Academicons help communicate clear ideas using iconic references and humor.

Introducing Academicons

This is a new concept for EF. It’s a pretty neat idea which will help you communicate using iconic references and humor.

Academicons can be a really powerful tool if photography is not strong enough to deliver the complete message at a glance. Photography can be good at telling a story or setting a mood, but sometimes is less capable of holistic messaging. For when we need to say more, use Academicons.

Academic + Icon = Academicons

Most icon sets today are cute, round and bubbly. But Academicons are not. If Academicons are cute, it’s purely unintentional. Ours are stripped down. They have hard corners, they are precise and minimal. Academicons have no patience for frivolous or wasted motion. They communicate only what is required. They are scientific and smart, even as they depict ice cream.

As statements

Being able to say two things at once opens up an extra dimension of possibilities. You can lead with an academic feel in the background image, then sprinkle in some adventure with the foreground icon. Or vice versa, of course.

The foreground icon says one thing, while the background image says another.

There are a number of different things you can communicate at the same time, too:

  • Solo + Group
  • Form + Function
  • Travel + Home
  • Eat + Drink

Meet + Fly

Work + Play

Inspire + Write

By air + By sea

Solitude + Friendship

Rural + Urban

Journey + Learning

Success + Sushi

As stories

We can group icons in a certain order to help tell a story, just like the Egyptians. Along with storytelling, the visual style of Academicons also brings an edge of academic-ness (totally a super-real academic word) to a design.

They are designed this way on purpose, so even the more adventurous products can be injected with a shot of academia quickly, easily and on-brand.

This image instantly says ‘urban jungle.’ The juxtaposing icons, however, help tell a bigger story of nature, shopping and getting work done.

The background image screams adventure, however the Academicon helps tell a broader story of learning, verbal communication, food and activity.

Visuals can be subjective, so we want to make sure that the viewer understands the story without getting too abstract.

When choosing images, pick something where the subject—be it person, setting, or action—is clear. This serves as a foundation for the story, over which the Academicons can be layered for a multidimensional narrative.

A grid-based system

The Academicons have science inside. They’re all based on a grid that brings consistency across the set. The grid means that we can make new ones as and when there is a need. As long as you follow the guidelines laid out here, please add to the set and notify us so we can keep it open for all!

If you do make your own, remember that the grid is just a guide. Try to fit the new Academicon to it, but if the design does deviate a bit (like the circles on the crown do) it’s okay!

Make your Academicons purposeful and easy to decipher. There is no room to be esoteric or cryptic.

A 12x12 grid makes it flexible to separate an icon into thirds, quarters, halves, etc.

As illustrations

Academicons also work well as standalone illustrations without photography. Here, there is a need for scale with room to breathe and spacious environments.

While Academicons were initially designed to be paired up with image, they’re also effective when paired with targeted copy. The simplicity and boldness is a combination that can be really powerful in delivering a message that needs to communicate quickly.

Academicons as standalone illustrations.

This image instantly says ‘urban jungle.’ The juxtaposing icons, however, help tell a bigger story of nature, shopping and getting work done.

As an illustrative style, the Academicons communicate a sense of academia. They are exact, purposeful and mathematical. When using them as a narrative without photography, such as this example, that thinking needs to be prominent.

Scale those strokes

As an Academicon scales up and down, the weight of the stroke making the icon needs to be considered. Incremental changes for smaller and larger canvases keep the integrity of the Academicon true.

One could argue that by making the Academicon an object rather than an outline drawing, then the visual stroke would automatically scale. This is true, however the increase in weight is too drastic when scaling up (becomes too heavy too quickly) and down (stays very light when small).

A simple Academicon scaling: 1pt

.75 pt

.50 pt

A complex Academicon scaling: 1pt

.75 pt

.50 pt

Use your judgment

In an attempt to not have too many restrictions over this particular element, there’s no specific guidance on what size an Academicon should be on any particular canvas. This is because there will be different needs across different applications for Academicons to be different sizes all the time.

Therefore, scaling Academicons and keeping the overall visual integrity is a job for you, the designer. Before a design is finalised, ask yourself: does the stroke weight feel right? Is it too heavy, or too light? Check back with this booklet for visual references.


It’s easy to stray from the academic path when creating new Academicons. It’s important to remember the reasons why they are the way they are. Keeping it simple is key.

Altering the visual style of an Academicon throws the whole element system into disarray. Keep things in line and we will achieve brand harmony!

Do not add superfluous detail to your Academicon. 

Do not round corners that shouldn’t be round on your Academicon. 

Do not fatten the stroke of your Academicon. 

Do not put your Academicon in a cramped, confined space.