Icons are seen everywhere in the web and in your own computer and other gadgets. Most of the time, these elements are appreciated for their aesthetics and relevance in order to make some tasks easier and organized. An icon becomes memorable and functional when it is meaningful, functional, iconic and appealing. That is why, there are various icon designs that we see due to the demand of owning and using a distinct icon that does not only work well but adds beauty to their own digital possessions. Icons represent something and give a metaphorical meaning by using shapes, colors, lines, shades and others.

Considering that fact that an icon should be effective not just for its great design but also when it is resized, designing an icon is indeed challenging. You will surely find it hard to create one especially on your first try because it has to be effective at 512×512 and in 72×72. One of the greatest challenges in icon design is the size in creating it. But apart from that, there are also things that you need to keep in mind to be able to come up with an effective icon design. Jump in and find out.

1. Take into account the audience.

Take into account the audience
Image: Wwalczyszyn

It is very important to consider the audience of your icon. You have to think of the culture of the people and their social characteristics. There are differences in gestures and symbols from a particular group of people. So, when you create an icon for global use, you have to consider everyone that is included in your scope and not just a single area. If you tried to look into a single country only, then you will not be able to have an effective global icon. Other’s won’t be able to understand it and might even have a different interpretation of such.

2. Make it easy to recognize.

Make it easy to recognize
Image: saviourmachine

It is very important to make icons that can immediately be recognized by your audience. The fact that it is an icon, it should be identified at once on what it is representing. You should be able to choose and think of the right design that it can capture the minds of the audience. They should be able to tell what it is in the first glance.

3. Make icons simple.

Make icons simple
Image: deleket

Aside from being recognizable, it also needs to be simple. Complicated icons will also complicate the message. To avoid confusion, do use so many details. Another reason why it has to be simple is that it would suit to different trends no matter now it changes. Anyway, unlike other designs, you do not need to be detailed in an icon. You just need to give the right representation.

4. Use distinct color combinations.

Use distinct color combinations
Image: deleket

Make your icon appealing and eye-catching by using strong colors. This will make your icons interesting and it will also stand out if you use distinct colors. Choose color combinations that are out of ordinary. Your icon will work well if you do that. You can also make it glossy with shading that gives it a dynamic look.

5. Have consistent lighting, shadows and reflections.

Have consistent lighting, shadows and reflections
Image: saviourmachine

You have to apply this especially for multiple icons for a pack. These little details can create a huge difference in your icons if you try to create variety of lightings, shadows and reflections. By using only one style and consistency of these details, your icons will look coherent and unified. It would be easier to identify the icons that belong to your pack.

6. Use the right size of icons.

Use the right size of icons
Image: saviourmachine

Size for designing icons is sometimes confusing for some. Creating a large sized icon would have some blurry smears when made smaller while creating small icons would look pixelated and blurry when made large. Hence, you have to work on the icons for both sizes. Design your icons in a manner that it would work well at small scales and large formats. There are different software that can aid you in doing that.

7. Have a consistent perspective.

Have a consistent perspective
Image: deleket

To make the look consistent, consider using a single perspective for the icons in your pack. If you used an icon that can be seen in a certain angle, stick with that. Although, some icons uses different perspectives, but they made sure that even if they used a different angle, the look is still consistent and recognizable. You have to be careful.

8. Avoid using many elements.

Avoid using many elements

In designing your icon, do not us too much elements that it would look crowded and too detailed. Minimize the number of objects in your icon for it will only make the look complicated. An icon is better when it is simpler.

9. Make your icons in vector format.

Make your icons in vector format
Image: plechi

Vectors are versatile, manageable and scalable. You can also change the design easily without re-doing everything. You can also work on shapes, gradients and strokes easily in Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw or Freehand. The icons made in vector can be scaled down from larger versions but when it wouldn’t look as appealing as your large format when it is made small. This is the time you would need to create icons in bitmap format.

10. Make your icons in bitmap format.

Make your icons in bitmap format
Image: shutterstock

To make smaller icons look crisper and appealing, use bitmap. You have to work on both formats in creating an icon. Your workflow would be for both raster and bitmap outputs. When you make very small icons, bitmaps can do the work. So, you have to redraw it in bitmap format.

It’s Your Turn Now

Icons are indeed useful and truly look great. But designing it would require creativity, patience and intelligence in order to make it effective. You also have to make sure that you could look for the right representation to avoid misunderstanding and wrong interpretations. Are you an icon designer? Would you like to add some tips in the list? There would be some points that we failed to include here. We would appreciate it if you add some.

Kareen Liez

About the author: A Civil Engineer who has a construction business and a youth volunteer for a civic organization. She also contributes for a local newspaper due to her unwavering passion to write.


  1. icons make a lot more things in the web easier to recognize.. thanks for sharing these stuff

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