Is there a particular term for style of illustration found on Codenames: Pictures cards, and/or is there a term for the subject matter?

Ideally I'd like a term, or phrase, or something to describe the subject matter specifically -- this weird combination of everyday objects, like the butterflies coming out of the steam of a teapot, the ice cream cone with the 8-ball, the briefcase with the house inside, the fish on the hamster wheel, or the snowman-bee thing with the flower.

Codenames: Pictures board

another Codenames: Pictures board

  • A word or phrase encoded in a picture is a "rebus" but these do not appear to be rebuses. The illustration style is "clip art" like, but beyond that I do not think there is an answer to your question. These are just drawings of arbitrary associations that fit into the gameplay.
    – rebusB
    Jun 6, 2018 at 23:58

3 Answers 3


I agree, "Clip Art" or "Graphic Arts" would seem an appropriate answer.

Also, they might be described as "icons" or "avatars" in another usage. Again, the answer to this question is perhaps largely a factor of where the clips are used, what they are being used for and how they are included.

There is a lovely "quirky" humorous flavour to them. They could be used in a "satirical" way, or perhaps just as a "quirky" or even "geeky" personal avatar by different people. I actually like them.


The subject matter has a dreamlike hybridity, as it always seems to conflate two visually or associatively related but causally illogical or impossible, unlikely, and mostly absurd, objects. In that sense it can be described as dream art or surrealism, although both are quite broad terms.

The cartoon-like art style directly reminds me of that of the animated TV series Archer, which art style is described as "mid-century comic art", although in both cases the shading is a more modern, digital-age, toon shading.


I would classify these as surrealist graphic icons, maybe? There are definitely simplified elements of surrealism here. If you find this style interesting though, and your goal is to immerse yourself in similar images, try your hand at these searches: Simple iconography, Simple surrealism, Line art illustrations, Vintage illustrations, Vintage surrealism, Vintage instructional art...

I say instructional, because there is quite a bit of interesting and simple art that has been produced in the style of small, easily digestible cards and pages. You might like what you find.

Then again, I could be totally off base! Either way, happy art hunting!

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