This has caused me to lose sleep and not get my weekly pat in the back from my boss.

We have a web hosting related product that consists of database, bandwidth and I/O sub-products.

To represent the database, I'm using a "three ringed" database tower. To represent the bandwidth, I'm using a chart-like graph. In my particular case, "bandwidth" really refers to data usage and I/O refers to the way we speed up disk performance, using specific drives and working with the Linux kernel.

Those seem to work for 85% of the people to whom I have access.

But what in the world does one use to represent I/O?

Showing the small letters i/o has been rejected, because it's too obvious. Seriously.

Any other ideas or suggestions from anyone?

  • 6
    "Because it's too obvious" -- correct me if I'm wrong but shouldn't icons be obvious?
    – Hanna
    May 16, 2012 at 23:11
  • 4
    A good place to start would be explaining what I/O is - not just because it's a term many designers won't be familiar with (I had to google it...) but also because explaining something in layman's terms is always a good way to start thinking from a different angle about what something fundamentally is. This helps get ideas. Also, it may help you see how your company's "I/O sub-products" fit in the range of I/O stuff out there, which might give you a nice angle that highlights your company's niche. May 17, 2012 at 9:51

5 Answers 5


Why not use a male plug and female socket? Like a USB plug and USB port.

  • Hmmm, Krazer, that's an interesting concept. I could give that a try and see how recognizable that would be in 16x16 or 24x24. I greatly appreciate your feedback. Rock on!
    – Ace
    May 17, 2012 at 15:16

I/O means input-output, right? Something that is traditionally conceptualised using flow diagrams?

So why not, a box subtly styled to vaguely resemble your company's products (e.g vent-like lines on the edges? plastic/brushed aluminium texture?), a jagged electricity-like or curly cable-like arrow from the left going in, and the same arrow on the right going out.

So it's primarily an icon that resembles a flow chart, using unobtrusive subtle secondary details (e.g. texture) to suggest electrical signals going into then out of a desirable-looking technology box.

Personally I'd then try to lightly emboss 'I/O' into the box, like it's engraved into the physical box, just to make the communication totally explicit. I'm guessing when they say "too obvious" they aren't actually insane haters of good communication, I'd guess they just want something that looks and feels more like a pictoral icon and they're just articulating this thought in a clumsy way.

  • I like that idea, user568458! Makes perfect sense to me, and I'll try to come up with something. One challenge I have is that the use of colors is completely out. So I'll try to come up with something that looks good in 24x24 and 26x16, using one color.
    – Ace
    May 17, 2012 at 15:23

How about this?

The input goes in, and the output comes out :) enter image description here


enter image description here How about this, adding also an out arrow for "output"

  • 1
    Ameoo, thank you for that suggestion. You're thinking what I was thinking. My version had the arrows and a circle, and I thought it was one of the better representations for "in" and "out" – the stakeholder, however, is convinced there must be something "better" than that (which puzzles me). So thank you for presenting your suggestion and validating my ideas. You rock!
    – Ace
    May 17, 2012 at 15:15

There really should be a standard icon for IOPS or io, but I don't know of one.

I really like this arrow (the door is not relevant) http://thenounproject.com/term/out/6919/

Maybe if you combined the arrows from that image and this one http://thenounproject.com/term/in/6920/

You'll either get a weird optical illustion or a great io icon.

Good luck! ...and let us know what you end up using.

UPDATE: I tried the arrows above, it looked terrible and confusing.

But then I came up with this: enter image description here

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