There is only one Cloud Icon in the Entire Universe – Scott Hanselman

I recently worked on the update to the ASP.NET site, now in beta at http://beta.asp.net . On that site we used an icon from the Pictos collection . I have an email from March of 2010 where we selected that icon, in fact.

Recently we updated the old site’s cloud icon from this, to this:

I saw a few tweets and got some emails that said “nice iCloud icon.” Well, it does look familiar! ;)

Of course, MobileMe before this:

I knew I’d see this icon somewhere before. Folks have even written articles talking about how beautiful this icon is and how the Golden Ratio is infused in its design. There are even tutorials written on how to create the icon from scratch in PhotoShop .

Apple’s logo artists have infused the iCloud logo with some mathematical elegance. In this case, the golden ratio or φ…Simple, but profound. Awesome Apple’s design philosophy.

Funny thing about the Golden Ratio, if you look for it, you’ll find it everywhere. Read about it in the book “The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI” or watch this video on the Golden Ratio . It’s intuitive. Cool, also that they attribute this icon and it’s “brilliance” to the Apple Designers, except the icon isn’t from Apple, it’s straight from Pictos 1 . I know, because we bought it from them for our site. Plus Pictos 1 has been around for years. It includes a regular cloud, clouds with arrows up and down and a lightening bolt cloud.

Of course, there’s only so many ways to draw a cloud, right? But somehow this one just nails it and is itself iconic, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Where else might you have seen this cloud icon? Seems everyone with an internet-connected or music app uses it:

Just a few…

Even though the first appearance of this cloud icon was in the commercial Pictos 1 set, you’ll find suspiciously similar clouds in other cloud icons packs like the one at Yay.se that’s Creative Commons. Notice that you can change the look of the cloud icon slight if you the circles smaller or larger or add a border, push and pull, or squish and stretch.

But again, it’s essentially four circles. My 3 year old draws similar clouds. At what point does a unique design stop being unique and just absorb into the consciousness ?

Today, it seems there is only one cloud icon in the universe and it’s four circles with a flat base. I like it.

UPDATE: Hat tip to Ian Griffiths who points out that the BBC Weather Service beat all of us to the iCloud icon, kind of…over 30 years ago. ;)

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