Non-Standard Social Icons

Continuing the discussion from 10 Quality Free Flat Icon Sets for Your Designs:

Social Media is popular and social icons are nearly ubiquitous.
Site design varies, so it is understandable that using non-standard icons might be preferred.

But is it legal?

For example, if you look at the following, you will see that Branding seems to be very important.






Yet non-standard variations of social icons can be seen on a large number of sites.

My guess is that the “Terms” are in place so that “if” an entity wants to pursue legal action they “can” but in most cases the Terms are unenforced.

At least I’ve never heard of anyone having problems using non-standard social icons. Have you?

I had similar thoughts when I was researching the Payment Icons article (not published yet but coming soon) because the icons basically were just the logo of the service and some artwork around it (sometimes, in many cases nothing but the logo). I guess if the icon uses the logo without modifying it (i.e. replacing the fonts or something) and it’s stated that the logo is trademarked by the company that owns it (not the author of the icon set), this is acceptable.

After all, social sites and payment companies do benefit when their logos are used on third party sites because this is great publicity for them and brings them traffic. Trademark owners definitely benefit more when a site uses an icon with their logo, than when the site adds some text like (Join us on Twitter) without any recognizable branding symbols of Twitter, or when the site doesn’t use anything that mentions Twitter.

I haven’t heard of anybody - a designer or a site master - having problems because of non-standard icons but I am curious to know the legal explanation why this use is OK, if it is, or why not, if it’s isn’t OK.

I’m guessing it isn’t as important if a site uses a


logo instead of


as long as it links to

- BUT - there would be a big problem if a

Yoo(Tube) logo was used to link to

In other words, even though you might be diluting their brand recognition, as long as it is representing them they look the other way. But if you are using a version of the logo to misrepresent yourself as them or capitalize on their popularity, they would take action.

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