Every time I lookup the section Hot Network Questions, I must hover my mouse on some questions to show where the link leads because the icon makes it not immediately apparent what that site is.

I am no designer, but it feels like the icons could easily be made more meaningful.

For instance, look at the icons below:


  1. stats: it's so abstract it could mean anything
  2. tex: why not just use TeX?
  3. bitcoin: this is the Stack Exchange "generic" icon, there are lots of them and they surely could be improved
  4. chemistry: not that bad, but why not just use a vial?
  5. math: this one is really misleading because it looks like a gear
  6. gaming: not the worst once accustomed to it, but the generally recognized symbol is the controller
  7. chess: again, recognizable but why not just use the knight?
  8. emacs: Emacs has a logo, why not use it?
  9. diy: looks more like gaming than DIY
  10. music: I am not even able to guess what it's supposed to represent. Why not just use a musical note?
  11. puzzling: seems to be a random abstract symbol whereas a piece of the puzzle could do
  12. money: this one however is good. I immediately recognize the piggy bank

It seems like the icons do not make use of the generally accepted symbols for different fields. I feel like at least half of the icons can be misinterpreted. Are there plans for improving those?

Note that I am European, the perceptions of those icons could differ in different regions.

  • 1
    3. Non-graduated sites don't have custom designs and as sch they use the stock icon, which is blue with two or three white letters – rene May 27 at 10:37
  • 3
    Worth mentioning that the designs are often (always?) created in cooperation with the sites community. That includes the used visuals. If something needs to be changed (which I think is not needed) then it should be discussed on the per-site meta first before even considering making any change – rene May 27 at 10:40
  • 2
    This is way too broad. Feel free to suggest new logo for each site in its relevant meta. Just saying "It's bad, fix it" isn't really helpful either. – Shadow The Princess Wizard May 27 at 10:41
  • If there ever was a "primarily opinion-based" meta question... – Chris says Reinstate Monica May 27 at 12:13
  • @rene Thank you for pointing that out, it makes more sense now. – Jim May 27 at 12:46
  • @ChristianRau I understand this is opinion based but still, I find it annoying not being able to directly find out what a network site is for by just looking at its icon. It doesn't help for discovering new network sites. – Jim May 27 at 12:46
  • 1
    Um, vial? Chemistry's icon is supposed to be benzene, and it's been self-evident for most people I've come across. The small size probably makes it a bit harder, but I'm not sure anything would satisfy you other than a big "CHEMISTRY" spelled out? Same goes for most other sites. – M.A.R. May 27 at 12:50
  • 1
    This question has been put the wrong way and is highly opinion based. @rene made it clear why the icons are as they are, though I still genuinely think (and have been thinking for some time) that most are wrong − but this is subjective hence irrelevant here −. I should have expressed my question differently by asking how the icons are designed, instead of assuming they are wrong for everyone and taking it a step further. I suggest to close this question. – Jim May 27 at 13:56

There are several reasons why certain icons/logos are the way they are.

  1. Copyright: Ask Different is not allowed to use Apple's own logo. They settled for the Mac's Command Key logo instead, which was already 'public domain'.

  2. Size: I personally like the Mathematics logo; when it's in full size you can see it's derived from the Reutersvärd / Penrose triangle. I agree that it's less recognizable at the scale of the Hot Network Questions icons, but using another one there would be even more confusing. The Mathematics logo predates the HNQ, and apparently wasn't designed to look nice on really small scales.

    Note that icons which do work for smaller sizes are sometimes used in different parts of the design. E.g. on Puzzling, the badges are jigsaw puzzle pieces; it would be a bit boring if the logo was one too. The same holds for Music.

  3. Unfamiliarity: the DIY logo is a screw, viewed from the top. Your remark tells me you spend more time gaming than DIYing, which is absolutely OK – but then DIY.SE probably isn't the site for you. DIYers will immediately recognize it.

  4. Generic design: As @rene says, (most) non-graduated sites don't have custom designs, and some sites have graduated but are still waiting. Those sites use the stock icon, which is blue with one, two or three white letters (or an icon, like Chess).

It is possible to change the icons; in the recent past, Spanish Language did so, but such a request needs to come from inside the community itself.

If you're wondering what certain icons represent, check the site's own Meta for questions tagged [graduation] or [design]. Some examples:

  • Music.SE Site Design (With an updated logo and color!)

    Logo Concept

    This was a tough one. It was here that it was really, really easy to fall back to a musical cliché such as a musical note, sound wave, or even the use of sheet music. All of these didn't feel right. They complicated the mark too much. Drawing inspiration from the idea of showcasing what you use to play with (an instrument), I created a series of abstracted shapes that represent piano keys.

  • Puzzling Design Pitch - Congratulations, you're graduating!

    I believe those 2 paths [Complexity, (almost) Impossible to solve, Mathematics & Riddle, Mystery, Discovery] capture the overall themes of our "Puzzling" community, but it was hard to keep only one, so I decided to give it a try and create a unique shape using both:

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .