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I'm looking for a method (or at least anything any wrote about this topic) which uses icons or symbols for note taking. So for example, I will be taking notes in class and want to "tag" certain things such as "idea", "key point", "good", "bad", etc. I find that coming up with symbols that are meaningful and easy to draw is hard to do. I was hoping that there is already a repository of such icons somewhere.

The reason I want icons rather than text tags is to make the notes more appealing and less verbose. That way when it comes time to study, I'm not just staring at a bunch of text and I can visually understand what many of the sections mean just by looking at the icons.

Some examples I have come up with:

  • Light bulbs are easy to draw. I use them for new ideas.
  • Crossed out arrow is used for "does not lead to" (or something along those lines), while an arrow can be used to mean "leads to".
  • A home icon is used for homework (idea from OneNote, see below).
  • I am currently looking for something to be used to represent good/bad. I was thinking of using a thumbs up/down image, but find it difficult to draw. Happy/sad faces, on the other hand, are easier to draw, but don't have clear meanings.
  • Similar to how OneNote has three different colors for some of the icons, I can do the same with only one color of ink by having one shape not filled in, another filled in with dashed lines, and the third completely filled in.

I was thinking of getting ideas from Microsoft OneNote, but many of these icons are difficult to draw by hand:

One Note Icons

I'm hoping someone has already come up with something like this so that I don't need to reinvent the wheel. Any ideas that can help?

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Do you plan on sharing these notes with other people? I'm just curious as to why you are looking for symbols that have meaning for others. – Thomas Owens Sep 24 '11 at 19:12
This is not about icons but about your running text (so not in an answer). You are already using the mathematical symbol 'leads to'. Note that there are many more like "there exists" or "for each" that can seriously reduce the amount of text if you learn to use them. – Jan Doggen Mar 21 at 10:49
up vote 5 down vote accepted

The best solution I have found so far is the Vector Doodle Kit icon images. The main advantage is that the icons look like they were drawn by hand, meaning that drawing them by hand should be relatively easy. Additionally, they only use a single color, unlike many other icon sets.

You can download the free version to see the icons a bit larger than what they appear like in the preview page.

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I use single or two letter codes, written in the margin surrounded by a box. I found that was much speedier than drawing things and the marginal location and the bounding box makes them stand out from regular text. Some of them are surely specific to me and my own system but some of general use:

! - for something surprising or important

? - for a question or something that puzzles me

Q - for a quote

T - for a todo

F - for a reference to follow

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I use empty box for Todo's. And "i" in a box for "information". Question mark, to ask/consult to someone. – Gürkan Çetin Mar 22 at 19:29

I've been searching for these kinds of marginalia symbols for a while! These may not be exactly what you're looking for, but I've found them useful.

  • I use weather "thunderstorm" character (unicode U+2608) to mean "refer to elsewhere" (next/previous page, book, whatever)
  • Five and eight pointed stars for important items
  • Doubled exclamation points for to-dos that need to go to my to-do app (!!). Lately, I draw a shadowed box (U+274F) for this and check it off when it's transferred.
  • A simple envelope for emails to send (U+2709)
  • I found Therbligs (time and motion study symbols) to be useful:

Look through the Unicode "Symbols and Punctuation" pages () for ideas that jump out at YOU with specific meanings like "good" and "bad". Choose something then stick to it!

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Welcome to Personal Productivity! You seem to be referring to digital icons, whereas the OP's question was about icons that are easy to draw by hand. – THelper Mar 29 at 8:27
I see I was not clear about this -- I was indicating a source of IDEAS for hand-drawn symbols. I referred to the unicode characters because they were closest to the symbols I use, and it was simpler than attempting to include hand-drawn images. Also, it is very clear in the Therbligs article that those are intended to be hand-drawn, and I used the terms "marginalia" and "draw" in my post. – Ed Cardinal Mar 30 at 14:49

Look up in image stocks

I suggest going to sites such as Shutterstock and iStockPhoto to get some ideas. All you gotta do is search for 'keyword' followed by 'icon'. You can then browse through a huge list of icon sets and find something suitable for note-taking. It may take some time but that's one of the things I do when I need inspiration to draw new icons.

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Have you ever think creating your icon instead of finding an icon?

I think this will be great. And there are a lot of web-site for doing it. Decide two things, one is you loved and you like in your entire life, the other is you don't like (maybe you hate) in your life. And create icons with them. I think this will be more effective for you.

Or if you like Angry Birds, I found these icons :-)

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protected by Rory Alsop Mar 25 at 22:41

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