I always considered desktop icon design to exist only in the realm of the design Jedi: Off-limits to everyday designers… but, why?
Let’s rewind to the Netscape days… I was 16 years old, hacking HTML and hand drawing websites for anyone that had a small business and a spare two-hundred dollars. I never really considered myself a designer back then; I was just happy to be doing what I was doing. I hadn’t even been exposed to Photoshop or *ahem* CorelDraw at that point, so I’ll never forget the day I stopped to evaluate and appreciate the Netscape icon sitting on my desktop.
Why was the bottom the right tip of the N behind the horizon? Why the aqua background? Who made all these decisions that had to be made to create this icon? This was definitely the first time that I remember evaluating digital design—or design at all. I began to pay attention to the other icons, and even the OS itself. But while this opened my eyes to design, I also began to think design must be exclusionary—the people that were able to spend thier lives creating things like icons must be a select elite, one that I could never be a part of.
This idea stuck with me through most of my career as a digital designer. Until a few years ago I had to design an icon for my first app and felt sheepish throughout the entire process. I was trespassing on sacred ground, the flood lights would be turned on and I would be caught red-handed—trying to design an icon. It turns out there are no Jedi-icon-police and I was just another designer doing what was expected of me. Since this realization, I have become fascinated with icon design and look for a new icon project at every turn. If you are a designer living in fear, here is a simple how-to to get started.
I hope this helps someone get over the hurdles and into the amazing world of desktop icon design. Just remember, those Jedi were Padawans one day.