Home > Nokia, Rant, Suggestions > Poll: Does Nokia need to change their default icons and fonts? (#N8 #Symbian)

Poll: Does Nokia need to change their default icons and fonts? (#N8 #Symbian)

S60 5th Edition - via N97

Symbian icons and fonts – does Nokia need to change them?

(Did you also know that YOU can change both icons and fonts easily with themes?)

Scroll at end or click here to vote at the poll

The Nokia N8 received rapturous applause in its multimedia prowess and strength of design. The resounding notion was that in hardware it was the cream of the crop, but in software, much improvement was still needed.

Annoyingly, many things that people dislike in Symbian^3 have been ironed out in Symbian^4. The layout has improved over S^3, less space wasting, the homescreen isn’t limited to panels, screen buttons are more conveniently placed etc.

Though there are many UI elements needing to be improved, one of the common issues people had with S60 5th Edition (and S60 in general) was the tired looking fonts and icons. Since these are consistent across all Nokia devices, including the upcoming Nokia N8, it immediately contributed to the perception that Symbian^3 is still dated looking.

These are subtle aspects but they do make great differences to the overall user experience.

The Font

This is from a previous post back in february

A font says a lot, though quite subtly, and so often overlooked.

The narrow Nokia font made sense in older phones when trying to conserve on pixel usage. But now we’ve got high res screens and can afford wider fonts, narrow, sharp fonts look much less appealing than their plumper, rounder counterparts.

The curviness of “Century Gothic” [Very similar to “Prelude”, used in Palm Pre I think] is often found in children’s books because of the emphasis on classic alphabet shapes and thus readability. Prelude is probably the best font at the moment being used on phones. The letters are very curved, a little more readable than Century Gothic (E.G. letter r), but less wasteful on character spacing.

We probably won’t see that font on a Nokia anytime soon, but it’s a step in the right direction that Nokia’s changing the font to something more pleasing to the eye.

Palm Pre font – considered the best by many for a smartphone.

The change is small yet highly influential to the overall user experience.

Most importantly however, this change is easy to make and you can do it yourself.

Symbian has always been on the forefront of customizability in themes. Find the right one and you can change the entire look of the phone.

Symbian^4 with veranda font:

This unfortunately is not the default look for S^4, but just one of the themes available (I think we’re still stuck in Nokia Sans)

The Icons

One of the issues with the icons (other than their actual design) is their lack of uniformity.

What I mean is that when icons are placed in a grid, because they can assume any shapes,

  • they form less clean lines,
  • you’re not really sure where you can press (i.e. inconsistent clickable areas)
  • (It could be argued however, that such icons with transparent backgrounds make it easier to recognize those icons. Consistency over all devices helps this too.)

Take a look at the default icons below.

Take a look at slightly modified icons (Simple Symbian theme installation – no hacking). They look nicer, more modern (the ones that are changed anyway), but they still aren’t uniform.

Maybe it’s the space constraint, and these type of icons aren’t suited for smaller screens. (Maybe the busy backgrounds aren’t helping?)

Now check out how they look in iPhone icons, i.e. in standard shapes. Squircles (curvy squares?).

  • The grid lines are cleaner to the eye
  • There’s basic symmetry and our eyes by instinct favour this.
  • Curves are innately more appealing than jagged edges (more modern looking – streamlined)
  • You know to always press within the space of the squircles.

Here’s another look but with slightly bigger, more 3D iPhone icons.

Adding squircles

Whilst Nokia couldn’t simply copy iPhone’s icons and put into default themes, you could just put squircles behind the default/any previous icon design.

A bit like Maemo 5 on N900 homescreen (and the new Samsung iPhone Galaxy S)

Size, symmetry and layout of course is important as well as icon design. This is just to demonstrate the ease of adding squircles which instantly make it more visually accessible.

MeeGo tablets have already been seen with uniform circle or uniform square icons. Not a Nokia product, but possibly a shape of things to come?

Which one is the iPhone

N8 with slightly revamped icons. Same shape, more modern looking.

Note portrait mode still has similar S60 5th layout but landscape has newer 2×6 grid.

N8 with iPad theme

Poll: Does Nokia Need to change their Default icons and fonts?

If you voted yes to a change, how should the icons be changed? What font should Nokia use?

And remember, most likely we'll also get themes as customizable as S60 5th where we can change fonts and icons to our taste.

  1. bix
    June 16, 2010 at 11:43 am

    They’ve already changed the icons in S^3, maybe put up a picture of those…

    • June 16, 2010 at 11:51 am

      Updated thanks (landscape view) as well as iPad version or attempt of anyway.

  2. Jim
    June 16, 2010 at 11:50 am

    they need to change icons and font. but this is written on all other forums. they can put the icons and font from meego tablet . animated icons will be nice. also bigger icons and more color is needed.

    another important thing is they need to change battery and signal icons. Make them horizontal so they don’t eat a lot of screen size. Also a bigger resolution will be needed, 600×300 it’s ok but not enough. they should make something like 900×600 for 3.5 inch screens and around 1024×680 for 4 inch screens.

    and the background should not be full black. they should use something like n900 or meego tablet. also animated background will be nice. a small movement of the backgound will deliver a very nice eye candy effect.

    • June 16, 2010 at 11:54 am

      Yup, previously well discussed before, thought I’d bring it up again since it’s what tech journalists have been mentioning with recent N8 hands on stuff.

      Perfect suggestions – make more efficient use of all available space, reduce wastage. It’s improved somewhat with S^4. But those are old Screnshots, don’t know what it looks like right now.

      Forgot about animated icons (they worked with S60 3rd as you had to hover and it animated.) Not sure how this would work since we just want apps to open instantly once pressed.

      On the background, yes, full black is boring. Good thing N8 already has animated backgrounds eh?

      • Jim
        June 16, 2010 at 12:49 pm

        animated icons are ok for the applications that require more time to open. this way you will not have the lag impression.

        I think nokia need to hire a design team and make a nice eye candy default UI. because the first impression comes from the default theme, plus not all the people are familiar with themes.

        Animated backgrounds are ok, but I don’t like the backgrounds from N8. SImilar to meego/maemo would be nice. just my opinion

        • June 16, 2010 at 7:01 pm

          Yeah good point. Maemo’s fade backgrounds are pretty nice, and they differ with each theme.

          True also on theme changing – most people aren’t aware of it.

  3. Brendan
    June 16, 2010 at 11:52 am

    To all those getting hung up on this, I have two things to say:

    1.) Get a life
    2.) Themes

    • June 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm

      Themes have been mentioned throughout the post with several examples.

      As mentioned, Nokia icons and fonts have often been criticized by media/other tech blogs.

      This was just to see what people (mostly in Nokia demographic) thought of the default icons/fonts and if they knew they could change them easily with themes.

  4. pff
    June 16, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Even S^3 is a good evolution of symbian, people will don’t care if the UI is outdated. You can’t launch a new phone with 80’s icons. It’s written on all forums: update your UI!!

  5. hi
    June 16, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    good looking icons and theme can increase th ephone sale:) donot underestimate it!

    nokia need to hire a GOOD graphics designer to design a nokia official new theme ans icons. and use it for all the future nokia phone, it should be there out of the box.

  6. Athanasios
    June 16, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I like the iPad theme above..
    It has clear & simple icons. Nokia introduced that concept years ago. But it need a refreshment.

  7. Tanapruk
    June 16, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    I’m ok with the font but what I hate when the font is smallest. And my phone have a 3.5″ screen real estate why the font should be that small. The line is about one pixel thick which is very hard to read. I have tried installed other fonts, It looked great but not complete because I don’t know to customize them all to be compatible with all menus.

  8. Doug
    June 16, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Not one of the icons showed above looks anywhere as good as Nokia’s, IMO, and the use of a square doesn’t do anything for me. If I wanted icons that looked like Apple’s I’d buy an iPhone. Font doesn’t really matter to me unless it’s Times New Roman, which I can’t stand. Symbian Guru has a really nice font, which would look great, but I like Nokia’s font too.

    I just hope to God that S^4 theme isn’t part of the OS that ships. It’s awful. Colors and icon designs are trash. Give me a black background with a silver colored toolbar and status bar and S^3 icons and I’ll be happy.

  9. Andre
    June 16, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Transparencies wouldn’t hurt either.

  10. October 31, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Ваша страничка супер! Как и сама статья. Пишите в том же стиле! Лично я буду ваш постоянный посетитель!

  11. naah
    November 26, 2010 at 12:04 am

    “But now we’ve got high res screens and can afford wider fonts, narrow, sharp fonts look much less appealing than their plumper, rounder counterparts.”

    It doesn’t have anything to do with the narrowness or the contrast of the font (which you called refered to as “sharpness” ) and it has everything to do with the fact that nokia sans is simply ugly.

    “The curviness of “Century Gothic” [Very similar to “Prelude”, used in Palm Pre I think] is often found in children’s books because of the emphasis on classic alphabet shapes and thus readability.”

    Wrong. You should refer to latin fonts as “classics”. Century gothic is designed in 1991! It’s a modern 20th century font based on Futura, another 20th century font. Futura is used in education simply because it’s a geometric typeface thus easy to get accustomed to for kids that age.

    “Prelude is probably the best font at the moment being used on phones. The letters are very curved, a little more readable than Century Gothic (E.G. letter r), but less wasteful on character spacing.”

    Although I agree that nokia needs to fix their typography, you should also seek further information before deciding to share your subjective opinions about readability or typography in general. Still, nice post.

  1. June 17, 2010 at 11:44 am
  2. November 23, 2010 at 6:33 pm

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