucket?
I don't think I've ever shrunk that panel since I didn't even know how to do that, so I would think that the shrunk version is the default.
Happy to have helped in some way :laughing:
It's gone now, but remember the rainbow icon? That's how you got to recent file changes (not notifications). Even worse they removed that icon and the functionality entirely (seeing recent file changes across your entire dropbox in one place). I used it daily when I would accidentally move a dropbox folder or fat finger something else I needed to quickly revert.
I'd argue that an important element of UI is discoverability. Yes, a "A box with downward arrow" is not in and of itself enlightening about what it does. By looking at that icon I am not sure what it does. However, I can discover what it does in very few actions. Clicking on it results in selecting all the emails on the page, and the box changes to checked. Clicking the down icon results in a selection menu with "All", "None", "Read", "Unread" and "Starred". Clicking on one of those items selects only those items. Given that interaction, can anyone here say they still don't understand what it does? My one criticism is that selecting something like "stared" doesn't filter down to only those items too, so you can now select things that aren't on the page of items you're currently seeing.
Apple's original iOS did not convey a sense of "immediate understanding" that this article demands, but rather focused on discoverability. That is the same mentality that went into make this UI/UX. My point is you can't judge one without the other. Removing all animations from the original iOS would have come close to ruining it. Showing a picture of a Google UI, and criticizing it without allowing it the benefit of discoverability is tantamount to the same lack of context as removing those animations.
Also, following this posts advice:
> Luckily, this menu can be switched to text labels in Settings.
And changing to text button labels doesn't even change that first icon, so I'm not sure that post is really for any other purpose than creating material for some echo chamber.
If I'm lucky, there will be a limited-time Undo button after doing the action (GMail has this on some actions but not others!), but if I hesitate too long or accidentally click on anything but it, it goes away permanently. I'm sure I've lost some important email to the depth of time because of a few fatfinger mistaps.
A 'peek' already provides a preview of an item -- it just isn't used for action buttons. 'Peeking' into the name and description of an icon would be a fairly straightforward extension of the idea.
It just... isn't used that way.
Well, anything that isn't a text/content editor (or a file system manager, which I had forgotten to mention), so basically the vast majority of computer usage. Settings in applications, navigation state of applications, state of the OS/window manager itself (I'm not aware of a desktop environment where moving or closing a window or application supports an undo feature), etc. Web browsers and most file managers do support back and forward navigation, if you want to count that as "undo."
The comment I was initially replying to talked about being afraid to press buttons in modern UIs because of the lack of undo. My claim is that, except for buttons that change formatting in text/content editors or buttons that make changes in some file system managers, undo functionality has really never existed to my knowledge.
Not in practice, as this feature is universally broken by modern web developers, making it totally unreliable.
You have a good point about undo - it was universally a feature for reverting operations on edited data, not on application state itself. But then again, it was compensated by buttons having reliable tooltips, and most options available in textual menus.
Firefox's tab history seems quite deep, I can CTRL-SHIFT-T many times.
iPhone implemented shake to undo back with iPhone 3.0
Of course you can Undo something like Archiving a message. That's the Mac way, since 1984.
But after a decade of using gmail, it's not even something I would think to do.
What I am less confident of is what happens when that notification goes away.
In the real world we shakes things to mix them up, not to revert to a previous state i.e. shaking increases entropy.
I wonder who at Apple decided otherwise and why. Perhaps someone with a doctorate in cosmology who is fighting against heat-death.
The whole point of icons is that you don't need to "discover" what they do. They're supposed to be intuitive.
To me an arrow pointing down means "download," not "select all."
If you can't convey your meaning inside a 16x16px monochrome block, then perhaps that's not the best choice for the task at hand.
Time to innovate.
Also, Google's choice to deviate from every other mobile menu icon on the planet (the hamburger menu) is a sign of hubris, not an effort to help the customer.
Once you've hovered over the icon and learned its meaning then you can recognize it by the picture.
Copyboard for paste.
Fill bucket for fill.
These are intuitive for most people for whom they were targeted.
Three bars for a menu is not intuitive.
Cut has a whole heap of connotations that don't relate to the editing "cut" operation. Google suggests incision, wound, to separate into parts, "remove (something) from something larger by using a sharp implement". Editing cut doesn't do any of this.
There is a very specific link in that relocating text /could be/ thought of as snipping it off a page and pasting it somewhere else, except no-one would ever do that when writing seriously. They erase and rewrite.
So the scissors icon links to the word cut, but cut itself is actually a mystery-meat operation where figuring it out is hard for users that aren't already savvy with interfaces. By extension, the scissors icon has no link to the actual operation that the button performs.
In image programs there is literally a white gap where to object was. Word processors would redo line breaks and hide the original location.
In a few years, three bars will be just as intuitive to most users, and probably be the intuitive icon we use as a reference when complaining that the icon to switch on ranged machine-brain interaction instead of touch interface isn't as intuitive as established iconography.
> Copyboard for paste.
I don't even know what on Earth is a "copyboard". Is this some arcane tool from early XX-century newspaper office?
I miss the days when software people cared about built-in user guides.
Absolutely not true.
The word "icon" originated with religious artwork and was used to tell stories to the people at a time when 99% of the population was illiterate.
Governments spend millions of dollars on research to design important icons that will be completely intuitive for hundreds or thousands of years. Things like the radioactive trefoil, or the biohazard sign. (Google it, there's lots of articles about this.)
Nobody wants to tell some future human, "Oh, sorry you sank into a 4,000-year-old pool of radioactive sludge and died. You should have "learned" it was dangerous ahead of time. At least you "discovered" what it means, now that you're dead."
> millions of dollars on research to design important icons that will be completely intuitive for hundreds or thousands of years.
And the results of that research is that conclusion that such icons are impossible to create.
> Nobody wants to tell some future human, "Oh, sorry you sank into a 4,000-year-old pool of radioactive sludge and died. You should have "learned" it was dangerous ahead of time. At least you "discovered" what it means, now that you're dead."
Of course not. They tell some future human: "I'm glad you stayed out of that pool. It's great that you learned what the skull+crossbones
icon meant during your childhoold."
However, it may just be a misunderstanding. The quote that you said was "absolutely not true" had two statements:
> No icon anywhere is intuitive. They're all learned.
I'm not saying that symbols, found in religious icons or elsewhere, can't be "intuitive", in the sense that there's some underlying logic or they're otherwise easier to understand than a set of symbols picked at random. (That said, many of them, like the aforementioned Eastern Orthodox clothing colors, do seem fully arbitrary.) I'm just saying that they're also "learned", i.e. you can't (fully) make sense of them without prior understanding.
By the way, your mention of radioactivity reminds me of the US government's attempt to design markers for nuclear waste sites which can be understood many thousands of years into the future, without a common language – e.g. as described in this article:
This is an interesting problem precisely because it is hard to unambiguously convey abstract concepts using iconography without context – even a concept as simple as "this place is dangerous". Thus, the proposals end up being rather complex.
Here's Charles Baldwin [involved in developing the biohazard symbol] telling you the goals of the project:
> We wanted something that was memorable but meaningless, so we could educate people as to what it means.
And all the research into the latter problem? There'd be a whole lot less of it if the biohazard icon were intuitive.
Instead, in the context of the US Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, we have ideas like a scary looking 'Landscape of thorns' being shut down because interesting looking places could become tourist attractions, the idea of starting a religious tradition around the area being seriously considered, and the conclusion that, ultimately, there's no good solution.
I don't even use Gmail anymore (I've completely switched over to Inbox) but when I opened that article the first thing I did was "read" all the icons on the page. The only ones I had trouble with were "Mark as Read" and "Move to Folder", but even those only took a couple seconds of thought for me to comprehend.
I have it the same even with labels, truth to be told. I hate that nowadays Google seems to shuffle All, Images, Videos, News around, because I learned that Images are always the second one and then it opens Videos on full moon and News on Wednesday. Now I have to always parse before I tap/click.
Well, Inbox shares quite a few of these obscure icons (like the "stop sign with exclamation mark" icon for spam), only they captioned them.
So as an Inbox user you've basically seen the cheat sheet quite a few times. This sort of invalidates your test imho.
Challenge HN: Improve Gmail Icons
Also, challenges like this might be a good way to surface existing projects which are trying to attack some broken system or problem, but don't (yet) have a lot of attention or traction.
Sometimes what we need is to not invent an entirely new solution, but to iterate on or fork an existing one.
Text buttons. Done.
I sorta feel like you could even remove "More" button here without losing too much. Reply box would be at the bottom of a message, just like it is currently. More buttons could be added for users who actually use this functionality (for instance, if you have categories defined, a button to move would appear).
On the other hand I find the article slightly dishonest on a couple of points. Not because I believe the icons are particularly obvious, but because the descriptions seem to miss the point. Here goes:
> - Ok, clock now. This is universally undestood sign that could mean literally _anything_. What time is it?
The clock is associated with time. In the context of received mail, it seems quite natural that a time-related action would be setting a reminder.
> - Right-pointing rectangle? This looks most like road sign pointing to some place, but actually means TAG. Huh?
To me this obviously looks like sticky notes you can add in books or on files to categorize content, a.k.a. quite literally tags.
- Obviously the clock is time related, but there is no clue how. After reading this, I still don't know what it does. Is it a "remind me later" icon?
- The right pointing rectangle is too abstract. I agree with the article that it looks like a road sign, or like gmail's own "importance" markers. IMO, if they rotated it 45 degrees and put a hole in the point, it would be much more clear.
They're supposed to be the old-school paper tags with a hole in the narrow end .
These tags, like floppy's and manila folders, will live on in our iconography even as someone born this decade is unlikely ever encounter the real thing. I was recently amused to explain to my kid what the dialer icon on the iPhone is: "well, a long, long time ago (it's getting close to 20 years now since the Nokia 3310 sold over a 100 million units and we got rid of our landline) we used to have stationary phones in our homes and you would talk into a wired handset that looked like this icon".
UX design used to reach further back than current decade. Even in the ancient days of early Windows, not many people had had first-hand experience using an hourglass anymore ;)
I think this highlights that everyone potentially has a different understanding. That wasn't obvious to me, or the article's author. Personally I would expect a reminder button to have a bell icon.
Likely because you've associated a bell with "alarm", and you're associated "alarm" with "reminder", but that's likely a learned association because of these systems because alarm really means danger. An "alarm clock" is probably the origination of that association, but I think the terminology could have just as easily gone with "notification clock" or "wake-up clock" originally, and we woulnd't be using "alarm" as we do much of the time now.
I think what this actually points to is that while some icons have become normalized over time, (settings is usually indicated by bars, or the "hamburger" icon, power has a well accepted icon now), there exist people that still don't know them well because they either haven't used modern devices enough, or used older devices without a standard enough that it takes longer to recognize the convergence.
I imagine any proposed icon standard probably has about a decade before it's widely understood by most people, because of the lag in usage in popular applications, which lags exposure to people, and the large number of people that use technology where it would be present sparingly enough that it takes a long time to become obvious and accepted. In the end though, I think that's what's needed, as skeuomorphic and conceptual based icons have problems as noted here.
In that case we would still use bell icons. Because the bell would be still associated with the "notification clock" or the "wake-up clock".
Edit: The association is ringing bell <=> notification/wakeup, not about alarms/danger. I think a siren light icon would be used for that. Which is also an interesting case study on shift of meaning as sirens were originally about sound (and songs) and not a warning signal but a danger themselves.
I think, given the choice of using an icon of an alarm clock or bell or even just a round faced clock, or creating some new image that we can try to standardize on, we'll be better off eventually if we choose the latter.
1: This one might be particularly troublesome in the future. Rounds faced clocks aren't exactly rare, but they are getting less common every year. In the future using it might be akin to using a representation of an abacus to represent a calculator. If people think that's ridiculous, consider that my parents used an abacus in high school, so it's not that far removed...
I have lots of bells -- on my door and in my phone, for example. I have no idea what they look like, though.
isn't the liberty bell in philly?
To me a clock in this context means I can schedule an e-mail message to be sent later. If I want a reminder, I'll use a reminders or to do app, not an e-mail client.
I don't mean this in jest. I feel the same way about some of the icons, and I can figure out what the rest are via tooltips, but they are sure as hell confusing if it's your first time using GMail.
Others have already pointed out that this is not the origin of the tag association. I'd also add that pointy-ended "recto-triangles" aren't really the archetype of a sticky note (a yellow Post-it is), and for a lot of people, there's a good chance they never ever seen a fancy one like that, unless they spend way too much time exploring office supplies stores.
They had to add a bunch of padding around the buttons in the toolbar based on a top-down redesign mandate. Buttons needed to be big enough to be used with fingers/touchscreens, with one glorious responsive UI for desktop and mobile. They discovered that labels didn't fit inside the "safe area" for certain languages, like German (and monitors had lower resolutions then). The icons were a compromise.
And then desktop web stagnated under a "mobile-first" mandate from the top. (Since then, the mandate-du-jour has changed.)
One of the great things about the newest GMail redesign is that there are settings around this -- you can make the padding narrower and you can change the UI to use text labels again.
The same applies to iOS and Android application icons, despite they have vibrant colors. I always can't find what I need, they look the same. I end up using search box if I want to run app that is not on home screen.
Watching others, most folks don't seem to have this problem - words and icons seem about equally fluid for them. And I'm fine if they don't move - I remember them by location. But I'm very slow to 'read' icons.
The most common situation that highlights this is tab-application-switching. Those are never in the same order twice, and I have to stare at them until I can pick out the icon of the app I'm thinking of. I've looked for hacks that would replace the icons with words, but haven't seen one, at least on MacOS.
Really if there is one thing you should do this year is take some time and discover emacs. Just for orgmode alone. You will Thank me later :-)
In a nutshell:
Emacs is a machine. A lisp machine. It will work for you instead that you work for your computer.
It will do anything you want ( and more)
Now is the time to discover this shining gem in all of softwares.
Images are great for conveying complex information but icons are much smaller and harder to recognize, especially in gmails soft bubbly grayscale icons that refuse to use any colors or even borders.
> Two envelopes in a stack means 'mark as read'
from this article. I had no idea what it did before.
select Button Labels: Text
Life is too short.
Anyway, English invents new words or new meanings all the time. What does a "cloud" have to do with webservers?
I've always assumed it had to do with the common use of a cloud to refer to the internet or other network on diagrams. With a cloud being used because it conveyed a sense of "the unknown" or "uncontrollable." Which is an interesting meaning progression to the current version of "cloud."
You know that because you are a network software developer.
In summary, though, "Cloud icon represents the cloud, and we use the word "cloud" because ... we use a cloud icon to represent it."
Instead of commenting on google's design, we could be commenting on software that isn't proprietary, closed source and anti-consumer, with access provided for free solely to enable data mining and maximise ad revenue.
A while ago it took me a good 15 minutes to figure out how to mark an email as "unread" in the Gmail Android client. Apparently an envelope icon means "mark as unread".
The newish (within the past couple years) navigation icons on Android are great: a left pointing triangle, a circle, and a square. At least the triangle points the same direction as old back button.
Disclaimer: I do use Vim when SSHed into a server because that's the CLI editor I happened to learn and it supports regex search.
Graphic designers and information architects aren't using vim. In fact, vim suffers from the same lack of transparency/discoverability as these icons do.
It actually makes perfect sense to criticise Google's design because 1) they are a multibillion dollar company who apparently can't even invest in a product designer, and 2) they are highly visible and other projects (especially open source ones) will gladly adopt the same approaches. Just look at the incomprehensible mess that is Material design.
I remember I was looking for a "mark as unread" in the android gmail app, never finding it for a long time until I tried that icon, wondering what it was. It was the mail icon button.
They've removed any way to enable it from Gmail itself. You have to search Gmail Help ("See Gmail in standard or basic HTML version"), which has a magic link you can visit to enable it.
Poking at something to see what it does is something most people do since toddlerhood. The only challenge is getting over your fear that irreversible operations are triggered on touchdown not touchup.
Is it that Google did not do user testing?
Or they did user testing and found the icons work fine?
Or they know labels work better, but intentionally chose to use icons anyway?
"I don't like X and it's obvious that Y would be better" is a fun topic, but I'm not so sure why people are so quick to accept an anecdote as gospel.
Up until this moment I'd been annoyed that my action bar in GMail was text-only after the update to the new interface. I was even wondering why the author was writing about the old GMail and went searching through the comments looking for others who were just as confused and checking GMail settings (it was there—I just missed it).
The icons are much easier (for me) to decipher upon quick glance, once I know their meanings. The text requires me to actually read the buttons before clicking, which is slower if I'm not doing it repetitively (like tagging/archiving a weeks worth of emails on a Friday).
That said, I'll always prefer a combination of icons and labels.
Icons are hard (to get right) in general. Do you stick with skeuomorphisms when half your user base know them well, but the other half have no idea what they mean (e.g. floppy disk to save)?
You can’t make an icon that is naturally unambiguous to everyone, everywhere.
Two icons in the toolbar, both small rounded metal loops. I have to hover for the tooltip every time.
Labels are good at telling you what things are, but finding specific frequently performed actions in a list of text that all look similar will yield frustration
Icons (and especially icons with colour, or icons plus colour) are good at allowing you to quickly find something you're already looking for, but expecting icons to perform the job of labels to provide initial information will yield confusion
Why not a cow? Everyone knows cows go mooooooo-ve :)
I realise you were only joking but it does illustrate why i8n icons are difficult.
Even knowing the icons' meanings, my brain has to pause a second to think about what they do.
I hit a personal wall of "will & interest" this weekend trying to re-learn an app I've used for a long time that updated with some interface changes.
I think it's actually possible to reach a "too many interfaces" limit.
Or at least I'm getting there.
Here's an icon from the Outlook web mail app: https://ibb.co/ic66Qd
What does it mean?
I honestly had to ask someone how to reply to an email in gmail.
Companies spend too much on designers.
People who say "design for the sake of design" are exactly the people who need design.
For starters, everything is designed. Show me one human-produced thing that wasn't actually consciously designed by someone. Is that design for the sake of design?
There's a difference between good design and bad design. It's important to learn how to tell the difference, but more important to learn how critical to success is good design (regardless if it comes from a trained designer or not.)
The question is - But, Why. I'd bet half a paycheck that the only people who really really care about the new "cool" designs are (1) Bosses looking to take credit (2) Bored tech writers looking for content (3) UX Peers looking for validation (4) Tech people looking for new toys. Normal folks just want all that fancy UI stuff to go away. They would be just as productive on a UI based on Mac OS 8.
wtf?? Totally unnecessary.
If there was a functional advantage of the icons that would be great. But I'm guessing it was chosen just to "look prettier".