The iTunes Icon: How Do We Represent Post-Disc Media?
Last week, Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan mused how little iTunes in 2009 has to do with the CD icon we click on to launch it—Apple’s original “Rip. Mix. Burn.” promotional slogan seems so antiquated today. The laptop this very post is being composed on has had its CD-RW drive used only once or twice since it was purchased at the beginning of this summer—perhaps poignantly, a CD placed inside and forgotten was recently removed because of the annoying spinning noise it created every time iTunes was started; the disc was not a medium but an irritation. So Buchanan asked Gizmodo’s readers to re-imagine iTunes’ disc and music note icon design for an era in which compact discs are used only by the Luddite, the stubborn audiophile, or the moping young man hoping to win back his ex with a mix CD. At this point, iTunes handles not only music, but our photos, television episodes, movie rentals, mobile contacts, and other sundry media duties. Let’s not forget what the purpose of graphic design is within the context of the desktop or dock—the icon should convey the utility of the program in a way that catches the eye with familiarity and conveys its own meaning clearly.
The results of the icon contest are a mixed bag—mostly joke entries, though a couple seem good enough to be viable replacements. We particularly liked the entry below; cleanly and clearly conveying iTunes’ main function of playing and transferring digital music. But it still fails to speak to the software’s other host of features.
As Apple works to keep its impending Snow Leopard update ahead of the curve, its design team ought to keep this issue of the visual representation of non-visual function, lest OS X begin to look quaint in places.