The Noun Project is trying to build a pictorial common language

The second day of Gigaom’s Roadmap 2013 conference began in largely pictorial form, as Scott Thomas, the founder of The Noun Project, showed off what he and his colleagues have been up to.

The Noun Project is a repository filled with icons — from objects like footballs to concepts such as sleep — that are available either under a Creative Commons attribution license or in the public domain. The project’s proprietors hope these will cumulatively take root as a commonly recognized visual language.

Beginning with a run-through of the history of pictograms, syllabic writing and so on, Thomas explained the project’s ethos. “We wanted to make sure this language was used, and one of the important ways to do that is to offer it for free,” he said, conceding that this didn’t go down well with everyone in the Valley. “The power of this language is never going to be fully realized until we open up.”

Thomas also noted that The Noun Project was launching premium accounts, allowing firms to use uploaded icons without attribution in exchange for payment. “You can download at will and we’ll just pay the designers you’re supporting for those symbols,” he explained, adding that he hoped “maybe these icons will save a life one day.”

Check out the rest of ourĀ Roadmap 2013 live coverageĀ here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page