An icon is something that is functional yet often overlooked. A good icon can be used across any platform – from apps, mobile, social media, business cards….basically anything that you consume on a daily basis. So what is an icon? In this article, you will learn the basics of icon design and dive into the essentials of designing an icon that is more than just a logo enclosed in a box. Read on!
What is an Icon?
An icon is a graphic symbol that represents a real or fantasy entity or action. They are also used to serve as a function for a program or software. Nowadays icons are very trendy so you’ll see them everywhere! Because of this, it’s important to understand their purpose in your work as a graphic designer.
So here are some things you should know about icon design.
Define its Purpose
Before you get started designing your own set of awesome icons, it’s important to get back to the basics of design. Start with a creative brief to fully understand the purpose these icons serve. Will they be graphics for social media? Where will they be positioned? And what is their function? Who are your audience?
Here are some quick questions to help guide you in designing your icons:
- What purpose does this icon serve?
- Where will the icon be positioned? (website, apps, etc)
- How will the icon function (UI/UX Design)?
- How will the icon represent your brand?
Another benefit of this step is that it helps to get all those creative ideas flowing! So think of icon design like creating a logo, the more straightforward it is the more successful the design.
Know the Specs All icons are not created equal. Social media icons for instance, are often 32×32 pixels in size. Before designing your icons, it’s important to know all the specs involved for creating the perfect graphic!
It’s also essential that you create your icons in vector format, so brush up your Adobe Illustrator skills! Vector allows your graphics to be scaleable, meaning they won’t lose any detail or have any pesky pixels when enlarging the icon to the size you need. This means that not only can you use your icon for the web but for print media as well!
Last but not least, make sure you save your icon designs in a .PNG format! A PNG file is a raster graphic that supports lossless data compression. This means that the quality of your graphics won’t suffer just because of compression. Once you’ve got the basic specs down, move onto the design!
Less is More
Here are some more tips for keeping your designs simple:
- Don’t use full words, only singular letters.
- Keep the color scheme simple.
- Consider a monochromatic palette.
- Make it easy to read.
- Use only the logo of your brand.
Start a new design trend or follow the best ones out there! If you feel you’re making a design that’s too complicated, ask for a second opinion. Collaborate with other designers and creatives to inspire magic for your icon designs.
Put Your Icon to the Test
Design is just the first step to a great icon. Now it’s time to put it to the test! Is your icon recognizable in a sea of others? Test your icon in a group setting. Make sure the group is full of both designers and non-designers to get a wide variety of different perspectives. Listen to the group and allow them to tell you what the design needs to make it more memorable.
Not only will you avoid unnecessary blunders, but if your icon needs more work you can attack it before going live with an unsatisfactory design. So test your icon out before committing to the final design.
Learning how to create awesome icon designs is just one way to diversify your graphic design portfolio. But for those of us just starting out, here are a few icon collections that you can download for reference (but we would love for you to try and create your own=))
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