Project: V | Symbols

vkbsb

Hey community,

The keyboard is what turns our tablet into a 2-in-1, and today we’ll be looking at the design of the keyboard legend…

An absolute legend

Some typists know their keyboard inside and out and never even look at what is printed on the keys. Some even go so far as to show this off by buying a ‘stealth’ keyboard, where the keycaps have no print at all! But for most people, having a legend to refer to ranges from a mild convenience to an absolute necessity. That’s why today, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into the V’s key legend!

A light in the darkness

Before we head into the design portion of this post, let’s have a quick look at the technology behind our keyboard – quite literally. The legend on our keys is backlit, meaning it can be read even in the dark. To achieve this, there is a backlight unit underneath the mechanical layer of the keyboard, which consists of three important layers.

vkbblm

The top and bottom layers are meant to keep light from going where it’s not wanted. Any light trying to escape out of the back of the keyboard is reflected back forward by a reflective film. And any light trying to shine out the front in between the keys is similarly kept in check by a masking layer. This mask, which is the black ‘outline’ on the above photo, is an improvement over our first-gen keyboard, where more light shone out from between the keys than from the legend on the keycap itself.

The middle layer is the light guide, which spreads the light from mini-LEDs along the bottom edge of the keyboard across the entire keyboard. Small dots can be seen in the photo above; these are spots where the light guide attempts to focus the light more intensely. Once the keyboard legend design has been finalized, this layer will be adjusted to focus the light right where we need it. That way, we don’t waste light (and battery power!) by illuminating the back of an opaque keycap and ensure the legend is as legible as possible.

Worth a thousand words

Nobody expects to see ‘left’ and ‘right’ printed on the and cursor keys. An arrow of some sort will get the point across efficiently and elegantly. On the other hand, nobody expects to see icons on an Alt or Ctrl key instead of text – at least, not unless they are a Mac-user.

layoustack

But there are a number of keys on the keyboard where different manufacturers have different designs; no doubt to match users’ different preferences! For keys such as Tab, Caps Lock, or Backspace, you may find text only, a symbol, or a combination of both, depending on the keyboard. That’s why we want to run a few keys by you and see what your preferences are!

How do you feel about the legend of the following keys?

  • I prefer my Shift-keys to have icons only
    key-sh-i
  • I prefer my Shift-keys to have text only
    key-sh-t
  • I prefer my Shift-keys to have both icon and text
    key-sh-b
  • I have no preference.

0 voters

  • I prefer my Caps Lock-key to have an icon only
    key-cl-i
  • I prefer my Caps Lock-key to have text only
    key-cl-t
  • I prefer my Caps Lock-key to have both an icon and text
    key-cl-b
  • I have no preference.

0 voters

  • I prefer my Tab-key to have an icon only
    key-tb-i
  • I prefer my Tab-key to have text only
    key-tb-t
  • I prefer my Tab-key to have both an icon and text
    key-tb-b
  • I have no preference.

0 voters

  • I prefer my Backspace-key to have an icon only
    key-bs-i
  • I prefer my Backspace-key to have text only
    key-bs-t
  • I prefer my Backspace-key to have both an icon and text
    key-bs-b
  • I prefer my Backspace-key to keep the first-gen V’s ‘oops!’ print
    key-bs-o
  • I have no preference.

0 voters

Symbols

Finally, let’s talk about the design of the icons that can be found across the keyboard. Some symbols seem to be universally agreed upon, such as an upward-pointing arrow on the Shift key, or an arrow pointing right into a vertical bar for Tab. Others have some slight variation, such as Caps Lock, where the upward-pointing arrow may be either interrupted, or rooted on a horizontal line. Backspace offers an even broader selection of options, ranging from a simple left-facing arrow to a thick arrow with a cross in it.

Even so, these variants are generally widespread enough to be instantly recognizable – and that is the key for any of these symbols. They work, because there is no doubt about what they represent.

Our first-gen V keyboard had a screenshot button, and the icon was meant to represent a mouse cursor on a screen. But instead, people thought it was the key that turned the touchpad on and off. It was touchpad-shaped, after all, and the mouse cursor indicated it was mouse-related, right?

That’s where the waters become a bit more muddied. Having volume or brightness adjustments on a keyboard came many decades after the first Caps Lock or Backspace found their way onto a typewriter. As such, though the world has settled on some form of standard for many of these icons, other symbols are not quite as universal just yet.

icon_exploring

Volume adjustment seems universally tied to the profile image of a speaker driver. But even then, do we represent increasing the volume by adding more soundwaves? By an up-arrow? A plus sign? And is a speaker icon without any further adornments clear as a mute button, or does it require a slash, a cross, or other clarification?

Add to that challenge that the keys do not appear by themselves. It would be inconsistent, for example, to have volume adjustment indicated by up and down arrows, the keyboard backlight adjustments by plus and minus signs, and the display brightness adjustments by bigger or smaller rays of light.

vkbfrcuv2

In conclusion, here are the initial designs our designers came up with for the function row symbols. But they are just that: initial. We would love to hear your thoughts, so be sure to leave a comment and tell us what you like to see on a keyboard and what style you prefer for your symbols.

How would you represent display brightness, airplane mode, trackpad, keyboard backlight brightness, media controls, mute, and volume controls?

nlbanner

10 Likes

I like the initial icon designs. Those would be my choice.

7 Likes

I really like the text only variant. Like in the keyboard render above.
I think it looks modern.
Perhaps we should keep the “oops!” key to stand out.

7 Likes

Those initial designs look very sensible and easy to understand to me. I’d go with those, no need to complicate.

Are we keeping the inverted pyramid for the V? I would vote for this to keep continuity with the first gen V

5 Likes

As far as legends go I have no preference. That said, having both symbols and words together might lead to a rather “busy” looking keyboard.

I was never a big fan of “Oops” in the 1st gen but I do like the inverted pyramid “V”.

4 Likes

I prefer initial symbols.

2 Likes

I have another remark about the tabs-key. Why not use an upper arrow pointing left and a lower arrow pointing right?

Like this without the text:

I mean, it’s what the key does. Shift + Tabs goes left, so it’s shown as the “upper” function like all shift functions and only tabs goes right.

And the initial design is fine. It seems understandable which key has which function. As long as F4 is the trackpad and not screenshot :wink:

13 Likes

I think the caps and Left Shift are perhaps a little too similar to just use the symbol for both.

image
image

This caps lock symbol works better on touchscreen keyboards where the shift button has two stages and also serves as your caps lock.

If we go the symbols-only route for both, I’d suggest that the caps lock be given a more distinctive symbol.

For those who can touch-type (like me) it’ll matter a little less, but for those who hunt-and-peck this could result in frustrating mistakes.

5 Likes

I am surprised that the “oops!” is winning when so many people complained about this in the first eve device. If I remember correctly people found it cringe’y and sometimes made it hard to find proper key for other users not familiar with concept to the point they asked where is the backspace key.

Welp people did choose, so noting to do about it.

2 Likes

I don’t have the previous model but have pre-ordered the new one.

At first glance the comments I have on the F keys are:

F4 I assume that toggles the trackpad on/off. That seems fairly universal to me but maybe I’m wrong (tbh I’m only mentioning this because the OP talked about something similar causing confusion last time)

F5/F6 I did a double take thinking I’d seen brightness twice. Are these for keyboard backlight brightness. Doesn’t seem too hard to work out…unless I’m wrong :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

1 Like

Okay, you kinda opened a can of worms for me with that.

When it comes to the options for this poll, will the differences in choice impact the battery life, or is presenting these options simply aesthetical?

1 Like

I think the initial icons listed there would be my exact choice.

1 Like

They are purely for the look and will not have any impact on the battery life:D

1 Like

I think the Volume up and down icons proposed, should have + and - signs instead of sound waves:
Because that design is:

  • Easier to discern in darkness.
  • Does not require to visually compare the matching mate, to ensure this is increasing, or decreasing! Their meaning should be independent of each other, I shouldn’t need to see the second, to determine what the first does!

Airplane mode sucks - I don’t think it is needed, come on, how many people follow that ultra-conservative directive? how frequently? There is software toggle in the OS to do the same if you really need to do once a month, don’t clutter for rare use case.
https://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/ped/
Airplane mode is NOT needed guys… please innovate and lead the way, don’t follow the other companies like Dell without thinking, what purpose this serves?

Finally, on the screen brightness suggestions - I didnt realize that those are brightness initially, my thought was that it looks like a snowflake… didnt make sense.

6 Likes

The “Oops” and the triangle V have grown on me. It’s one of the several unique features of the Eve V keyboard that separate it from others. I vote to keep them both.

I prefer text over symbols for the main part of the keyboard - Caps Lock, Shift, Tab, etc. But the Function keys are much smaller so icons are fine.

The only change I would make would be to the speaker “mute” button. The symbol with the “x” in front of the speaker, or the “slash” through the speaker to indicate mute is better than the current symbol, which is a standalone speaker.

4 Likes

…the FAA link you give clearly staes that devices can be used gate-to-gate…in airplane mode!

Maybe the choice of icon, text, or both is not for each single key but the matter for total kbd. It appears strange if tab is text, capslock is icon, and shift key has both on it, but I know no need to worry as the majority voted to icon only, which I like, too. V product often designed simple like the mouse pad, currently on sale (thank you again for adding JPN to shipping destination!). I want the icons a bit smaller but in total icon only like first-gen kbd is really good to me. Maybe it costs too much if 3 of icon, txt, and both are prepared for each arrangement / language.
My V2017 kbd is already gone and my key arrangement is no longer available. I miss especially the colorful backlight. If second-gen kbd runs with V2017 and the gap of dimension is small, I want 2 second-gen kbds.

3 Likes

Cool.

In that case, I picked the traditional text versions because it creates a visual partition, differentiating “option/modifier” keys from the rest. It’s purely subconscious for me. In the end, it makes little difference as I know how to touch type and rarely look; and modifier keys are also on the borders. However, I can’t say I never look (for instance, when my hands are off of the keyboard). And, with the lights off, having the text simply creates the slightest differentiation that draws my eye to what I’m looking for.

Not saying I understand the logic of it, or that it is even logical. It’s just what it is. (on the other hand, English is also my first language and maybe that bias is why the text is more intuitive for me while less so for other language readers.)

2 Likes

Use the original keyboard icon designs, just adding the text to the shift, tab and CapsLock, etc. for ease of use for unexperienced users.
Is surprising how many people don’t know the names of the keyboards even if they use them all the time. So when following instructions, a guide or a FAQ becomes easier for them.

1 Like

Shift is what ever as long as its larger than all the other keys. but because its larger and there is space might as well print both.

I would Prefer the caps lock key to say “Caps Lock” but it doesn’t necessarily need the symbol

I would like the Tab key to have both the word and the symbol. put personally would prefer the bidirectional Tab Symbol “|<->|” to the right or underneath or split as seen below

|<-
Tab
->|

I would prefer the backspace key + symbol as shown but its currently loosing badly. I will settle for the Quirky ness of the oops!!! key over just the symbol. There is space on the keys for the text we might as well use it

the initial disign shown for the vollum keys is fine except I would prefer that the F keys are Primary over the FN functions. first thing I do when i get a new laptop is turn OFF the FnLock as I actually use the F keys for their quick key functions in applications more than I use them as FN keys. Fn Lock disable by default would actually be preferable for me.

A fully customizable keyboard layout using VIA (a popular keyboard programing tool in the custom keyboard space) or QMK would be an amazing option but a longshot. I use a 40% (4 row keyboard, no numbers or function keys) as a daily driver. Its a little extreme but a few custom layers are really nice to use. like placing the arrow keys under ‘J’ ‘K’ ‘L’ ';" like vim commands is nice and more comfortable to use than adjusting my right hand to the arrow keys.

2 Likes