Creating an Effective Icon

Steps to Create a Successful Icon

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Creating An Effective Icon

What makes a good icon? It should be something that is memorable as well as simple. It should also be something that compliments the exiting theme of where this icon will be used. Whether its an app or website, the app should be carefully designed to fit into these themes. An icon is basically a visual metaphor for a subject or item. Here are some steps to take when designing an icon.


  1. Research and define keywords that will define your icons. Find symbols or images that will associate with the concept you are communicating. Objects can be depicted in their original manner and activities or actions can be eluded with related objects. Shapes and abstract symbols can help with more complex concepts.
  1. When the subject of the icon is defined, graphics can then be drafted. Different variations of the icon should be made and put side by side to compare the mood and feeling from each visual style. Different styles such as realistic, 3D, flat or simple can greatly affect the response of the icon. The level of detail in each icon is crucial, too much and it can be distracting and too little and it won’t be memorable. It’s important to find the perfect balance here.
  1. The next steps are implementation and review. After a certain style for this icon has been developed, it should be tested in the platform that it will be utilized in. Colour is an important factor at this stage; the colours chosen should complement the existing theme. With colour it is more lenient as colours can be changed to match different contexts. The stylization of the logo needs to match with the existing styles so it can be read as a whole.

These three steps are relatively easy to follow and additional icons can be built upon with ease once the stylistic components are resolved. Matching a new icon to an existing style is more straightforward once the initial discovery of the logo is completed. While the progress is straight forward, here are some things to keep in mind:


Icons are Not Pictures

Icons are used to represent an idea or subject matter but they are most definitely not pictures. They may be adaptions of a subject in the photo but you should not focus on the aesthetic and unnecessary details in a picture. The form must follow the function of the icon.

Not All Topics are Equal

The subject of the icon can be straightforward like a camera or very complicated like a company’s vision statement. Depending on what the subject it may be useful to use standardized representations that are universal to the subject. Some icons will be more obvious than others and it is normal for users to have to become used to more complicated ones.

Study the Context

Knowing the context of the client will help you make a better fitting icon that will be aligned with the company’s mission and theme. Furthermore you should research other existing media they have to get an idea on style especially if these icons will be used in these platforms.