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What Everybody Should Know About App Icons.

Photo by guille pozzi

In this post we will go over:

  • What makes a good app icon
  • What should app icon communicate?
  • Why do app icons need to be timeless
  • What makes a bad app icon

Let’s get started!

Why should you listen to me?

For the last 3 years, I worked as a graphic designer on logo and app icon projects.

1) What makes a good app icon?

Good app icon needs to be simple in order to be memorable and work in smaller sizes. For example on a phone screen.

It also needs to be distinctive/ different to get people’s attention.

In short good app icon:

  • Memorable
  • Works in small sizes
  • Communicates well
  • Gets attentions

2) What should the app icon communicate?

Not much.

App icon that tries to say much is like people talking over each other. Noise is the only thing you will hear.

That is why it is better to focus on just one thing. At least users/customers will hear you.

What is one thing the app icon should say? That is something the designer should determine after looking at:

  • Users/Customers
  • Game/App
  • Competitors

And after understanding the goals of the app/game. What is your direction?

Photo by Maksym Tymchyk

3) Timeless

Great app icon also needs to work for a long time. To be made to never change.

You might ask, but why?

Because you can think about a brand as a reputation and an app icon is a face we attach reputation to.

If you often change the face(app icon) you will have a hard time building a reputation. And “reputation” helps you get downloads and customers. It helps you sell.

Brand Awareness

The more people see the face(app icon) the more face becomes familiar. When people need to make fast decisions they choose familiar faces. That is also why you need a memorable face(app icon).

This is the core idea behind brand awareness. Multi-billion dollar part of advertising.

This has led to some extremely expensive mistakes.

4) What is a bad app icon?

A bad app icon is generic, overused, common. Because this app icon tries to fit in. Tries to be like everything else.

It is hard for people to notice & remember you if you are like everybody else. We notice & remember unusual people and things.

Seth Godin says:

In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.

In almost every market, the boring slot is filled.

When you don’t know much. You look at how other people act. And copying them is a way to fit in. It seems like a safe thing to do.

This type of thinking helped us survive.

By following what other people are doing you are making the assumptions:

  • They do the right things
  • And these right things will also work for you

Fitting in instead of standing out. Instead of making people notice your app.

Avoid Trends

Trends often change and when they change your app icon looks outdated. It looks bad.

Nike Story:

Knight didn’t particularly like any of the designs but the swoosh design stood out to him most. “Well, I don’t love it,” she recalls Knight saying about the logo, “but maybe it will grow on me.

If you have any design questions. Ask them.

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