What the heck is a floppy disk?

Clock Mini IconOctober 19th, 2008 written by

“It´s a storage medium, where people saved files on.”
Maybe people talk like this in a few years. The floppy disk isn´t used anymore.
But its shape is still used to symbolize the procedure of saving files.

I thought this would be an easy icon to design, but it wasn´t and still isn´t.
Now I´ve made two alternatives. So, this is an Request for Comment.
I looking forward for your opinions.

Just one thing. The first icon is also used for download. But in fact downloading and saving is quite the same process.

29 Responses to “What the heck is a floppy disk?”

  1. andreas Says:

    I think you should use both symbols, depending on the situation. For example if you want to save a bookmark to your favourites you can take the first icon, because there is coming a new part to others.
    If you want to save the current document or your settings the second icon is the better one.
    So you can differntiate between “save as” and “save”.
    Maybe it’s good to put the triangle with the circle also to the first icon.

  2. admin Says:

    There is a bookmark icon too.
    The black box symbolized the harddrive.
    And the arrow implies putting something on the harddrive.

    I think like you said the second one is better,
    because in fact the first one is reserved for “downloading”.

  3. arne Says:

    for me the first one describes the act of ‘downloading’ pretty well, cause it’s like putting an already existing file from the internet to your harddrive. but i’m not sure, if the symbol for the harddrive really fits. it’s so ‘flat’ (i know that harddrives are flat, if you’re looking from the side). of course the whole symbol is so unusual because there doesn’t seem to be any invisible outline. it’s a little bit out of format. not sure if i love or hate it.

    and the second one is exactely for ‘save (as)’, cause you are creating a new file instead of just copy-and-paste one like a download does. so you see the new file and that’s really good.

    well, that’s what i associate with the new symbols. hope you get anything out of this thinkin.

  4. admin Says:

    Thanks for your helpful suggestions.
    :) That´s the price i have to pay when I want the icons made scalable down to 16×16 Pixel without changing it.
    Maybe it will be adapted and optimized after the diploma.
    But I think it´s good that you can clearly seperate these icons and their meaning.

  5. stohl.de » Blog Archive » Wer speichert noch auf Disketten? Says:

    [...] Doch wer kennt heutzutage noch Disketten? Deshalb gibt es nun eine Designalternative von PICOL: What the heck is a floppy disk?. Wunderbar. Das schick ich nun allen Hersteller von Software, die noch immer gerne die Diskette [...]

  6. Maarten Says:

    First of all: Great effort.

    Second: The problem I see with the second (bottom right) icon, is in the shape of the ‘file’, which now resembles a paper document. Saving is an act which extends to more than just the originally paper document: we save music, video, software and so on.

    This may not be an issue at all, if the ‘paper’ document symbol has become so generic that it can even represent music or video. Something to test/look into.

    The first (top right) icon is a more direct replacement of the floppy disk, as it depicts the location (hard drive) – which makes it work for all types of file saving.

    However, as we see the growing variation of file save locations (pc, online storage, mobile, USB stick), using a representation of a physical hard drive in your icon feels a bit outdated…

    Maybe replacing the ‘hard drive’ with a more generic symbol (maybe an outlined square is already enough?) would be something to try out.

    I’ll visit again to see how you’re doing. Good luck!

  7. admin Says:

    Thanks for your suggestions Marteen. Your right that the piece of paper is outdated. I think you have to change the icon slowly, like you change a logo or a coprporate identity.
    I´ll work on this and hopefully I or we together find a strategy for a new save icon, which is understood and accepted by everyone. I think the paper metaphor still will last a few years :)There are also combinations with attributes in the document for example a video icon in the paper document.

  8. Stuart Says:

    I like the first one. It requires the viewer to understand the abstraction of the rectangle being a hard drive, but is more universal than the second. That said, the floppy disc has become fairly universal in its meaning, and I’m not entirely sure it needs replacing. Does the ‘save to hard drive’ icon mean as much for cloud-save operations? Why does the destination device matter to indicator of the save function? It is hard to imagine a fully agnostic depiction of the act of saving (or loading)… Personally, I go for the neatness of text.

    (Enjoyed the video, by the way, nicely done!)

  9. Gail Swanson Says:

    I would be careful about the use of arrows since they are used to indicate a ‘play’ button or the action of going to the next page etc. This is a tough icon problem indeed. Great one to tackle though.

  10. Koori Says:

    We re all used to “floppy” image when thinking about saving so I think that it is the most universal. But if I had to choose from the two on the right I’d use the bottom one. Disk icon is not associated with action of saving but with physical part of computer.

    I think that you need to come up with new generic “file” icon first. The circle with down arrow is very good idea, but “piece of paper” as a file is not generic enough. I’d stay with the arrow in circle but change “file” icon.

    I’d also like to congratulate on the general idea and great design. I’m waiting for more.

  11. Martha Says:


    why not use a download icon similar to the one on this site: http://www.download.com/8300-2007_4-12.html?tag=rb_content;overviewHead
    It’s realy abstract so no fuss about wether or not to make it look like a harddisk. Plus it’s being used a lot already, so no worries about recognizability.

  12. Daniel Smith Says:

    Nice site!

    I prefer the bottom icon too. The top suggests “download” to me and I consider that a separate kind of operation to saving.

    It’s a good start, but you should consider either alternatives to the paper file part of the icon or something even more generic. And after that there is still the problem of “Save” versus “Save As”. I’m not sure how to solve that one though the idea of a box with a cursor in it below a down arrow came to mind for save as.

    I also don’t like the idea of using a down arrow alone for saving like download.com as that’s just too generic.

  13. Nelson Says:

    I reached your site thanks to your video on the history of the Internet. Great work on both, the video and your icons! They are simple, clean and easy to understand. However, I have a small comment related to the “Floppy Disk”->”Save” idea. In your set of icons, you use the icon of a “Digital camera” for the concept of “Image”… and you use a “Mobile phone with a keyboard” for the concept of “Mobile phone”. Don’t you think this can bring the same problem of mixing ideas in the future? A few years ago, the icon for a phone still used the dial disk that is no longer found, so in the future maybe mobile phones won’t have a keyboard. Also, in creating software for digital cameras, an “Image” is different from the “Digital camera” itself, isn’t it? What do you think? I mean… it got me thinking… Anyway, cheers for your designs!

  14. admin Says:

    Hi Nelson,

    you´re right. This is just the beginning. These are very difficult questions, who look easy ;) This is just the beginning. I´ll work on this.
    I think the metaphors have to be a bit older than the current trends, because everyone for example knows mobile with a keyboard, but not everyone used or has a mobile with a touchscreen.
    Thanks for your comment.

  15. Arturex Says:

    Excellent Project.
    I think the save icon it could be just a circle symbolizing a disc floppy disk inside were disk hard drives were disk cds, dvd, blue rays are disk, so far storage has always been in discs, well we know the future storage will be in flash disks, but for more than 50 years storage has been in discs so it can be a universal symbol of it.. what you think?

  16. Ilia Says:

    This is maybe a bit off topic but seems to me that before trying to rethink the “save” icon, maybe we should rethink the whole concept of “save”, as in – is there really any more need for active saving (i.e. click to save)?

    I think we’re at a point where computers are powerful and fast enough, and storage is cheap enough that we shouldn’t have to decide whether we want to save changes or not, they should be continuously saved as we’re working with files. Unlimited undos should provide a way to backup from changes we no longer want, and version backups (daily, hourly, weekly, whatever) will make sure that even if we closed the file we can go back to an older version.
    At that point seems to me the only “active save” action remaining would be “backup” (i.e. on top of the auto backup schedule), which wouldn’t need an icon ’cause it’s not frequent enough to warrant a place on a toolbar.

  17. Grishka Says:

    What a wonderful point of view/ very nice! That’s our future/

  18. Radek Says:

    Ilia is fully correct. The save action is gradually becoming obsolete. There used to be the need for “saving” in times, when you were not sure that your document would survive longer in the memory of the computer, so you marked your point of save to get back in case of failure in order not to start again from the blank document (something like save points in some games :) Nowadays only veterans are used to frequently press CTRL-S and such need was replaced by actually marking some finished work aka versions. The concept of saving has shifted. In the future you will mark version / revision or submit / commit your work. Therefore the best icon for save action is no icon. But prepare for the other mentioned ;)
    PS: great work!

  19. border Says:

    why do we need the save function AT ALL

    everything i type should be remembered by the computer like autosaving every second being the default

    the save function was to reduce hard disk usage, however todays hard disks have a lot longer lifecycle and todays operating systems use them totally independently of what the user is actually doing – just listen…

  20. Demon Says:

    “Therefore the best icon for save action is no icon.”

    And what if you need to transfer files from one computer to another without network connection? I think, there are people who doesn’t need the internet at home… they should have “save” icon.

  21. Demon Says:

    Download vs Save.

    Download: get it from network and store it for later use.
    Save: store it for later use.

    I think there is a little difference between them, so we can use the same icon.

  22. Michael Long Says:

    “Save” is an outmoded concept, just like the floppy disk. The icon is not necessary if your work is saved as you work. Focus on the real solution.

  23. David Says:

    What on earth is the black thing on the top image? Is that a flash-drive? :) Maybe it should be a cloud.

  24. PICOL Admin Says:

    @Michael Long: Why is saving an outmoded concept? Don´t you make different saving versions of your projects – like “save as”? I don´t want my Computer to decide, when to save and when not. I think both alternatives are no alternatives, but the concept of saving isn´t over.
    @David: http://blog.picol.org/the-internet-is-a-cloud/ :)

  25. Mice Says:

    nice share about what the heck is a floppy disk/,.ty

  26. Maria Nogueira Says:

    what if you want to save some settings you just edited (for example on your profile page on some website? I don’t think any of these pictograms would be viable since you’re not actually downloading or creating anything, you’re just kind of validating some information you just inserted.
    to me this makes me think of a check mark at first but would love to have a solution that isn’t so obvious… any thoughts?

  27. PICOL Admin Says:

    What you mean is something like an update/save function? I think that´s also saving, since you edit and overwrite information (in the database). It´s a long time since I started this topic and I did a lot of icons since that time, but there is still no other solution than the rectangle with the arrow. I think the check mark is good, when it updates a single field automatically to indicate what happens. For me obvious icons are the best, because that´s what the sould do – to communicate information clearly and obvious :)

  28. Alex K. Says:

    I agree with Ilia. But, we should not forget that the user should have a feeling that everything is under his control. And whenever he wants to save he’s work, UI should give this ability. I think that is the only reason to place “Save” Icon on screen.

  29. Tom Says:

    I’m happy with the floppy disk. +1 for the floppy.

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