An excellent shopping cart symbol

Above is the site for pixelivery, a website that sells t-shirts with pixelated images of all 50 states.
I forgot what led me to this site, but when I got there, I immediately noticed and was impressed by the symbol for the shopping cart. It is simple, with few lines and detail, and no wasted elements, but it clearly communicated, and was easy to understand. Websites (and our lives) can get bogged down with too much info and too much clutter. A well designed and thoughtful symbol can help break through the clutter and efficiently communicate a message and convey an attitude.

I clicked further into the site because I was curious to see if the shirt with Wyoming would show just a generic rectangle.

Wyoming and Colorado are the only states that have no unique identifying borders. In the pixelivery shirt samples above, Colorado is on the left and Wyoming is on the right. But without any neighboring context, I might have those reversed. Just can't tell. It is during times like these, that I appreciate being from Texas (the sample on the far right.)
I still wonder if many people would buy the Wyoming shirt that just has a dark rectangle on the front and no other identifying marks. I guess it might appeal to those who love the new logo for USA Today newspaper:


Anyway, back to this great shopping cart symbol. I experimented to see if any lines could be removed.

The only one that seemed redundant and possibly unnecessary was the middle line of the basket. But, removing it diminished the clarity of the cart basket and, therefore, the effectiveness of the message. The result of the experiment was that each line in the mark was necessary.

Great lesson: Primary characteristic of a great symbol.
Each element in the piece has value and purpose. There are no embellishments nor wasted or extemporaneous marks.

Advantages of symbols over text copy
1. They can be quicker to recognize in a cluttered landscape.
2. They can be easier to comprehend - we are attracted to images more than we are to text.
3. They can be easier to remember - the act of deciphering a symbol helps cement it into our memory files.
4. They are universal - they overcome language barriers.

Criteria for a shopping cart symbol
• Be easy to understand and remember.
• Contrast with its background for easy recognition and readability.
• Able to maintain clarity even when reduced.
• Apply to a variety of applications, web browsers, and monitors.

The design of many symbols, this one included, is a matter of meeting this mantra: A maximum amount of info with minimal amount of line.

Other online order symbols
Gleaned from an unscientific survey of online symbols. Notice how few of them efficiently meet the criteria listed above.
Shopping carts facing right in positive image


Shopping carts facing right in reverse image


Shopping carts facing left positive and reverse


Shopping bags and basket


Letter symbols



One of the worst symbols is the cart used on the Amazon site.

If the viewer hadn't been educated by other sites and if the Amazon site didn't label the cart with 'Cart', I doubt we could easily and rapidly decipher that awkward pan, hand, dolly, ladle thingy. We would eventually understand it, but a great mark should be almost instantly comprehensible.
And, this is a bit weird - Amazon may have more people clicking on a cart symbol than any other website.

The Amazon cart symbol on their iPad app is a bit better, but the thick frame lines are still too unfamiliar and clumsy to aid rapid comprehension.


www.jamesrobertwatson.com/cartsymbols.html