When Metaphors Retire

I was surprised to find out one’s still able to buy floppy disks. Just checked it on Amazon. Although, all of them are labeled with “discontinued by manufacturer” and seem to be sold mainly to collectors.

Why am I talking about floppy disks? You got the message, right? That’s because I’m going to chatter about Save icon for a bit.

At some point we (by we I mean people with at least a single gray hair) realized that a new generation had been born. A generation that had never witnessed a floppy disk. Not only they were born, they managed to reach the reproductive age, which means in several years we’re facing grandchildren thinking that ‘diskette’ and ‘jabot’ are something from the same period of time.

That’s why we (now by we I mean icon designers and icon users) come to a thought that a new metaphor is needed for Save icon. Many bright minds were trying to solve this problem but unfortunately none succeeded as far as I’m concerned. Everyone continues to draw floppy disks with a slightly growing uncomfortable feeling inside.

Now you would expect me to jump out of the box and present you a perfect new Save icon to admire, a new fabulous marvellous delicious icon. But I will not. Instead I admit I don’t have one either.

Moreover I suggest to look further into the future. I assume people would continue reproduce, maybe slightly faster thanks to global warming (you know, less clothes to take off). So we’ll meet new and new generations who…

– who would remember a plastic calculator as a part of a grangrandmother’s marriage portion. Even now we calculate on our phones or in google search line.

-who would stare at a desktop computer with the same look they would stare at a dinosaur. Even at present time we use tablets.

-who would open and close a phonebook with an alphabet stripe on it’s side trying to find out how to use this weird thing.

-who would not believe one had to rotate a dial and speak into a receiver to talk to other person.

-who would have no idea how to use a paper map which can’t perform a simple GPS navigation.

-who would ask why you need a standalone device to take pictures.

– who would be very surprised money once had a look and feel.

And so on.


Because we already have smartphones for all this stuff. A thing with a screen without any other recognizable features. And while we’re still attached to a material world with a tendency towards post-material informational culture, our grandgrandchildren (with funny names I suppose) will have a totally different way of thinking. And Save icon problem would look like a simple kid’s puzzle.

Does that mean icons are going to disappear as a concept? And what would we do if that happens? What would we draw instead of a floppy disk?


Icons and pictograms will stay in a material world. We’ll still see taxi signs in airports, little green figures on traffic lights and crossed dog pictures on parks’ lawns.

However icons in computers and information systems would cease in favor of advance interactive interfaces.
We won’t launch a Camera app but will just take a picture. We won’t launch Maps app but will just ask “where the hell am I?”
It is already happening when you swipe across the line of text you want to remove instead of tapping “Delete” icon. Or when you pause a movie by tapping the screen or just closing your eyes.

And getting back to Save icon: I still hope to witness the end of it, because I truly believe the function itself has become obsolete as well as it’s metaphor.


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