Iconography in Puzzle Design [Design Tip]

The power of iconography in puzzle and game design is mind-blowing. It doesn’t take much to signal the meaning of an icon to players. That makes icons valuable.

An assortment of icons displaying on a screen.

Icons Usage

When it’s done right, iconography can:

  • represent a numeric, letter, or word value like a cipher
  • signal actions or warnings
  • stop a player in their tracks

… That’s when it’s done right.

Consistency

I feel like this should go without saying, but we’ve seen it before, so here we go…

Not all stars are the same. These are not the same star:

✵✶✭

If I see that a five-pointed star equals “8,” I am not going to assume that a six-pointed star also equals “8.”

Similarly, if a five-pointed star equals “8,” don’t use the same star symbol to mean “start” on something like a maze somewhere else in the escape room. There are a limitless amount of possible icons. There is no reason to reuse the same icon to convey different meanings in the same game.

Once you define the meaning of an icon, keep both the icon and its meaning consistent.

Variance

Variance in a symbol is fine. It can even be cool.

Different materials could result in the icon rendering a little askew. Scale and perspective could have a similar effect.

Maybe there are even narrative reasons for a bit of variance.

This isn’t the kind of thing that needs to be codified into law, but a little bit of mindfulness in design can go a long way.

Iconography in Puzzle Design is one component of room design. For more tips, check out our Room Design section.

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