Apple is joining the race to find an AI icon that makes sense

This week was an exciting one for the AI ​​community, as Apple joined Google, OpenAI, Anthropic, Meta, and others in the long-running competition to find an icon that even remotely suggests AI to users. And like everyone else, Apple has punted.

Apple Intelligence is represented by a circular shape consisting of seven loops. Or is it a circle with a crooked infinity symbol inside? No, that's new Siri, powered by Apple Intelligence. Or is it the new Siri when your phone glows around the edges? Yes.

The thing is, no one knows what AI looks like, or even what it should look like. It does everything, but looks like nothing. Still, it needs to be reflected in user interfaces so people know they're dealing with a machine learning model and not just old-fashioned search, submission, or whatever.

While approaches differ in branding this apparently all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-doing intelligence, they have converged around the idea that the avatar of AI should be non-threatening, abstract, but relatively simple and non-anthropomorphic. (They seem to have rejected my suggestion that these models always speak in rhyme.)

Early AI icons were sometimes small robots, wizard hats or magic wands: novelties. But the implication of the former is one of inhumanity, rigidity and limitation: robots don't know things, they're not personal to you, they perform predefined, automated tasks. And magic wands and the like suggest an irrational invention, the inexplicable, the mysterious – perhaps fine for an image generator or a creative sounding board, but not for the kind of factual, reliable answers these companies would have you believe AI provides.

Corporate logo design is generally a strange mixture of strong vision, commercial necessity and compromise by committee. And you can see these influences at work in the logos pictured here.

The strongest view, for better or worse, goes to the black mark of OpenAI. A cold, featureless hole that you throw your question into, it looks a bit like a wishing well or Echo's cave.

Image credits: OpenAI/Microsoft

The biggest committee energy goes, unsurprisingly, to Microsoft, whose Copilot logo is basically indescribable.

But notice how four out of six (five out of seven if you count Apple twice, and why wouldn't we) use pleasant candy colors: colors that mean nothing other than being cheerful and approachable, leaning toward the feminine (like such things are considered in literature). design language) or even the childish. Soft color transitions to pink, purple and turquoise; pastel colors, no hard colors; four are soft, infinite shapes; Bewilderment and Google have sharp edges, but the former suggests an endless book, while the latter is a cheerful, symmetrical star with inviting hollows. Some also animate during use, giving the impression of life and responsiveness (and drawing attention so you can't ignore it – looking at you, Meta).

Overall, the intended impression is one of friendliness, openness and undefined potential – as opposed to aspects such as expertise, efficiency, decisiveness or creativity, for example.

Do you think I'm overanalyzing? How many pages do you think the design handling documents for each of these logos were – more or less than 20 pages? My money would be on the former. Companies are obsessed with these things. (But somehow you miss a hate symbol in the middle, or create an inexplicably sexual atmosphere.)

The point, however, is not that corporate design teams do what they do, but that no one has managed to come up with a visual concept that unambiguously says “AI” to the user. At best, these colorful shapes communicate a negative concept: that this is what this interface is not e-mail, not a search engine, not a note-taking app.

Email logos often act as an envelope because it is (obviously) electronic mail, both conceptually and practically. A more common “send” icon for messages is pointed, sometimes divided, like a paper patch, indicating that a document is in motion. Settings use a gear or key, suggesting that an engine or machine is being tinkered with. These concepts apply to all languages ​​and (to some extent) generations.

Not every icon can refer so clearly to the corresponding function. For example, how do you indicate 'download' when the word differs between cultures? In France, telecharged is used, which makes sense, but is not really 'downloading'. Yet we have arrived at a downward pointing arrow, which sometimes hits a surface. Load down. The same goes for cloud computing: we've adopted the cloud, despite it essentially being a marketing term for “a big data center somewhere.” But what was the alternative, a small data center button?

AI is still new to consumers who are asked to use it in place of 'other things', a very general category that AI product vendors are reluctant to define as this would imply that there are a number of things that AI can do do and some cannot. They are not yet ready to admit this: the entire fiction depends on AI being able to do everything in theory, while it is only a matter of technology and computing power to achieve this.

In other words, to paraphrase Steinbeck, every AI considers itself a temporarily embarrassed AGI. (Or rather, it is considered by the marketing department, since AI itself, as a pattern generator, does not take anything into consideration.)

In the meantime, these companies still have to call it a name and give it a “face” – although it's telling and refreshing that no one has actually chosen a face. But even here they are at the mercy of consumers, who ignore GPT version numbers as an oddity and prefer to say ChatGPT; who cannot make the connection with “Bard”, but rest in the focus-tested “Gemini”; who have never wanted to Bing things (and certainly don't want to talk to the thing) but don't mind having a co-pilot.

Apple, for its part, has taken the shotgun approach: you ask Siri to request Apple Intelligence (two different logos), which happens within your Private Cloud Compute (not related to iCloud), or perhaps even send your request on to ChatGPT (no logo allowed), and your best clue that an AI is listening to what you're saying is… swirling colors, somewhere or everywhere on the screen.

Until AI itself is a little better defined, we can expect the icons and logos representing AI to remain vague, non-threatening, abstract shapes. A colorful, ever-changing blob wouldn't take your job, right?

Related Posts

Connecting an antenna to a TV: watch movies, series and sports for free

The TV antenna. “Rabbit ears.” It may seem strange to many of us (or even strange to the youngest among us), but there was a time when an antenna was…

This iPhone feature filters spam and text messages from people you don't know

Text spam can be dangerous too: scammers take money and break hearts. But other than that, it’s just annoying. When I open iMessages on my iPhone, I want to scroll…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You Missed

History of US Soccer at the Olympics: USWNT Success Defines Them, USMNT Returns After 16 Years

  • July 19, 2024
History of US Soccer at the Olympics: USWNT Success Defines Them, USMNT Returns After 16 Years

Chinese make their own cooking oil after scandal raises concerns

  • July 19, 2024
Chinese make their own cooking oil after scandal raises concerns

Connecting an antenna to a TV: watch movies, series and sports for free

  • July 19, 2024
Connecting an antenna to a TV: watch movies, series and sports for free

A Guide to Your Weekend Viewing and Reading Pleasure: NPR

  • July 19, 2024
A Guide to Your Weekend Viewing and Reading Pleasure: NPR

What You Need to Know About Airline Refunds and Delays

  • July 19, 2024
What You Need to Know About Airline Refunds and Delays

NFL kickoff rules for 2024 could create excitement…and chaos: 'It's going to be a show'

  • July 19, 2024
NFL kickoff rules for 2024 could create excitement…and chaos: 'It's going to be a show'

European markets: open to closed

  • July 19, 2024
European markets: open to closed

Investors are betting on the 'Trump trade'. Here's what it means.

  • July 19, 2024
Investors are betting on the 'Trump trade'. Here's what it means.

Scientists find new target for RSV drug

  • July 19, 2024
Scientists find new target for RSV drug

DOJ says largest housing provider for migrant children involved in widespread sexual abuse

  • July 19, 2024
DOJ says largest housing provider for migrant children involved in widespread sexual abuse

Video shows reclusive tribe searching for food on Amazon beach

  • July 19, 2024
Video shows reclusive tribe searching for food on Amazon beach