Listening to ‘All you need is love’ by The Beatles in a loop struck my mind one day. How did the heart take a shape of the heart symbol? Because anatomically speaking we all know the heart doesn’t look like a bright red bubbly symbol we keep sending mindlessly over texts and posts. To back this argument a writer named ‘Zachary Crockett’ has extensively written on how the heart symbol is anatomically incorrect. But on the flip side, if you see today there is an explosion of this symbol in every app we can possibly imagine.

Google search results on heart button

HISTORY SHAPING THE HEART SYMBOL

Let’s go back in time and see who made the heart symbol, a universally accepted ‘metaphor’ for expressing love.

In 3000 BC there were relics resembling the heart shape, but these shapes were a representation of the ‘Ivy’ and ‘Fig’ leaves and not the heart symbol.

Ivy leaf
Fig leaf

The very first glimpse of the heart symbol was seen in a French manuscript ‘Roman de la Poire’ from 1250’s. An Artist tried to illustrate the visual representation of the heart and it looked like this ❤. Till date, this manuscript serves as a reference point for the origination of the heart symbol.

French manuscript “Roman de la Poire’ 1250’s.

The second glimpse of the heart symbol was spotted during the medieval art in 1305. An Italian painter named ‘Giotto’ depicted the heart symbol in his painting called ‘Charity giving her heart to Christ.’

Giotto’s painting

Fast forward couple of decades, the heart symbol started appearing in many poems, literature, artworks, even songs, later made into an acronym for Valentine’s day.

All in all, an AD campaign for New York City in 1977 called ‘I ❤ NY’ made the heart symbol into a modern-day verb.

I love NY poster

An author named Martin Kemp took it further to commercialize into a book called ‘Christ to Coke’ where he talks about types of visual icons, we as a generation consume are obsess over.

Christ to coke book cover

THE RIGHT PLACE FOR HEARTS

Where do you think is the right place for hearts?

Postcards, drawing, playing cards, keyboard symbols, brand logo, in our apps, used as emojis or as a love indicator?

Brands like Airbnb thought the heart symbol should be part of their logo and I feel it looks perfect. The logo takes a bold step to illustrate the heart in an upside-down manner, carefully making the shape very fluid in nature to be recognized easily and attract as many eyeballs as possible. Making the heart symbol their identity.

Logo of Airbnb

Today, our phone applications are exploding with heart shape symbols in multiple colors, shapes, and sizes. Some are animated to showcase their specific functionality like the beating heart and pouring your heart out to someone special by sending several flying hearts all over the screen. Let’s look at the explosion of hearts in various apps we use every day.

A bank of heart emojis on Whatsapp
Tinder super like indicator
Facebook Messenger’s animated flying hearts
Instagram notifications
Instagram heart emoji
Instagram lets you like the messages with a heart
Instagram’s sweethearts
Instagram’s top hashtag

I am sure you must have often heard this phrase ‘Double-tap to make a heart’ in this post or use #love to reach out to everyone, or simply press the heart symbol to like a comment on your social platforms.

Let’s look at Facebook’s like button, which evolved over these years to become an interactive selection of different like buttons giving people the access to express their feelings through multiple emojis, in which the staple heart symbol remains the same. We can see similar use case for LinkedIn as well.

Range of Facebook like icons
Range of LinkedIn like icons

Even e-commerce websites like Amazon and Flipkart use the heart symbol as an indicator to like a product or add it as a Wishlist.

Flipkart Wishlist button
Amazon Wishlist button

Some brands have even launched successful online campaigns out of emoji hearts. By raising awareness for issues like cyberbullying with a social message, Dairy Milk asked people to send a purple heart emojis to stop cyberbullying on friendships day.

Dairy Milk purple heart campaign
Dairy Milk purple heart campaign

This seems too real to be true that a ‘metaphor’, created centuries ago still seems to work for any brand at any point till date.

ACROSS MANY HEART

Now that was all about mapping where it all came from, how did we apply it in various places to share our likes and dislikes. I wanted to know with so much heart floating around us, have people lost interest in it or still love it?

So, I took the heart symbol to the social media poll and asked people what they felt about the heart symbol. I had put up the poll for 24 hours to see people’s reaction and this is what I found. The question I asked was pretty simple with three options.

How does the heart button make you feel?

· Satisfied

· Disgusts you

· Gives you joy

Instagram poll
Instagram poll results
Facebook poll results

Little did I know 60% of them said it gives them joy and 40% said it satisfies them. The Beatles were right ‘All you need is love’ and everyone wants to feel loved.

Listen to ‘All you need is love’

The Beatles — ‘All you need is love’

Whereas, some people had unique answers because the felt otherwise, and I truly respect that. It disgusted them because they think love is what distracts us and takes us with it. Some think it’s nothing more than just being cliché.

Instagram detailed poll results

Be it a logo, a visual icon, an AD campaign, a Wishlist, a bookmark or expressing random likes and dislikes on social platforms, its proven users love using the heart symbol.

Dairy Milk purple heart campaign
Flipkart Wishlist button
Amazon Wishlist button

Looks like the heart symbol has become a universally accepted icon for a zillion reasons and people resonate with that. The functionality of the symbol is associated with so many different purposes, yet people manage to recognize it instantly. This icon doesn’t even need a text label for supportive navigation, it is easily understood in a blink of an eye. The color used for the heart symbol is obviously very noticeable with a great emotional connection, lesser downside and multiple functional benefits. Based on centuries of previous experiences it still grabs attention with a great recall value, serving as a universal translator with easy navigation and interaction for users.

BY HEART

I think almost everyone has a heart for the heart symbol from users to brands and I don’t see it diminishing from this world anytime soon. Maybe this symbol was brought into existence with a purpose, to spread love till eternity.

Always overbooked & bookmarked | UX Writer at Innovaccer