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A Brief History of the Hamburger Icon

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1 A Brief History of the Hamburger Icon on October 7th 2015, 9:53 am

We have all seen the hamburger icon. As a matter of fact most of us probably use it on a daily basis. It has become a staple in website and app design. I’m even looking at it now on the top right corner of Google Chrome.


Lately, there has been much debate about whether the use of the Hamburger Icon and side menus in general are really a good idea. But more people have been wondering where it came from and how it got to be so widely used.

The Creator





It was designed by Norm Cox for the Xerox Star,  the world’s first graphical user interface. Norm Cox is co-founder  of Cox&Hall and has been an interaction/experience design consultant since 1982. He also happened to design the document icon for the same interface.





"Its graphic design was meant to be very “road sign” simple, functionally memorable, and mimic the look of the resulting displayed menu list. With so few pixels to work with, it had to be very distinct, yet simple. I think we only had 16×16 pixels to render the image. (or possibly 13×13… can’t remember exactly)."

After the Xerox Star however, the hamburger icon disappeared for some time.


The Resurrection

With the new, much smaller, interface that smart phones had, designers had to look for a way to make everything fit onto a 4 inch screen. It is unclear what app used it first but some of the first apps that people remember using the hamburger icon are:

  • Voice Memos from iOS


  • Tweetie for iPad


  • Facebook makes it a trend


It looks like Apple was the biggest reason for the resurgence of the hamburger icon. They brought up the smart phone and the need for a compact display. They were already fans of Xerox’s ideas and they began using it on their interface. From there, huge social media apps took it over and everyone else followed along.
Currently it is being used to represent side menus on websites and apps as well as lists.



The Future


The hamburger icon has become a staple in both web and app design and it doesn’t seem like it will be going anywhere anytime soon. It has made its comeback and it seems to be here to stay. The hamburger icon has gotten quite a bit of heat from the UX/UI design community. Some people say it is a terrible thing that must be stopped now and be replaced simply with a menu or with a handy tab bar. Some hate and some love it.

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