If you close all the browser windows and programs on your computer, chances are you are left with a desktop of icons. This has been the case for as long as most people can remember, and History Of Icons, an elaborate infographic site from the icon vendor Futuramo, tracks the history and evolution of those evocative thumbnail images.

Take the trash can, one of the most universal symbols that exists in some form on both Apple and PC platforms. Futuramo observes that the miniature receptacle for digital waste dates back to 1981, the product of a partnership between mathematician Dr. David Smith and artist Norm Cox. When they developed the icons for the Xerox 8010 Star, Smith and Cox used many elements that are still employed today, including the idea of a digital desktop, pushing an intuitive design with icons that are easy to recognize and make their function clear.


The site charts the evolution of icon style from PCs to smartphones and other gadgets, noting an overall trend from a flat look to photorealism and back again.