Iconfinder designer report Q4 2018

We are excited to present the new Iconfinder designer report. If you are wondering about how to make the most of Iconfinder, this report is for you. Did you know that a few video games are becoming very popular among customers but don’t have any icons? Are you curious about what are the categories with best sales opportunities on Iconfinder? Do you want to know what type of customers visit Iconfinder? If you are asking yourself about these too, then read on.


This new report is directed towards designers on Iconfinder and it is meant to serve as a guide for what icons to create in Q4 (October, November and December). In addition to tips and recommendations specific to Q4, it also describes what are the opportunities in the Iconfinder marketplace all year-round.


The report is structured in 3 main sections:

  1. Expected trends in Q4
  2. Overall opportunities in the Iconfinder marketplace
  3. Customers and purchasing habits

How to read the report

Each section is divided into different parts:

Main learnings: the most important takeaways are presented here. The main learnings are the most important part of the report and only reading these is enough to get the most relevant tips.

Data visualisations: data is presented in tables or graphs. Accompanying these, a link to a spreadsheet with the full data will be provided.

Advanced explanation: this part contains a more detailed explanation of how we got to the results and how we interpreted them. It is made for those designers who want to dig deeper and are comfortable with spreadsheets.

Section 1. Expected trends in Q4

This section contains recommendations for what icon designers should focus on in Q4 2018, following the trends we have observed in the same time period during the last two years, 2016 and 2017. For defining these recommendations, we looked at two things: search data in Q4 and sales by category in Q4. We also included the calendar of our upcoming marketing campaigns that will run in Q4.

Main learning 1:

During Q4, the search keywords that are rising in popularity the most are, not surprisingly, related to the main events and festivities happening in October, November and December: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, New Year, Diwali (only rising in 2016). Table 1 shows the first few keywords that are rising the most in Q4, as compared to the previous quarter. To see the full keywords list, go to full data.

Table 1. The 25 keywords most rising in popularity in Q4 2017 as compared to Q3 2017 (Date ranges: Jul 2017-Sept 2017 and Oct 2017-Dec 2017) (full table here). (Similar data for 2016 can be found here)

Apart from the % of Change, the second most important information in Table 1 is the Icon-to-search ratio. The icon-to-search ratio shows the number of icons that are tagged with that exact keyword in relation to how many times a keyword was searched for. As an indicator, the keywords with ratios lower than 1 are the ones are most interesting for icon designers in Q4, as they offer higher opportunities for getting downloads. Some keywords have very low ratios: “ios 11” (with a ratio of 0.04), “pubg” (with a ratio of 0.01) and these are the ones that might offer the highest returns for adding more icons. However, these keywords are from 2017 and “ios 11” might not be relevant anymore now that the new iPhone was launched this fall. Instead, search keywords related to the new iPhone are the ones to expect in Q4 this year.

Besides these main events and festivities, other rising keywords correspond to news and trends in popular culture. For example, “trump” or “donald trump” keywords became popular on Iconfinder in Q4 2016 (see data for 2016 here), whereas “iphone x” or “ios 11” became popular in Q4 2017, as their launch happened in that period. Additionally, some video games such as “pubg” have been very popular in Q4 2017 together with “fortnite”. In that regards, we advise icon designers to stay up to date with trending searches on Google, as these can function as a good indicator of what people search for on Iconfinder too. To keep up to date with the latest search trends on Google, we recommend to keep an eye on Google Trends.

Advanced explanation:

How to understand Table 1: We obtained Table 1 by looking at searches on Iconfinder for Q4 2017 and compared it with the number of searches in the previous quarter, Q3 2017. The table is ordered by the keywords’ rising popularity, which means that the ones that are becoming more popular in Q4 are placed at the top (see column % of Change Q4-Q3). This is only a small section of the table. The full table can be consulted here.

You will naturally ask whether it makes sense to add yet another Christmas set. To answer this question, it is useful to look at the column called icon-to-search ratio in Table 1. The icon-to-search ratio shows the number of icons that are tagged with that exact keyword in relation to how many times the keyword was searched for. To obtain this ratio, we divided the number of icons tagged with that keyword by the number of searches for the keyword in Q4 by September 2018.

An icon-to-search ratio smaller than 1 means that there are more searches for that keyword than icons tagged with the same keyword. It is important to know that, as long as this ratio is smaller than 1, there are high opportunities for sales when adding more icons, given that there are more searches than relevant icons. In the case of a icon-to-search ratio larger than 1, this indicates that there are more icons with that tag than times customers search for that same keyword, so there are lower opportunities for sales when adding more icons. For example, the keyword “snow” has a icon-to-search ratio of 5.05. Indeed, there are 14,254 tagged with “snow” and it was used in search only 2,823 times in 2017, probably mostly during the winter season. On the contrary, in the case of “pubg”, the popular online game, with a icons-to-search ratio of 0.01, it could be a good tactic to add more icons of “pubg” as there were 244 searches in Q4 2017 and only 3 icons tagged with that keyword in September 2018.

How to understand the Icon-to-search ratio:

It is important to note that Table 1 is ordered by rising popularity. If we order the table by top searches in Q4 (see full table for 2017 and for 2016), the keywords that customers searched for the most times are the ones related to business & finance or SEO & web, which is not surprising. Some examples of top searched keywords are “facebook”, “arrow”, “download”, “user”, “money” or “email”. It is important to mention that these queries are popular all year round and not characteristic to Q4. Even though their popularity decreases in Q4, they are still the most searched for by customers.

Main learning 2:

Additionally, categories that are increasing their sales the most in Q4 (compared to the total sales) as compared to the previous quarter are also related to the main seasonal events and festivities: Fall, Christmas, Halloween and Winter. An overview is presented in Table 2 below.

Table 2. Categories ordered by rising popularity in Q4 2017 as compared to Q3 2017 (Date ranges: Jul 2017-Sept 2017 and Oct 2017-Dec 2017) (full table here)

Note that the “iOS7” category will change its name to “iOS”.

Advanced explanation:

How to understand Table 2: Table 2 contains all categories on Iconfinder ordered by rising popularity. This way, the categories whose sales are increasing the most in Q4 are, not surprisingly, Fall, Christmas, Halloween and Winter. For the sales column, we included the number of icons bought by paying users and the number of icons downloaded by Pro subscribers. Downloads of free icons are not included.

The last column corresponds to the supply-demand ratio of each category. It indicates what the proportion between supply of icons and their demand in each category is. A ratio lower than 1 means that supply is lower than demand in that specific category and it presents a good opportunity to add more icons. None of the categories that are rising in popularity most in Q4 appear to have a supply-demand ratio higher than 1. This is due to taking into account only the yearly demand and might not be accurate for Q4, when the demand drastically increases. Additionally, in qualitative terms, it might be that customers are looking for fresh-looking icons and new design tweaks instead of the outdated icons from last year. Thus, we can conclude that it is a good strategy to add more icons for those categories in Q4.

How to understand the supply-demand ratio:

Main learning 3:

The demand for the seasonal keywords usually starts rising 2 or 3 months before the date the festivity or event takes place and peaks during the month of the event. For example, Christmas icons start to be demanded in September and their demand peaks in December (Graph 1). Because of this, a good practice is to upload Christmas icons 2 or 3 months before Christmas, to take advantage of the whole sales period. Graph 1 below shows the search trends for a few popular keywords in Q4.

Graph 1. Trends for keywords during Q4 based on number of searches (Date range: August 2017 — December 2017)

Does it make sense to add more icons for the main events and festivities in Q4?

The answer is yes, but it depends on the keyword. Some keywords are searched for more times than there are icons tagged with the same keyword (see Icon-to-search ratio in Table 1). The keywords that have an icon-to-search ratio lower than 1 are a good bet. The lower the ratio gets, the more opportunities there are for adding more icons for the specific keyword.

However, the search to icon ratio might not be the only factor to take into account. Even though the data shows there are enough icons for “christmas”, “santa” or “snow”, there is another factor at play: newness. Icons quickly become outdated and sets from last year might have been used on many websites or apps already. What customers might prefer is icons and sets with a fresh look for 2018.

Main marketing campaigns in Q4

Table 3 shows a list of the marketing campaigns that Iconfinder will run in Q4. During these campaigns, icon sets that are relevant to the campaign theme are going to be featured and promoted. To be eligible for these campaigns, we recommend to upload the majority of the holiday-related icons until the campaign launch week, so there is enough new content to promote.

Table 3. Marketing campaigns in Q4 2018 on Iconfinder

Section 2. Overall opportunities in the Iconfinder marketplace

This section identifies the main trends and opportunities present in the Iconfinder marketplace, based on observations from 2016, 2017 and 2018. For the recommendations in this section, we looked at three things: sales opportunities per category, trends in design styles and searches with no results.


This subsection explores what the main categories with sales opportunities are.

Main learnings:

According to Graph 2 and Graph 3, the categories that offer more opportunities for adding more icons are the ones with a low supply-demand ratio. As a rule of thumb, the lower the supply-demand ratio, the better returns there are for adding icons to that category. Among the first 7 categories in Graph 2, the ones that sell relatively well are Business&Finance, Mixed, SEO&Web, Network&Communications and Shopping&E-commerce (see Graph 3). As a attention point, even if the categories NSFW and iOS7* optimised have a good supply-demand ratio for adding more icons, their sales prospects are very low. Therefore, the return on investment for adding icons to those 2 categories might not be very good.

*The category iOS7 is outdated. We will change it to simply iOS.

Graph 2 (left). Categories ordered by supply-demand ratio and Graph 3 (right). Number of icons sold for same categories (Date range: Jan 2017 — Dec 2017) (see data here)

Advanced explanation:

Graph 2 and Graph 3 together are useful to identify which categories offer the best sales opportunities. In Graph 2, we looked at the supply-demand ratio for each category. The supply represents the number of icons existing in that category at the end of 2017. The demand is the total number of icons sold during the whole year 2017 in that category, also represented graphically in Graph 3. Note that this ratio does not tell whether the icons sold were unique or the same icons were bought repeatedly.

A supply-demand ratio lower than 1 means that the number of icons in that category (supply) is lower than the number of icons sold from that category (demand). According to this metric, the categories that have a supply-demand ratio lower than 1 have higher opportunities for adding more icons.

How to understand the supply-demand ratio:

At the same time, the amount of sales that the same category offers is an important indicator of whether it pays off to add more icons to that category, as it shows how many sales to expect. Graph 3 shows the total number of icons sold from each category in 2017. It is important to notice that, even though the categories NSFW, iOS7 optimised, and Business & Finance need more icons according to Graph 2, only the Business & Finance category sells well (Graph 3). NSFW and iOS7 optimised had much lower sales in 2017, respectively 700 and 10,507 icons sold, in contrast with 234,862 icons sold from the Business & Finance category.

The long-tail strategy

There are two main business strategies that icon designers can choose from. One of them is going for top seller categories and the other is about opting for the long-tail categories.

Main learnings:

For the first strategy, the top seller categories are, according to data from 2017 (Graph 4), Business & Finance, Mixed, UI, SEO & Web, Network & Communications, Shopping & E-commerce, Avatars & Smileys, Education & Science, and Signs & Symbols. Having icons in these categories offers high selling opportunities, but also very high competition. This means it may be very hard to stand out in those categories and get high earnings. In this case, we have observed that many designers use a “follow the leader” tactic, which might not be the best one due to the high competition. From our experience, the designers who are performing best are the ones that do something unique and distinguish themselves in different manners, be it variety, consistency, distinctive drawing style etc. Sometimes, it pays off to find your own niche and specialise in that, as per the second option explained below.

The second option is the long-tail strategy, which means having icons in many lower sales categories. The lower sales categories can be considered to be the ones going from Healthcare & Medical and downwards (Graph 4), forming the so-called “long tail”. The beauty of this strategy is that all the long-tail categories taken together amount to more sales than the top seller categories together. Additionally, the competition is lower in these categories simply because there are less icons. Many icons in a few long-tail categories can amount to a good volume of sales, so we highly recommend it as a strategy.

What are the long-tail categories that present most opportunities?

Among the long-tail categories, some of them present more opportunities than others. Looking at Graph 4 and 5 together, we can conclude that the long-tail categories with larger opportunities are the ones with a lower supply-demand ratio (Graph 5). Some of them are: Healthcare & Medical (ratio of 1.25), Shipping, delivery & fulfilment (ratio of 1.31), Maps & Navigation (ratio of 1.36), Security (ratio of 1.39) iOS7 Optimised (ratio of 0.83), NSFW (ratio of 0.80), among others. Note that the categories that have a ratio between 0 and 1 have higher opportunities for adding more icons . The categories with a ratio between 1 and 2, need icons as well, but the returns for those icons might be lower, since there is more supply than demand.

Graph 4 (left). Categories ordered by total number of icons sold in 2017 and Graph 5 (right). Supply-demand ratio per category in 2017 (Date range: Jan 2017 — Dec 2017) (see data here)


This subsection explains what the most popular design styles are and their evolution over time.

Main learnings:

In terms of design styles, the all-time top selling styles are Glyph, Flat, Outline and Filled Outline (Graph 6). If we look at trend lines for these 4 top selling styles (blue, yellow, red and green lines in Graph 6), we can see that Flat (red line) and Filled outline (green line) are the ones going upwards, which means their sales are increasing in relation to the other styles. On the contrary, Outline (yellow line) and Glyph (blue line) are decreasing in sales in relation to the other styles.

Graph 6. Percentage of icons sold by style over time (Date range: Feb 2016 — Aug 2018) (see data here)

Ranking of design styles by sales trends in August 2018:

1st — Flat (increasing in sales relative to the other styles)

2nd -Outline (decreasing in sales relative to the other styles)

3rd — Glyph (decreasing in sales relative to the other styles)

4th — Filled Outline (increasing in sales relative to the other styles)

The fact that Flat and Filled Outline are increasing in sales lately might be because of the introduction of the Icon Editor. Thanks to the Editor, customers can more easily change the colours of the icons before using them and that might encourage them to choose coloured icons more.

Graph 7 below shows, once again, how much difference in sales there is for the top 4 design styles (Flat, Outline, Glyph and Filled Outline) as compared to the rest.

Graph 7. Percentage of icons sold in each style (Date range: Jan 2016 — Aug 2018) (see data here)

Indeed, as we identified the top 4 selling styles above, we can see in Graph 8 that there are also more icons in those styles on Iconfinder than in all the other styles. Graph 8 also shows the proportion of free and premium icons in each style.

Graph 8. Number of icons by design style in September 2018 (see data here)

What are the design styles that offer most opportunities?

Uploading icons in these 4 top selling design styles is a good practice. Among them, Glyph and Outline sold the most icons in 2017, closely followed by Flat and with Filled Outline the last (Graph 9). By looking at their supply-demand ratio (Graph 10), it can be observed that 4 of them have a ratio that is higher than 1 and lower than 2. This means that there is a fairly good opportunity of sales in those 4 styles. Among all styles, Flat is the one with a larger margin for adding icons, with a ratio of 1.12.

Graph 9 (left). Total number of icons sold in 2017 per style and Graph 10 (right). Supply-demand ratio per style in 2017 (Date range: Jan 2017 — Dec 2017) (see data here)

Search keywords with no results

This part is especially interesting because it shows just how many untapped opportunities there are in the marketplace, by looking at what keywords customers use in search and that yield no search results or very few results.

Main learnings:

Table 4 contains a list of approx. 740 words for which there were no search results in 2018. The list is ordered by total searches in 2018, with the most searched on top. In this list, keywords such as “fortnite”, “jenkins” or “uplay” are the ones that were used in search the most frequently in 2018 and had no search results.

Table 4. Keywords with no results ordered by total searches in 2018 (Date ranges: Jan 2018-Sept 2018) (full table here)

Table 5 below contains a list of search keywords that have only a few results. For instance, “pubg” is a very popular online game and has been searched for 834 times in 2018 so far, while there are only 3 icons tagged with the same keyword. This list is as important as the previous one.

Table 5. Keywords with very few search results, ordered from less results to more (Date range: Jan 2018-Sept 2018) (full table here)

Section 3. Customers and purchasing habits

This section presents insights about who paying customers on Iconfinder are by showing their geographical distribution, their use of icons, their professions and their requirements when buying icons. Note that most of the data presented here (except geographical data) is drawn from the latest customer survey from February 2018 and thus, is based only on responses from 184 paying customers.

Main learnings:

Paying customers are mainly located in North America and Europe, with a few of them also located in countries like: Australia, Russia, India, Brazil, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Israel, China, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand and Pakistan, in decreasing order. All these countries make the 89% of all paying users on Iconfinder (Table 6). Table 6 also shows the percentage of business users in each country. About 33% of all paying customers are registered with a business account and are mainly small to medium-sized businesses. The majority uses personal accounts (sometimes even when using the icons professionally).

Table 6. Top countries with paying users and share of business users per country (Date range: Jan — Sept 2018) (see table here)

What do customers use the icons for?

According to a survey from 2018, paying users on Iconfinder mostly use icons for web and app design and development, marketing and communication, and presentations (Graph 11).

Graph 11. How paying customers use icons. Source: Iconfinder customer survey 2018 (see data here)

Professions of paying customers

Most paying customers responding to the survey identified as either designers (34.2%) or developers (27.7%). The other professions are, in decreasing order, marketing and communications professionals (10.9%), entrepreneurs (8.2%), bloggers/vloggers/social media professionals (2.7%), students (1.8%), teacher/professor (0.5%) (Graph 12).

Graph 12. Professions of paying customers. Source: Iconfinder customer survey 2018 (see data here)

What are the main characteristics that customers look for when buying icons?

Survey respondents considered aesthetics to be of the highest importance when buying icons. Other important characteristics, in decreasing order, are: graphical quality, good concept representation and variety/consistency, among others (Graph 13).

Graph 13. Paying customers’ requirements for icons. Source: Iconfinder customer survey 2018 (see data here)

Advanced explanations:

Graphs 11, 12 and 13 correspond to a customer survey carried out in February 2018. The survey was sent to 102,189 paying customers, from which 184 responded. The margins of error (with a confidence level of 95%) for both types of paying users were 9% and 12%, respectively.

We hope you have found this designer report useful. For questions or comments, please write us to support@iconfinder.com.

Are you interested in becoming a contributor on Iconfinder? This is the place to start: How to sell icons on Iconfinder



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