Four Icon Challenge – Fantastic Voyage

All icons either Public Domain or CC by Attribution from the Noun Project (

“Reduce a movie, story, or event into it’s basic elements, then take those visuals and reduce them further to simple icons.”

Those aren’t my words, but rather the instructions from the Four Icon Challenge ds106 assignment. Since this coming semester’s ds106 theme is apparently that of a “fantastical voyage” (the opening post for the course is “journey to the center of the internet”), I thought it might be appropriate to pay homage to the 1966 Academy Award winning film, Fantastic Voyage.

For those of you who may be new readers of my blog, I am an open participant in the most excellent storytelling course, DS106. A completely open, collaborative effort by a growing number of universities, DS106 (digital storytelling 106) is an exploration of media, technology, and story telling in a way that challenges its participants to create, remix, and manipulate images, sound, and video to tell a narrative. Besides being witness to stupefyingly great digital art that assaults my education-focused thoughts with the kind of creativity and deviance that attracted me to teaching in the first place, ds106 is a great way for anyone, including teachers, to explore and experiment with all sorts of free tools and software that can aide in the creation of digital artifacts for learning.

For example, I created the image above using Adobe Illustrator, a terribly complex and robust piece of software that no elementary-trained educator in their right mind would ever really need or want to use. However, thanks to the extremely helpful ds106 community, I was able to focus on just some very basic tools within the program, use some of the great free icons from The Noun Project, and assemble this piece of digital art. Sure, I don’t understand how to create vector-based artwork (for which the tool is intended), but I at least now know how to manipulate paths, fill colors, and arrange layers to remix images for educational uses.

Even IF you don’t want to take the plunge and start exploring a professional grade graphic suite, you could always just use a word processor or a simple paint program to have students assemble their own “four icon assignment”. Using the free icons from The Noun Project, have them build a representation of the learning goals for a particular unit, or summarize the main ideas of a reading passage. You could even use the visual element as a springboard for writing, reflection, or compare and contrast all of the students imagery to see if the class can pick up on common important elements of a story.

At the very least, you owe it to yourself to check out what some of the other people have been doing with this visual assignment for ds106, and see if you can’t challenge yourself to create a four icon image of your typical day at school and share.


  1. Fabulous four icon challenge, though I’d say “five” if you allow the body through which the submarine takes it’s journey. Glad to hear you’re going to stick around for this semester and if you ever what to learn anything specific in Illustrator, let me know, it’s actually my favorite app in the Adobe suite.

    1. I know, I cheated a bit with the fifth icon, heh. I did mock it up with just three icons inside the man, but it just wasn’t balanced, and I wanted to keep the person icon for the aesthetic that it created.

      I’ll certainly take you up on the Illustrator help offer, as I want to better understand how to manipulate paths, and create some of my own icons this semester. Have to “up” my ds106 skills, so to speak.

  2. Nice work! I love The Noun Project so much for stuff like this. Also useful for projects is Brands of the World for logos. I’m with MBS, Illustrator is perhaps my favorite in the suite as well. If nothing else us ds106 seniors should work to provide some great tutorials for the assignments this semester. This is an awesome start to the journey!

      1. Ben,
        I am fired up for the COTI version of #ds106 particularly for messing around with video. I want to be able to play with layers in Final Cut Pro and see if I can;t up my game. I have a very specific work plan now that MBS is doing the heavy lifting, and I am fired up

  3. great work Ben – I have to confess I haven’t even done one of these yet…

    and Michael yes I am definately waiting for the tutorial for the robin hood gang mysteries

  4. Good work. It felt time to play a Four Icon Challenge assignment in ds106. it’s always hard to know if you make these too challenging or too easy, I am thinking this one is the latter. My approach, as I usually cannot recall movies all that well, is to watch some.

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