Created by Evgeniy Artsebasov -
Many people are not aware that icon design is easy to learn. Anyone can create nice sets using a series of images that either based on their interpretation of a specific item or a logo made for a company. Another thing that people don't realize is that the process of icon design could take hundreds of hours to make.
You sure have seen a lot of usable icon sets that both are free and premium. Each has its benefits and unique in its way. But have you ever wondered if you can design a set for yourself? It could be a personal project or something that you can use at work.
Before you start thinking that it will take a lot of time and you are in a hurry, so you choose a pre-defined set to use, keep in mind that improving your design skill is inevitable these days. At the very least, knowing and able to apply the basic skills will help you advance in your career.
What you need to know about Icon Design
Icon design is essential to communicate what can't be written due to space. It also helps people to recognize a place and its usage. You can find it everywhere, on your computer, TV remote, and even your car. The easiest examples are the power button and horn for a car. It's just a trumpet, but you know that when you touch the button, your car will honk.
Designing can be very easy when you already have the talent and passion for it. These values are supplementing and complementing each other. However, it doesn't mean that they are mutually exclusive. You can still makeup one with the other and add more values.
People always think that one has to be very creative for icon design. While creativity is one thing, you also need to have a passion for the industry and work hard for it. Another thing you need to have is resilience and an open mind for constructive criticism.
Easy tricks for a stunning set
If you are set on an icon design, you need to know the basic tricks on what makes them great. Keep on reading as these tricks came from professionals in the industry and have been tried and tested throughout the years.
Use the Right Tools
You are the one who determined how great a tool is. Any tool or program can be great when you know how to utilize it. The design don't have to be fancy, but you must be comfortable with them. It's okay to be open to suggestions, but it doesn't mean that you have to follow them blindly.
When you are familiar and comfortable with using the tool, you are set to create a great icon design without much hassle. You can do whatever you want with minimum effort. It doesn't matter if it starts with a sketch on paper or you work directly with a tablet.
What you need to keep in mind is to make the creation process an important part and thus manage to maximize the tool's usage. There are many options of programs that you can choose from.
If you are more comfortable start an icon design using pen and paper, then do so as you pleased. Maybe a random doodle on a paper napkin you made when you were at the Starbucks could be a great set that put your name out there.
Anyhow, if you choose to work with pixels right from the start, you can start by being familiar with Adobe Illustrator. It is one of the most common programs used in creative business and has become the business-standard.
An alternative is its sister Adobe Photoshop. Non-Adobe programs that many people use are Figma, Inkscape, and Affinity Designer. If you want to make a set in 3D, then you can have a look at Cinema4D and Blender.
Another thing you need to remember about tools is how versatile they are in working with various file extensions. The most popular extension is SVG. If you are comfortable converting the set into SVG for others to use, feel free to do so. If you prefer another extension, make sure that it's easy to convert into SVG.
Created by 123done
Maximize the Usage of the Grid
Grids are there to help you, so it's best to stay friends with them. Whether you use a printable one or directly from the program, just work with what is best for you. You can start with a sketch then scan it to change it into a vector using a program.
Anyhow, always have extra space as the no-go zone border. That is the line where you have the mental border on your icon design, so it won't go overboard. This border is necessary so you can keep the image in a uniform size.
A square in the grid equates to a pixel on the screen. This is the key for you when creating your icon design. Usually, a set consists of icons in 32x32 pixels and a larger size. Sometimes, you may encounter an unusual size such as 30 x 16px or 28 x 18px. But they all started as a 32x32 grid.
Understanding the grid sizes is important when you are thinking of a diagonal or unique shape. You need to keep the image within the size and still inside the border as well. This is meant to keep the whole image aligned and have a center point for the whole image.
You can start by drawing the basic geometry shapes filling the canvass before start making the necessary adjustment. Of course, you can draw it based on the grids and make sure that each stroke fills a square. But you need to see the larger picture to adjust.
The adjustment can be drastic, such as cutting a square into half diagonally to have a 45-degree angle before start rounding the corners. It also can be very subtle that you don't deviate much from your original idea.
When you have maximized the usage of the grid, you will find yourself overflowing with ideas. It is only natural because you already understand how to work the grids around to create the image you want. At any rate, befriending the grids will help you create some of the best images out there.
Sometimes you may not follow the grids to each pixel, and it is okay to do so. It is part of being creative and having a good result. However, it doesn't mean that you can do it all the time since it will compromise the consistency of the whole set.
Created by Iconland
Think in Simple Geometry
Simple and basic geometry is your best friend in doing an icon design. An image started from several geometric shapes. This may take a while to learn, but once you are used to seeing it that way. You won't be able to stop breaking an image down based on its geometric shapes.
For example, an image of a car consists of several squares that make up the roof, hood, and tires. Think of the tires as a square with rounded corners instead of a circle or elliptical one.
One thing you should not think about is resizing a shape to fit the idea you have. The way to circumvent the need to resize is by working with angles and rounding them. It is best to use the grid to trace the images to the shape you want.
Combining the grids with geometry could lead to various great ideas that you can use to create a stunning set, just like the car example above. It consists of several squares with rounded corners and angles.
Think of what you can do when you put the color in. An icon design usually comes in monochrome, but it also can be colorful since it also can be a logo for a company or a program. At any rate, the basic shapes are essential to building the image you want.
Even if you want to have a 3D icon design, you still need to calculate it in simple basic geometry. It is not as if you took a 2D picture and change it to 3D. To see how it will look, you will need to break it down into basic geometry shapes and see how they correlate.
Created by Minimal Marks
Be Consistent and Obvious
Have an apparent consistency that will make your icon design recognizable wherever they are. It's more than just a trademark but also keeping the whole set coherent. Your client is most likely to be impressed when they could see that you have a defining trademark and not afraid to show it.
The consistency could be in any shape. It could be a rounded angle at a specific part of the image or a shape that always exists in the set. It also could be a red dot that distinguishes your set from similar ones in the market.
This works a red line that will connect your whole set into a singular icon design. It also works as an invisible trademark that people can use to redirect their thought back at you. It helps a lot in a portfolio since you have made sure that your sets have one thing in common.
Take examples from famous creators of their works. At first, their consistency is hidden in plain sight. You wouldn't consider a single dot or a slight angle as a consistent part. But once you have noticed it, the consistency became obvious all of a sudden. When you see their next work, you'll instantly look for their hidden trademark.
The consistency also has to be obvious that people don't have to squint to look for it. It has to be out there without compromising the image. The idea of an icon design is to make recognizable images in pixel form. Anyone who sees the image must be able to connect the picture with the usage.
Created by BirDIY Design
Measure with Your Eyes
Usually, a set consists of icon designs in several sizes. It's meant to fit the screen size and resolution. You need to know where to draw the line and make sure that the image will not look pixelated when being used on a large screen.
As a creator, you know that it's not enough to have a high-resolution vector for your icon design. That is not the solution, as the images have to be small enough to be usable and will not be pixelated on a larger screen.
A lot of people forgot that several shapes could look bigger even when they have similar pixel sizes. For example, a 32x32px square may look larger than a 32x32px circle. This is how you should use your eyes to judge the measurement and make them look uniform.
A uniform size is important to keep the coherence of an icon design. The only way to figure out is by keep trying and judge with yourself which image may need a little tweaking. If you are still unsure, then you can consult another pair of eyes for a second opinion.
Sometimes, an image has to be a little leaning to either side to keep the whole image balanced. At any rate, your eyes are the ones who can judge if the image is balanced and turned out the way you want it to be or still need some corrections.
Created by Mayrum
Be Mindful with Details
Remember that the devil is in the details. To some people, it's as simple as knowing when to stop. To most is about keeping the coherence in both theme and sizes. Any slight deviation can compromise your integrity in creating the set.
Before you start working on an icon design, you should recognize your limit and have a definite idea of the theme and colors. What details you need to add and how you are going to incorporate them in the image is only part of the task. The real task is how to keep the details coherent.
The details should not take away the icon design and what it communicates. You sure wouldn't like it when you mistook the toilet with the elevator because they look the same. Think about the client and how the image talks to them.
When you create several sets in various sizes, you need to consider how the detail will work and visible in these sizes. These details must be incorporated in all images to keep the red line of coherence. Overlooking this will bite you in the future.
What you put as the detail can be what make them unique, but it still should be used sparingly. Remember, sometimes, a single set consists of a hundred images. Also, think about how much time you can and will invest in building them.
Created by Made by Made
Never Stop Learning
Inspiration can happen in any way. Even so, it doesn't mean that you can rely on daily activities for inspiration to come. You still need to keep both an open mind and keep feelers out for any courses that can improve your skill.
You can download a lot of package sets that have thousands of already-made images as a starting point. Most of them are free and include fonts as well as strokes that you can use to learn. They also a good place for inspiration because you can break the images down using the tricks mentioned above.
You can start by seeing how the images are coherent with the theme or try to find the details that work as the trademark that make the set different. To many people, deconstructing the set works great as an inspiration source.
If you want to, there are a lot of courses that cover icon design creation. You can choose one that is available for free or one that is a semi-pro class. Feel free to choose from any website. After all, each course has specific benefits.
Some of these courses are free and available on public streaming services. Don't forget that sometimes a professional share their tricks in icon design through their social media accounts. You can use those free and quick guides for when you are feeling stuck and needing inspiration.
But if you are thinking of being a professional, you can look for courses that give you certificates upon completion and have global recognition. Those certificates will be a nice addition to your resume.
It may take a little extra length to learn, but it is a skill that worth it. The digital creative industry is on the rise for the past couple of years. It's only logical to stay up to date with the demands and able to deliver what the client asked.
As now you know that creating a stunning set is not impossible at all. After all, it's always a good idea to have another skillset added to the resume. Now you can start working on a coherent icon design that will put your name out in the digital creative world.