I'm putting together a brochure for a job spec, and want to put a table with "Desirable" or "Essential" attributes on it.

Not sure what to go with for the icons for Essential / Desirable though. It's for a teaching post so needs to be relatively sober/sensible, but want to go with something more interesting than just Es and Ds.

4 Answers 4


Thinking outside the box on this; a simple triangle could represent Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

I can't think of anything that would represent it better, that can also be captured and conveyed in such a simple icon.

A simple triangle maybe with a few horizontal lines depending on its size would be a well thought out icon. It may be a little obscure but that's even kind of a good thing, could give the feel of an exclusive joke for the well informed. Its also a topic many teachers should be aware of.

Something like this:

job requirements maslow icon

or this:

job requirements maslow icon 2

or whatever you wish!

Further to Bakabaka's comment, here are some variations that you can use to represent both essential and desirable separately.

enter image description here

I'm not sure if the additional line here creates too much noise.

enter image description here

Fairly easy to see the difference:

enter image description here

Hope I've helped in some way. :)

  • 2
    nice solution! You could even lop off the bottom for a non-required, but desirable item, or highlight the relevant tier.
    – Vincent
    Feb 13, 2014 at 10:14

It is very hard and also very wrong to just make a guess in things like this without understanding the design pinciples or ethos behind the whole thing. But even so, here are my opinions. These are very general solutions, since they are made keeping in mind that no details have been provided.

For the essential attributes, you can make a



-an exclamation inside a circle or square

-a star * obviously :p

For the desirable attributes,

-a like, as in something like a facebook like.

-an upwards pointing arrow if yr going for minimalism or if you use the Exclamation concept

  • Thanks Kuni. Have to admit I was in two minds whether to or not for just this reason. (It'd need a key for a start.) Just trying to see if there were any conventions out there. Maybe the alternative some sort of RAG based traffic light thing, but that's not ideal either.
    – Ben
    Feb 12, 2014 at 12:45
  • If you want a more technical answer, then for starters, I will assume you use Photoshop/Illustrator. If so you can use the plugin blend me in (blendme.in). It's a collection of vector assets. This will make your work much easier.
    – kunl
    Feb 12, 2014 at 12:51
  • I used the exclamation inside a circle. Thanks for the idea! Nov 28, 2021 at 20:53

Forgive the bad webcam photo of my bad sketches, but:

quick drawings

Checked boxes for essentials (I see that kunl said this as well). For desirable, perhaps you could try to capture the look that someone gives when they see something desirable!


Using icons for fuzzy concepts is hard. Most user will interpret them differently than intended.

To test: design the icons and ask a few people their meaning.

You'll be convinced to to add a label explaining the icon. With a label added, the meaning is clear but the need for the icon itself will be less. Of course the icon will help the user to recognize other 'labeled' content. But the reason icons are used in this way is mainly for their illustrative value. Adding icons is like adding typographical variations (quote's, lists, initial capitals, etc). It makes a document easier to digest. Most of the times it's a little trigger for a 'scanning' user to start reading.

That said, it ins't that important to have universal accepted icons.

I would go for a simple * (essential) and + (desired) icons. Asterisks are used in forms to mark required fields and the add symbol is a plus.

  • +1 for "it isn´t that important to have universally accepted icons". Sometimes you can - and it will work - educate your users a little. Nothing wrong with that.
    – benteh
    Feb 13, 2014 at 10:55

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