I am considering a web UI imrpovement. Each icon (large, 128x128px) in flow layout represents a configuration of a certain process, and, to the user, there are a bunch of "important" settings for this process and dozens of less important ones. I would like to incorporate 3-5 most important paradigms into a single icon (say, long or short process, repeating or one-time, secure to use anywhere or for private network only...). Obviously, elements should rime and co-ordinate, but I believe it is possible to make every combination visually appealing and compositionally correct. I would then use stacked PNGs with alpha transparency.
I am a bit concerned that it is a dead end that has been tried before. Why is this approach not widedely used? Do you see any theorertical/conceptual blockers?
Here is an illustration, without styling or giving it too much thought, but the idea should be clear:
First is a large secure scheduled task, second is distributed duplication process. Wouldn't a user, on average, identify the necessary item faster than if every item was a card with text? Obviously, the same glyphs (shown in blue) will be used in the editor itself to create a mental connection.