Even your folder icons can be used as a Rorschach test

Jenny Lam (now at Jackson Fish Market) forwarded me this picture of a USB thumb drive. She also reminded me of another one of those Windows as Rorschach test incidents that surrounded the Windows Vista folder icons.

It was reported during one of the betas that the 16×16 folder icon looked like someone flipping the bird. Sure, this interpretation required some creativity, and it perhaps reflects more on the person making the observation than on the folder icon itself, but the report still had to be taken seriously, because one thing you don't want is a newspaper headline saying that your product uses crudely offensive imagery. And yes, we went back and changed the icon to avoid the problem.

Now, if you take that Folderix flash drive and tilt your head to the right about 60°, you can turn it into somebody giving you the finger with their right hand: The folder tab is the thumb, the folder body is the back of the hand, and the USB connector is the extended middle finger.

Who knows, maybe that was intentional after all.

Comments (19)
  1. cody.s.lee says:

    I’m a little embarrassed (due to what it might state about my own juvenile nature) to state that I see something entirely different and far more inappropriate.

  2. John says:

    Seriously?  All of this PC nonsense just needs to stop.  Whatever you do, there is bound to be some nutjob out there who will be "offended".  You can’t let a few whackos dictate what you do.

  3. Eric Mason says:

    At least nobody sees Elvis or the Virgin Mary…

  4. J says:

    A developer at a company I worked for put a smiley face with arms giving two thumbs up that I guess the developer had grabbed off some free icon site.  When I was looking over the changes she had made, I thought it looked a little weird, but it was difficult to see detail at the small size.  So I took a screenshot and increased the size.  Sure enough, it wasn’t a smiley giving two thumbs up, but rather it was a smiley giving the finger with both hands.

    I shouldn’t have said anything, but my professionalism took over and I suggested the developer change the image.

  5. Duke of New York says:

    Careful with the thumbs-up, it’s an obscene gesture in several locales.

  6. Marquess says:

    They should include a list of people who asked for changes due to something being offensive …

  7. quanta says:

    Reminds me of a similar issue with the Download Manager watermark image for Mozilla Firefox 0.8:


    (The image was eventually changed and now there’s no image)

  8. Leo Davidson says:

    @quanta: "and now there’s no image"

    Maybe the new one offended some people because it looks a bit like a wizard’s hat which reminded them of a wizard’s sleeve which is a euphemism for…

    Hmm, more about the person making the observation… Probably true…

    I’ll get my coat!


  9. W says:

    It should have said: "Problem: Flash out a metaphor."

  10. Mark says:

    Surely if that’s offensive, anything with a squareish protrusion must also be. Skyscrapers are giant flicking fingers! Tennis racquets insult everyone at the court! And don’t get me

    started on D, G and A on piano keyboards!

    cody.s.lee: yes, I saw the goatse first, too…

  11. Gabe says:

    Even if nobody actually finds it offensive, you don’t want people to have that thought every time they see your icon.

  12. Nick says:

    If your product doesn’t offend at least one person, you don’t have enough market share.

    On the other hand, if you get multiple reports of Hitler hiding in your wallpapers you might just have a little too much market share :)

  13. Olivier says:

    In the movie The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin looks like Hitler too… I hope it wasn’t intentional :-=)

  14. anon says:

    Speaking of folder icons, why does Windows 7/Windows Vista not have a separate icon for an "open" folder like Windows XP? Another example of change for the sake of it or ignorance? In a huge folder tree view, why is it not easy to locate the currently open folder in the left pane of Explorer especially if the selection is in the right pane and left pane’s selection is gray/background selection color?

  15. Yuri Khan says:

    Who knows, maybe that was intentional after all.

    It most likely was, as Lebedev is known to overuse obscene words and gestures.

  16. Ed says:

    Could be worse.

    The Office of Government Commerce (UK gov’t organisation) decided they needed a new logo, and toddled off to a design agency.

    The result can be seen on their website:


    (Tilt your head to the left to see why this caused some merriment)

    [As I noted at the time, this is why every advertising agency needs to have a review panel of twelve-year-old boys. -Raymond]
  17. Morten says:

    "At least nobody sees Elvis or the Virgin Mary…"

    Me me me! If you stand on your head, close one eye, poke yourself in the other one with a finger and squint just off the bottom corner, it’s… it’s… well, I’ll be buggered. Nothing. Sorry. Must be my new glasses.

  18. Dr. Hofmann says:

    When I’m high on LSD, Windows speaks satanic messages. Please fix this!

  19. Cody says:

    I wasn’t even thinking goatse, but now you’ve put /that/ image in my head!

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