Federal icons in the open
As discussed in our recent article about holding an Iconathon, the design team at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been developing one of the first open source icon libraries released by the federal government. Our collection, called “Minicons”, consists of small-scale icons that visually reinforce an interface action, file type, status, or category. Designed with simplicity in mind, these icons enable users to quickly find and scan content with ease.
The release of the Minicon library reaffirms the Bureau’s commitment to open source by broadening its interpretation to include design assets that can be universally utilized. This opens new doors for government to play a vital role in a growing open source community that seeks to empower the public with information, tools, and resources.
As a newly established agency, the opportunity for new ideas and novel approaches to technology influenced the evolving CFPB visual identity. Outreach efforts to communicate with consumers and industry took precedence, creating a need for developing new icons. Given this demand, we reconsidered the management of our existing icon library to streamline its use for print and web-based projects. In keeping with the CFPB ethos of developing unique resources that cater to project needs, we sought to reinterpret our library of icons from a loose set of individual graphics to an easily accessible font. This offers many advantages to our Design & Development Team, including: smaller file size, vector scalability, customizable size and color, cross browser compatibility, and improved access to our icons through the glyph panel within Adobe design software.
While the end product is valuable in and of itself, the successful adoption of a transparent and open design process is another goal of ours. Inspired by the common practices of open source developers, our team of designers has worked towards creating a culture shift that welcomes a broader audience into our design process. By leveraging GitHub – a platform primarily created for sharing code – we have established an open critique of visual designs, as illustrated in our newsroom Minicons discussion. Public participation is encouraged and all disciplines are welcome to contribute helpful suggestions. To participate, visit our Design Manual repository on GitHub and provide feedback to any of our open issues.
Although open source code as a new mode of operation has been readily embraced by both government and the private sector, designing for the public domain is still in its nascency. One organization providing a venue for open design is The Noun Project, an online repository of icons that provides designers with a platform to share their work and dedicate it to the public domain. In line with this objective, we have contributed our icons to this growing library, demonstrating our commitment to open source within the design community. We look forward to continuing our efforts in promoting these modalities of transparency that are not yet common practice among graphic designers. It is our hope that openness becomes part of the design vernacular, giving way to greater connectivity and sharing of ideas.