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I have a page where the user selects breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner. I have the words below each button. I cannot seem to figure out what icon I can use to differentiate each. So that the user says "Oh there's breakfast." I had a fork and knife icon for dinner. I used a leaf for a snack. Then I became absolutely stumped.

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migrated from ux.stackexchange.com Jan 10 at 23:18

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Hi @Johnston. Unfortunately "What Icon Should I Use?" is not a question we can really help with, per the this Help Center post. You can read more about the rationale and tips on generating useful icons. –  Evil Closet Monkey Jan 10 at 19:34
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The difference between those 4 items isn't the type of food one eats per-se, but the time of day. As such, focus on time-of-day iconography. –  DA01 Jan 10 at 20:22
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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I would try the noun project for these icons. You can either take inspiration from what you find there or use what you find there as long as you purchase it or give the artist attribution.

These are broad concepts that call up different imagery for different people depending on their cultural background. Who is your audience? Is this also for the daycare project (but on the input side of things... lol)?

http://thenounproject.com/search/?q=breakfast

http://thenounproject.com/search/?q=lunch

http://thenounproject.com/search/?q=snack

http://thenounproject.com/search/?q=dinner

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This is for the admin/teacher input side of things. It is the child who is eating the breakfast. This is a great site. –  Johnston Jan 11 at 2:54
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I would use the following type of icons:

  • For breakfast an icon of egg.

    egg icon

  • For lunch an icon that has a dish.

    spaghetti icon

  • For dinner an icon that has a covered dish.

    covered plate icon

  • For snack an icon that has a cupcake or pop-corn.

    cupcake icon

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Although neat icons, they lack specificity and are mostly interchangeable. Breakfast: I don't eat hard boiled eggs, nor do I play with silly putty anymore. Lunch: I love spaghetti but associate it with dinner; same goes for any hot plate meal. Dinner: Catered meals are not not in my budget, nor has anyone every presented me my meal covered. Snack: I eat muffins for breakfast. An icon for icons sake is not a good idea. Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner is arguably too subjective to separate with different icons. –  Evil Closet Monkey Jan 10 at 19:44
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I agree with @EvilClosetMonkey, take the text you have already to the next level(?) with a beautiful and easy readable font instead. Always works :) –  Bluewater Jan 10 at 20:18
    
Since the asker did not say if this is to be global iconography, I see no reason why the icons suggested by @pixelfairy should not be fine. We do not know the scope; if this is supposed to span the entire globe and millions of people, every conceivable culture, then yes, maybe icons would be a problem. But everything has a context, and if the user need a tiny-weeny-bit of learning to get it, that is often fine. The combination of icon and text would enrich, not actually confuse. We must allow users to "learn" a little sometimes. Very, very few things are truly intuitive the world over. –  Random O'Reilly Jan 11 at 17:39
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I agree with the comment by @DA01, that the distinguishing factor between meals isn't what you eat (which can vary from family to family as well as from culture to culture) but when you eat it. Except for snacks, for which the distinction is how much you eat!

Furthermore, if these icons are part of a large check sheet with many details about the daycare kids' daily lives, you might want a common theme that connects all the meal/food icons at a glance.

These are two possibilities I came up with:

Sample Icons -- plate and cup with (left) clock faces on plates, or (right) initial letters on plates

There are limitations to both.

The problem with the analog clock faces is that a lot of people aren't comfortable reading analog clocks at a glance anymore, and that could include your daycare workers. If snacks are at a set time mid-afternoon, you could add a 3-o'clock face to the snack plate (and make dinner more distinctly 6-o'clock), but I think just having the small plate also gets the idea across.

The problem with the initials is that it is language-dependent, so not ideal if the reason you're using icons is because it's a multi-lingual environment. Also, that "S" could mean supper as well as snack -- you should probably just skip the "S" on the snack icon and let the small plate size speak for itself.

But my main suggestion is (a) come up with a common icon that means "meal", and then (b) add details that distinguish which meal.

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