Website review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2013

The Noun Project

Think in pictures with vibrant visual language everyone can understand

Learning rating
Community rating
Based on 2 reviews
Privacy rating
43%| Warning Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Subjects & Skills
Arts, Communication & Collaboration, Creativity

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Pros: Most of the icons are fantastic, and it's fun just to browse the site.

Cons: Some icons are repetitive, and some schools may not have the design software needed to create them.

Bottom Line: It's a neat, well-executed concept with lots of possibilities for learning, imagining, and creating.

You can use the Noun Project in an English, history, foreign language, or art class; its uses are pretty versatile. For example, ask students to create their own set of symbols and then ask them to trade with another student to see how they translate. Students will learn that it's tricky to communicate exactly what you mean through pictures. Ask kids in a Spanish class to create flashcards using Noun Project icons, or ask an ELL class to translate icons into English.

The site may also be helpful for kids with special needs or for non-verbal students; it's been used by educators to successfully teach autistic students.

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The Noun Project is a website that's creating a global visual language of symbols and icons. With the hope that this language will help people from all over the world communicate, they're accepting icons from numerous artists and designers. Students may be drawn to the goofier icons (a guy on the toilet, a dog sniffing another dog's rear), but there's definitely the possibility for learning or, at the very least, reflecting on what it would be like to only communicate visually. Icons are organized by designer or category; categories include People, Transportation, Animals, Weather & Nature, etc. Each category is then broken down further into subcategories.

If you download an icon for your own use, you must either attribute it to the designer or pay a fee (usually $1.99) to purchase it unattributed. If someone purchases your design, the money will be deposited directly into your PayPal account monthly. The Noun Project uses Creative Commons licensing to give designers the creative rights to own and share their work as desired.

Students can learn that not all languages are verbal; people have used symbols to communicate for thousands of years. They can also think critically about icons the world may be missing. If they decide to create their own icon, kids will learn design skills as they go through the process of drawing an image and making it into a file they can upload and share with others. Students will use their imagination to think about what icons they'd like to invent and how to best represent a word using a picture. It's also fun to guess what each icon means before you click on it! Be aware that you need to have your own design software to create an icon -- the Noun Project provides guidelines and advice, but it's ultimately a repository for content and not a design tool.

Hundreds of artists and designers have contributed their own icons to the project, and the language they're creating is quite a sight. Some of the icons are silly, like the cupcake- and donut-laden Sugar Suite collection. Some are beautiful, and others are very clear visual representations. The project itself is a huge, ambitious undertaking, and it's neat to see it grow as more people add their symbols. Some icon sets are repetitive; trendy mustaches and food items pop up everywhere, while more serious icons may not get the attention they need. Practical uses include helping autistic kids communicate; a fist icon from the Noun Project was used extensively during the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Overall Rating


It's fun to browse through all the icons people have created. Creating an icon takes more focus, but it could be a great challenge for young artists. 


This language is meant to be shared; if users adopt some of the icons and use them in their own projects, it becomes a social experience.


There's a lot of advice about licensing, and the site gives guidelines on creating an icon. It also guides you through the icon-uploading process. 

Common Sense reviewer
Polly Conway Common Sense

Community Rating

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Featured review by
Ivy L. , Special education instructor
Special education instructor
P.S. 130 Abram Stevens Hewitt
Bronx, United States
Free icons for every noun!!
I wouldn't use this website to teach a topic, but I would use it to practice a concept. It has symbols all in one place and they are free. You could also pay and create more favorite folders, but I do not mind doing a little searching. I wouldn't mind if they created some colorful ones as well, but symbols usually are black and white.
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Data Safety
How safe is this product?
Unclear whether this product supports interactions between trusted users and/or students.
Unclear whether this product displays personal information publicly.
User-created content is not filtered for personal information before being made publicly visible.
Data Rights
What rights do I have to the data?
Users can create or upload content.
Processes to access and review user data are available.
Processes to modify inaccurate data are available.
Ads & Tracking
Are there advertisements or tracking?
Data are shared for third-party advertising and/or marketing.
Unclear whether this product displays traditional or contextual advertisements.
Behavioral or targeted advertising is displayed.

Continue reading about this tool's privacy practices, including data collection, sharing, and security.

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