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Icons and individuality

I was thinking of doing that meme that's been going around, where you ask people on your f-list to post pictures of people to represent their mental image of you, but then I thought that since something like 70% of the icons I use on a regular basis (including my default) are of Chloe Sullivan, that's probably the mental picture most people have of me.

And then I saw this interesting post linked on metafandom, in which the poster talks about getting confused when different people on her f-list used the same icons, and it reminded me that I wanted to do a poll on people's different icon philosophies, because I am curious.

Poll #816425 icon poll

Do you tend to associate people from your friends' list with their icons?


How important is it to you that your icons are unique?

Very important
I prefer it most of the time
Not that important
I don't really care

If someone else started using an icon that is the same as (or very similar to) your default icon, would you

ask them not to use it
change your default icon
personalize your icon in some way
do nothing, but grumble about it
not really care

I've had some conversations in the past with various folks, especially bop_radar, about how I never used to really see icons. That was largely due to the fact that I still have dial-up at home, and my desktop computer has a very slow processor, so I often read lj with the graphics turned off, for better speed. But even when I did have the graphics turned on, I was still rather text-centered rather than picture-centered. I would occasionally notice really cool icons, but mostly I didn't notice icons at all, and I remember being very confused about how many interesting discussions would get sidetracked by the discussion of someone's icon.

When I delurked, I wanted an icon that was not particular fannish, that I could use for any type of post and that people would automatically associate with me. The icon I chose was based on this painting by Corot, which is one of my favorites:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

For some reason, when I was first making icons and really didn't understand how file size worked , I thought that the image was too big for livejournal specs, so I made it grayscale. (I now think this icon is hideously depressing, but at the time I was very proud of figuring out how to make an icon all by myself).

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

It wasn't until sometime last year that I decided to switch over to a more fannish default icon. I can't remember when I chose Chloe as my avatar, precisely, but I assume it was around last February or so, when I finally broke down and got a paid account and got more interested in icons because I was learning how to make them.

In all those years of lurking and having only one icon, I somehow never learned there were icon communities on lj, but I think I wouldn't have used them anyway, because it has always been more important to me that my icons are unique than that they be really beautiful. (I have about 80 icons now, and I think 5 of them were made by other people, and a couple of those are gifts). Maybe that's because I'm not as visually attuned as other folks, so for me the "branding" function of icons is more important than "ooh, pretty"?

I do notice the pretty a lot more, now that I'm making them for myself, and I'm more likely these days to check out icon journals and look at other people's icon sets, because I have a lot more appreciation for beautiful icons now that I'm making icons myself. For the most part I just go to look and admire, however. I still prefer a mediocre icon that I made myself, that is unique in some way, to a really gorgeous one made by someone else that might be used by another person. And I'm likely to stop using icons I make myself if I realize that the image source is a populare for other people's icons. I had this as a default icon for a while:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Even though this picture of Allison Mack is definitely my favorite, I stopped using this icon because so many other people use this picture as an icon base. I started worrying that I was inadvertantly stealing someone's favorite icon, since I had no way of knowing who used the picture as a base first--and even if I was the first to use it, I want my icons to be immediately recognizable as mine. They may not be quite as pretty as other people's, but they're mine!

But enough about me. What's your icon philosophy?



( 80 comments — Leave a comment )
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Sep. 8th, 2006 10:25 am (UTC)
I would totally FREAK if someone started using my various default icons as they are all pretty much either made for me or so rare that they probably stole it from me. If they refused to stop using it I would both BITCH mightly AND change my icon.

I also get totally side-lined when somone uses an icon that I associate with another LJ user. I'm easily confused :-) I have seen one person using a Chloe icon that you also often use, and I was pretty miffed when I realised it wasn't you posting!
Sep. 8th, 2006 02:09 pm (UTC)
Yes, all of your icons are pretty distinctive, so it would be pretty weird (I think) if someone else tried using them. Though I guess some folks just think that all images online are theirs for the taking--I remember being absolutely horrified when I saw some random person using lj user="bexless">'s dancing spiderman, since that's one of the first icons I (with my early blindness to icons) strongly associated with someone, and I couldn't believe any one else would take it.

I have a lot of Chloe icons, so it's inevitable that the bases will overlap with other Chloe fans. The only one I *really* care about is the default icon, though.
Sep. 8th, 2006 10:39 am (UTC)
i love and adore userpics. my main lj has over 100 of them (faces). when bases or icons are offered up for use with credit, i take the ones i like best, but if they're used by lots of people, i tend not to use them much.

on the whole, they're photos i've seen and resized/cropped myself, without lettering. that's the way i'm most comfortable, with just a face. since a lot of them are tom welling or michael rosenbaum (right now -- for a while, my daisy lj was all about marilyn manson!), i don't expect to be unique. they're just the photos that appeal to me most.

if someone ripped off a custom-made icon that belonged to me, i'd be annoyed (not that i have one), or one with my own username on it. but otherwise, lj's a big place, and duplication happens, i think. still, i do come to associate lj people with a frequently-used icon, like your laughing AM.
Sep. 8th, 2006 10:44 am (UTC)
oops, you said you have dial-up at home, and here i am giving a link to a page of graphics! my apologies. that was inconsiderate of me.
(no subject) - norwich36 - Sep. 8th, 2006 02:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - norwich36 - Sep. 8th, 2006 02:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 8th, 2006 11:01 am (UTC)
I'm pretty much addicted to snagging pretty icons *g*

If they're really widely used on my flist, I generally wait until the craze has died down, before posting with it. But really only a few of my icons are unique, the ones people have made for me, and I really love them the most. But I'm not going to limit myself to 6 personalised icons or so, when I have space for 132 :P

Oh and my default icon is snaggable to everyone, so I clicked on I wouldn't really care. But I would probably politely let someone know if they used one of the icons made for me.
Sep. 8th, 2006 02:19 pm (UTC)
I don't know who that is smooching in that icon, but I like it! And I'm a little jealous that you have 132 icon spaces--I only have 104.
(no subject) - frelling_tralk - Sep. 8th, 2006 04:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - norwich36 - Sep. 8th, 2006 07:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 8th, 2006 11:24 am (UTC)
I would feel extremely weirded out if someone else used my default, simply because I can't imagine why anyone else would want anagrams of "hyperfocused" for themselves. If someone had anagrams of their own name with fannish pictures? I'd still be kind of miffed, but mostly consider it flattery.

I enjoy having icons that you don't see all over the place, more than those you do. Still, I don't have enough of them (less than 40, I think).

I've had one incident of an icon made for me being used by someone else without permission (sort of. They asked, but I had not gotten around to answering yet when they started using it.) I'm a little bit uneasy when I come across it on their posts. Truthfully, I would probably have said no, but am too likely not to want to seem mean spirited.

I feel your dialup pain, by the way. My other icon problem is that my vision is kind of crappy, so much of the time I'm not getting the full impact because I can't decipher them.
Sep. 8th, 2006 02:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, your default is so connected to your username I can't imagine anyone taking it.

I guess it's nice that that person asked your permission about using the icon, but obviously the assumption was that you'd say yes, which is just not cool! But I guess there are so many shareable icon communities that the assumption must be that everyone is going to say yes?

I think some icons, especially with tiny text, are not meant to be decipherable. When icons have text, I prefer that it is readable, but I think for a lot of icon-makers it's really just there for decoration.
Sep. 8th, 2006 11:45 am (UTC)
For me icons are utterly unique and function more as avatars than pretty pictures. I was actually *sad* when they upped the icons (b/c I kind of liked having to pick and choose and being able to keep track of other people's icons)

I don't share, which is why I rarely ever get cool or pretty or fun icons, b/c very few icon makers don't have the everyone can take everything policy and I'm not a great writer or whatever that people often make icons for me. But I just can't see "my" icons on other people's posts. Just like I don't get people changing their name easily.

i've had the same default for over 3 years now and the same name, and I'd hate to give up either...
Sep. 8th, 2006 02:25 pm (UTC)
I was actually *sad* when they upped the icons (b/c I kind of liked having to pick and choose and being able to keep track of other people's icons). Oh, yeah, I remember having that response, too, because suddenly I had to always check people's names on their posts, because I was no longer familiar with all their icons.

Your icon is one of the ones I have strongest associations with, because you've used it so long, and I would definitely be weirded out if someone else started using it!
Sep. 8th, 2006 02:37 pm (UTC)
I also think part of it depends on how unique the icon is, who had the icon first, and how long they've been using it. Someone above uses bexless's dancing Spiderman icon as a good example. Also, I can't imagine who would be crass enough to use thamiris's default icon, even though it's not personalized with text. It's just *her* and no one else to me.

I like my current default, and yeah, I'd be ticked if someone started using it, but what can you do?
Sep. 8th, 2006 10:06 pm (UTC)
Declare war? I guess that would be a little over-the-top. But clearly a lot of us really don't want other people using an image we consider ours.

I agree about thamiris' default icon. She's another person whose icon is so totally her that it's hard to imagine anyone else using it.
Sep. 8th, 2006 03:35 pm (UTC)
I answered in the poll that I'd personalize my icon. However, it really would depend on the overlap of our posts. If it was someone highly involved in Smallville or HP, I might change my default icon to avoid confusion.

My default icon is fairly unique though, so hopefully I'll never have that problem.
Sep. 8th, 2006 10:07 pm (UTC)
Yes, yours is very unique--it's the only default icon I can think of that's neither a person's face nor a nature scene. I love the colors in it, too. Hopefully no one will ever steal it!
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 8th, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC)
Yes, you have very distinctive icons, though it's hard to know what other people will like and assume they can take. Having your name on them should help, I would think.
Sep. 8th, 2006 04:59 pm (UTC)
Huh. Before I read your poll, I thought that I didn't care at all about people having the same icons -- not that I'd ever take one of somebody else's without permission, because that's just rude. But thinking about it, I realize that the vast majority of icons I've ever used as my default have been ones that I made myself, despite how crappy they are. So apparently it is kind of important, and if somebody else started using Mrs. Lovett rejoicing about pie, I'd undoubtedly switch my default back to one of my older ones.
Sep. 8th, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC)
Nobody better steal Yay!Pie, or we'll have to go all Sweeny Todd on them! (Though until you said this I didn't realize who that was in your icon. Omigod, I had no idea exactly how hilarious that icon was! Hee hee hee! All these levels of nuance I have been missing!!)
Sep. 8th, 2006 05:50 pm (UTC)
I prefer text icons and pretty nature icons for some reason. Even though I'm a huge fan of certain shows, I've never really used TV show/actor icons. I feel like my icons whatever they say represent me and if I saw someone else using them, yeah, I think that I might change mine.
Sep. 8th, 2006 10:30 pm (UTC)
And I love that about your icons, how unique they are. I myself like using pretty people occasionally, but if I ever switched fandoms I'd suddenly have something like 50 icons I wouldn't be using again, whereas your text icons are much more versatile. (I particularly like the one you used here).
Sep. 9th, 2006 03:42 am (UTC)
Wow! I love this poll! You know how I love icons and icon meta. ;-)

Largely I agree with frelling_tralk the most. I trawl continually for the pretty and the unique in icons. I use icons from some of the Big Name Iconists, and I also use ones by people others have probably never heard of. Every icon is special for its own reason. I don't mind using the same icon as someone else, but I do find that over time they tend to 'settle' in such a way that I either associate them so strongly with someone else I drop them, or they become poart of 'my' collection, with others not using them so much. It all seems to evolve pretty naturally.

A personalised icon makes me happier than any other--and my default one is still my favourite--god, I miss duskwillow SO MUCH. :-(

But I do change my default on occasion, when the mood suits. If someone used the same one, I probably would just swap back to my personalised one. I have hundreds--I ain't got no problem with swapping to something else!

And I really like the way peoples icons reflect them, even when it's a matter of which icons they choose. I love Kate's--they're so her. Ditto Becky's and Estrella's. And I think theirs come from all over.

I'm so shallow and lazy! I admire people like you and radioreverie who make all your own icons.
Sep. 9th, 2006 04:13 am (UTC)
You know, I have absolutely no idea what your default icon is, these days. (Runs to check). Hmm. I wouldn't have guessed it was Lex, for some reason. The icons I most strongly associate with you are a couple of your Lois ones (especially "duh," which I really like), the goofy dancing Clark one, the Starbuck "Eek" one, the Lee Adama "smrt is sexy," and your various book/reading icons.

You rotate your icons a lot, though--I think more than most of the folks on my f-list who aren't icon makers themselves. (I know this because whenever I get the urge to make icons I go and look at your icon page to see what you have these days. Because I don't inflict my icons on just anybody!) In fact, when I just went to check and see what your default icon was, you had several ones I hadn't seen before.

I don't think you're lazy for not making your own icons. (I do think you're missing out--icon making can be very addictive, even if you're not good at it. I started making icons of the new promo shots after I got off work at four, and I looked up and four hours had passed while I was playing with color and cropping variations. I find it very relaxing and zen-like, most of the time. I've made dozens of icons that won't ever see the light of day, but that were fun experiments for me.)
(no subject) - bop_radar - Sep. 9th, 2006 05:36 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 9th, 2006 04:22 pm (UTC)
(here via metafandom

To tell the truth, if someone used something similar to my default icon, I think my brain would probably explode. It used to be just a regular baby Ewok, which wouldn't have had quite the same effect if someone matched it. But then my roommate decided I needed something that more fully expressed my personality. One of my friends declared the default I've been using ever since "Your YOU icon." :p The honestly can't get my brain around the thought of anyone else WANTING a rainbow Wokling as their default icon. :p

(And yes, I've had this icon long enough that it's very much how most of my flist pictures me... :p)
Sep. 9th, 2006 08:21 pm (UTC)
It is interesting, isn't it, how we think of people on our flist as their default icons? Well, at least folks who don't change their defaults very often.

Your rainbow Ewok is very cute!
(no subject) - yubsie - Sep. 10th, 2006 01:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 9th, 2006 04:31 pm (UTC)
The reason I'd grumble if someone used something similar to my default icon is not OMGICONTHEFT, or anything like that, but because... my default icon is of my handwriting (and my fic, though I blurred the image) crumpled up. With my pseud (which as far as I'm concerned is my *name*) on it. It would just be *weird* if someone had something similar.

But... I know I'm associated with that icon. At WriterCon this past summer, I had three separate people not know who I was (even with name badge) until I picked up the badge that had my default icon on it. They recognized me immediately, then.
Sep. 9th, 2006 08:25 pm (UTC)
Yes, with yours if someone took it they would clearly be stealing your name, too, which would definitely be uncool. And weird.

Is it common for cons to use icons as namebadges these days? That's a terrific idea!
(no subject) - mireille719 - Sep. 9th, 2006 08:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 9th, 2006 08:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, I understand that, actually, because I love it when people use icons I have made. It's pretty cool when someone likes your art enough to use it, and that is a lovely K/S icon. The look on Jim's face is priceless!

Star Trek was my first fandom, though I don't currently have any icons associated with it. (Is there a good site for screencaps you would recommend?)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - norwich36 - Sep. 10th, 2006 01:37 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 9th, 2006 04:42 pm (UTC)
(Hi! Here from metafandom.)

I've never used an icon I didn't make. Which means that at times I've used - less attractive icons (I went through a brief but shameful gratuitously-animated icon phase), but they've always been mine. And somewhere along the way I picked up a hand theme, and then made a conscious decision to keep it - I figure it makes it a little easier to recognize my posts (especially as I have only six icons), but I've internalized 'hand icon = me' so much that I've jumped a few times seeing other people using similar pictures.

Actually, at one point I was on a board where another member registered with an icon made from the same image as my default (this) icon, and though it was clear to me that they hadn't taken the image from me (it included a part of the photo that I'd cropped off) a handful of other members were so offended on my behalf that they got him to change it. I don't think I would've asked him to myself, though I did find it slightly offensive/tacky (I'd been on the board for years and had always used that image).

I've also always tagged a corner of them, just - because it seemed like the thing to do. (Also I've found when other people have their livejournal name on their icon I associate the two a lot faster, though I'm not sure mine is easily readable enough that that would happen.)

I find all this icon talk really interesting. I'm glad there are other people that get disconcerted when they associate an icon with one particular person, then see someone else using it. Also I have much love for your Chloe icons - I used to have a hand-themed Chloe icon. I might make one of those again. *grin*
Sep. 9th, 2006 08:58 pm (UTC)
Using my Chloe toasting icon because of the hands theme, but also because I just went and looked at your user icons, and WOW. I love the one you used for this post, but they're all gorgeous, especially "Crashoverride" and "Handcuffsky." I love themed icons, too, obviously--that's why I have so many Chloe ones.

I think that story about the guy using a similar image as yours is a great example of how we do strongly associate people with their icons, since the other users were more upset than you. (I know I've definitely gotten upset on behalf of friends in similar situations).
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