Noun Project is a 5 million strong library of icons and photos building “a global visual language”
Discover an ever-growing library of icons and stock photography built by creatives across the globe.
- Sponsored Content
- 14 July 2022
Visual culture relies on symbols to communicate; it also relies on those who create them. From the creative industry to education, symbols are vital tools to instigate conversation, connection and learning. As Noun Project describes, symbols offer: “A silent language visible to the world.”
Since 2011 Noun Project has created a growing database of over 5 million (and counting!) symbols available to the public to utilise, from designers in studios to teachers in classrooms. Quite brilliantly, Noun Project was initially inspired by sketches co-founder Edward Boatman used to draw in college of objects from his childhood. Eventually, the idea grew: “the company actually began as a Kickstarter Campaign we launched in 2010 to create a free, open source library of symbols,” CEO and co-founder, Sofya Polyakov tells us. Today, the range of visuals is vast – from collections of famous world landmarks to dogs – and purposefully so, as the Noun Project aims to build “a global visual language that unites the world – a language that allows quick and easy communication no matter who you are or where you are.”
Built by a community of creators from over 130 countries, anyone in need of visually communicating an idea can download icons and photos from its collection for free with creator attribution, or subscribe to Noun Project for unlimited access to royalty-free icons, as well as editing features and apps. “One of the beautiful things about Noun Project is that it’s truly useful for anyone who needs to communicate their ideas visually,” Sofya details. For professional designers, icons and photos are available for site and product design. But equally: “A scientist can find visual representation for Schrodinger’s cat, a teacher can find a visual for Harriet Tubman, a marketer can find a photo of a Speaker for a presentation, a journalist can find an icon for Gerrymandering, and a social strategist can find the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” she expands.
Royalties generated from these downloads are then shared back into its community of over 17,000 creators, with Noun Project sharing $2 million in royalties in 2021 alone. “Creating inspiring visuals is work! It takes time, effort, and skill to design icons and produce photos,” comments Sofya; crediting these creators is thus key to the platform.
If icons aren’t quite the right fit for the project you are visualising, in 2020 Noun Project also expanded its catalogue to include photography collections. Leading with its dedication to “create collections of free images that champion inclusion and set a new standard for visual representation in stock photography,” these collections feature professionally selected, authentic images celebrating diversity and inclusion. For example, the platform recently released a Diversity in Tech collection, a group of stock photos centring women and people of colour in the predominantly white, male sector. “If we want people from underrepresented groups to be welcomed and feel welcome, they need to see themselves represented,” says Sofya Polyakov, Noun Project’s CEO and co-founder. “The images we’re exposed to every day have the power to shape, reinforce and change how we see the world.”
The community creating for Noun Project, and the community its collection of symbols and imagery represents, are a key part of the platform. Even when creating collections, like its Diversity in Tech library, Noun Project will partner with organisations for its launch, such as Latinas in Tech and All Raise. Disrupting outdated modes of working is also crucial to Noun Project’s approach. For the design industry, Noun Project has been innovating visual asset distribution since 2011, by offering clear licensing and free images. Sofya adds: “In 2014, we were one of the first companies to provide content via an API, which now powers innovative companies like Adobe, Squarespace, and Typeform.”
With Noun Project tripling its user base since 2018, the future looks fruitful. As it continues to grow “the most diverse and extensive collection of visuals ever created”, see how it could aid you in describing concepts and ideas here.
Noun Project is building a global visual language that unites the world – a language that allows quick and easy communication no matter who you are or where you are. Search and download over 5 million icons and photos for everything at thenounproject.com.
Noun Project: Redefining Women (Copyright © Noun Project, 2022)