I need to place an icon next to an email address to indicate that the email address is NOT a member of a given mailing list.

This could be abstracted as: What icon best indicates that the entity it is associated with is NOT a member of a given group?

In my case, I'm going to use an envelope icon to indicate that an email address IS a member of a mailing list. But what icon should I use to indicate non-membership?

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    I'd think in order to indicate that an item is not part of a list, you would simply not put that item into that list (i.e. remove the item altogether or create another list for items that are not being used). Would that not be possible in your case? – Alexei Dec 21 '11 at 22:15
  • Doesn't work in this case - the item is in one place, the list name is in another - we want to show, next to the item name, that the item is NOT in the list. – Cooper Dec 21 '11 at 23:09
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    To make an extra icon for items that are not in a list still seems unnecessary though. Just make "not in list" the default, instead of trying to represent "not in list" as a graphic. I would put an icon or label next to the list name and then the same icon on the items that are included in that list (a la G-mail tags). No icon otherwise. G'luck! – Alexei Dec 22 '11 at 5:23

The things that come immediately to mind are: envelope with a no entry symbol overlaid; envelope with a green check for "included" and a red X for "excluded"; and green envelope for inclusions and red envelope with a slant mark across it for the exclusions.

Hope that gives you some ideas.

  • "Envelope with no entry" - this was my first thought, but it might indicate "cannot be added to this list" rather than "not on this list" – Cooper Dec 21 '11 at 23:09
  • "Envelope with red X", "Red envelope with slant mark" - these could work. The X mark suggests "click here to close", particularly if it is on something that is closeable, but maybe putting it on top of an envelope will make it say "not in this list" rather than "click here to close" - thanks! – Cooper Dec 21 '11 at 23:12
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    I wouldn't worry too much about "might indicate." An icon isn't a complete communication in and of itself, and it's not worthwhile trying to make it one. Like a logo, it derives most of its meaning from context and familiarity. Users quickly learn what a given symbol indicates in a particular application, even if it's a bit ambiguous at first. Why would a tiny globe mean "Internet", for example, yet it's usually easy to tell in context that it doesn't mean "Mapping Application" or "Navigation", and it's become a familiar icon for that purpose. – Alan Gilbertson Dec 22 '11 at 2:53
  • +1 for "red envelope with a slant". A little part of me dies every time I see a design feature that is only differentiated by a color - but I can't tell which color it is. (Certain shades of Red and Green in particular.) – Farray Jan 2 '12 at 1:30

The complete absence of an icon would probably be most useful when perusing a large table or list. One does not even need to be able to decipher or read the column to know that there is a gap.


A white or similarly highlighted envelope for "in," and grayed out for "out."

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