Previously, we decided Suggest X questions aren't good for the site, but we didn't do anything about it. We've been especially tolerant lately of "Suggest an Icon" questions, and we've had a lot of them.

It may be a good thing, because the site gets more activity and more content. But it may be a bad thing, because these questions aren't interesting to experts, and the mission of Stack Exchange is to make it easy for people to find quality information without weeding through a lot of noise. (I've written before about the balance between quality and quantity.)

We now have a good question about how to go about selecting an icon which is aligned with Stack Exchange's mission, I think it's time to close the "icon for X" questions and explicitly discourage them in the FAQ.

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    +1 agree. So few of those questions are interesting, fewer still worded interestingly. Often the interesting answer is applicable to many other "suggest an icon for X" questions, and thus becomes wearing.
    – Erics
    Dec 4, 2011 at 23:20
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    Isn't iconography more of a graphic design concern than a usability concern? I mean, I understand that the icon has to relay something to the user, but it seems much more like a design question than UX.
    – Nic
    Dec 5, 2011 at 6:07
  • I definitely agree that the quality of questions has gone down significantly in the last couple of months. And we are getting a lot more "unwanted" questions than we did before. Dec 7, 2011 at 20:36
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    I think asking about the reasoning for using an icon is perfectly on topic. Asking for a single specific icon isn't.
    – Ben Brocka
    Dec 8, 2011 at 20:15

4 Answers 4


At the time of the above "reasoning", Flat design trends were barely even a thing, and mobile interface design consideration was nowhere near as influential or dominant as it is now.

Icons weren't anywhere near as relevant or significant in interface design, either.

Given the HIG of Apple and the predominance of two significant companies and their massive expenditure on icons as language substitutes, it's now more reasonable to consider these questions in the context of this recent history.

Often there is a right answer, objectively so. Often some people know these things and others don't.

Ergo... I think it's time to reconsider this...

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    It's been four and a half years and I see that Ben's answer has many more up votes than the answer from ChrisF that I accepted originally. So yeah, I would say it's definitely time to reconsider. You should start a new thread and close this one as a duplicate. Jul 11, 2016 at 21:12
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    I can't believe this policy still hasn't been reconsidered in 2019.
    – Swen
    Mar 19, 2019 at 15:16
  • "Is it time to put an end to “Icon for X” questions?" 'Answer': "I think it's time to reconsider this" Excuse me, but that's not an answer. That's a comment
    – Dev
    Jun 13, 2019 at 10:08

I think this policy has gotten too far out of hand; any question asked in regards to an icon or visual metaphor is closed.

Asking what can represent a common action or concept is a perfectly valid question and is not too localized.

Questions that ask for specific icons or icons that fit their visual theme are probably too localized. The problem with this policy is those questions were always too localized, we didn't need extra policies to determine this.

Adding a defacto ban on "icon" questions just means anything with the word "icon" in the title is likely to be closed without regard to how localized the question actually is.

Good metaphors absolutely are a vital part of the user experience. By pretending metaphors are too localized in all context (they're not, that's why they're metaphors) we're harming the usefulness of the site.

Instead of closing "icon for X" questions we should consider editing them to make sure they're asking about what metaphors apply that could be used to pick an icon; this way we can help by explaining what metaphors may work or why iconic metaphors won't work in a situation.

Just because an asker thinks "icon" doesn't mean they're not really looking for a metaphor. If they're looking for a metaphor we can help them and it's not a specific icon request.

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    Can you provide examples? None of the icon questions that have been closed that I could see (I went back and looked) would really qualify for what you are saying here. And I hardly think it's "gotten too far out of hand" - there have been 5-6 total questions that have been closed per this "rule", and half of those were old questions that appear to have been found and closed as a "cleanup" effort. Feb 3, 2012 at 2:08
  • Yes, without examples it's hard to understand your position. Would you consider any of these candidates for reopening? Newest closed questions containing "icon". Feb 3, 2012 at 16:23
  • Well we just unclosed the one that drove me to comment, and Rahul deleted one of his own I found interesting and more metaphor-driven than "send-me-teh-iconz".
    – Ben Brocka
    Feb 3, 2012 at 16:30
  • Which one was just unclosed? Feb 4, 2012 at 17:34
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  • @BenBrocka I found this discussion as a confused new user. I was going to comment here, but the issue seemed to have got some out of hand and confusing I thought it warranted a separate question, here meta.ux.stackexchange.com/questions/1002/… Jun 22, 2012 at 15:36
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    I don't get why this was closed: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/7053/… It's a perfectly valid question, and not localized at all. There are definitely several common alternatives and it would be interesting to get pro's and con's for each
    – talkol
    Oct 14, 2012 at 15:47
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    I made a try here: Is there a widely-understood visual metaphor for privacy? Jan 20, 2013 at 19:17
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    @CharlesBoyung: This, this, this, this and this could be listed as examples. Aug 3, 2014 at 8:28
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    @CharlesBoyung: That said, various other similar questions (such as this, this, this or this) were closed for not being constructive (interpreted as just asking for suggestions and opinions rather than verifiable statements). Aug 3, 2014 at 8:31
  • I agree, and if you would like to reopen the following question, it would be much appreciated: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/94227/… - It was closed 4 years ago, and I think is worthy of quality answers. Feb 5, 2021 at 7:33

This type of question is probably usually "too localized".

The icon required will be specific to that user and that application.

As Ben points out in his comment asking for why a particular icon is OK.

The close reason Too Localized is no longer in use, there is instead a special close reason to use under "this question is off topic because that reads:

Questions requesting Icon Suggestions are off topic. While the subject of icons is on topic, there's very little value in soliciting suggestions for a specific icon in a specific context. See this meta post for more information about this topic.

  • Thanks. The FAQ now explains that these types of questions are too localized. Jan 3, 2012 at 13:35

As a general rule, I hate shutting down questions that have even a tangential UX connection. However, in this one case, I would almost always refer people to something like https://icons8.com/request-icon/free/hot

That site is totally focused on icons. If you get votes, they make them pretty quickly. It's not a huge community, but it is really targeted to the Icons for X question.

This is a super specialized case. (imho)

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