Visual symbols are often ambiguous. An icon is meant to convey a particular meaning, but viewers may interpret the image differently. This thesis shows how a viewer`s demographic background and icon color can affect their interpretation of a symbol. A website survey, featuring a library of icons, asked users of varied demographic profiles to interpret each figure presented randomly in one of five colors: black, blue, red, green, and orange. The qualitative text data from the participants` interpretations were compared to the quantitative data from icon and demographic information by means of multinomial logit analysis. The experiment found numerous noteworthy correlations, showing that the color of an icon and person`s background can have a significant and oftentimes predictable influence on interpretation. Icon designers can use this approach to see which icon would be best used to serve certain purposes.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Signs and symbols--Design; Icons (Computer graphics)--Design; Color in design; Color--Psychological aspects

Publication Date


Document Type



Haake, Anne

Advisor/Committee Member

Rozanski, Evelyn P.

Advisor/Committee Member

Parody, Robert J.


Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in December 2013.


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