Icons in Relation to Design Principles
Icons are a huge deal. You’ll find them lurking in just about every sphere of your everyday life, whether on your phone, your packages, or even your clothing. They help organize design and have become significant points of navigation. Let’s take a look at how icons fit into two important design principles:
- Visual Hierarchy
Visual hierarchy takes into consideration the arrangement of elements and the prioritization of what is communicated within an interface (assuming we are now looking at web and app design). The use of icons opens up many possibilities for how designers can create their overall hierarchies and give room for customization. If appropriate, icons may eliminate the need for text display (i.e. an isolated search button) and as a result, can create a more breathable interface, opening up room for clearer communication. Icons may also create visual hotspots on an interface for easier browsing. If an icon and its characteristics are distinct enough, they may be used as a guiding point for users to find what they need in an ocean of text or information. This can enhance overall usability and navigation throughout a flow.
Good design with strong consistency aids with learnability and allows for smooth flow throughout the user journey. If made well, icons have the ability to harness these strengths and enhance user experience. Applying universally recognized icons on an interface may increase familiarity, recognition, and overall sense of user safety. Because there is no need for the user to re-learn the meaning of, let’s say, a search icon, confusion is prevented while functionality, clarity, and satisfaction sit at the frontlines. Using icons can play to the advantage of consistency from both the external world (universal meanings) and it’s own coherent design throughout a flow.
In relation to classic design principles, icons are not simply an optional, occasional luxury but rather a key component for producing streamline designs for a growing multitude of interfaces.