This week we discuss a set of distinctions that we’ve mentioned before on this blog but which we need to revisit every so often in this business: What are the criteria that make a good design package? How do we make our icons package a winner in all aspects of design?
It’s true that every person, designer or non-techie, has a favourite quality that they like about icons. For some, it may be beauty: how neat and appealing are the icons to the eye? For others, it may be usability: how well do the icons do what they are supposed to do? For yet another set of persons, it may be the technical expertise that is demonstrated by the icons.
This is all well and good. But how can we incorporate a small set of distinctions that could be a useful set of benchmarks for evaluating any icons package? We propose that the common elements of a great presentation can be applied to assess an icon design package. We have isolated just five of these elements as fundamental criteria to ensure that our icons packages come out a winner on all fronts.
CLARITY: It is great to see icons which are neat and clear-cut, and precisely representative of the function or role to which they are assigned. obviously As software programs and apps are increasingly being designed for the lay person, the most effective icons would seem to be those that can be used intuitively by users without the need for any long training.
FUNCTIONALITY: The icons must do what they are there to do, as effective aids to navigating a program or website. There must be enough difference in the design of the separate icons to cover all the functions in the application or program without being confusing.
INTEGRATED LOOK: A great design package will ensure that the individual pieces make sense and simultaneously look as if they belong to the same family when put together into a package. This is what gives a great overall “feel” to the application or package in which the icons appear.
BEAUTY: At the minimum, icon designs have to be context-appropriate and coherent to be effective. Even though beauty can be an elusive quality, a great icons design package will also be aesthetically pleasing in some way. Unless a designer is choosing to be deliberately provocative or counter-intuitive for a good reason, the idea is that the set of icons in a package must, in some way, be attractive or appealing to the user, other than that they’re going to avoid using the package. And what will be the point of designing something nobody wants to use?
USER-FRIENDLINESS: this is a great distinction to pay attention to unless you’re designing icons for design sake. Obviously, you would want your designs to serve the client and so be user-friendly inside the application or product in which they are used. Best of all, it is great to aim for designs that regular users of an application can “get” instinctively as quickly as possible, without having to spend hours on tutorials and manuals.
Whether you are the designer creating the icons or the commissioning person who wants icons designed for a product or application, it is useful to be clear on the criteria by which the final product would be assessed. The five distinctions we’ve just discussed can be a useful starting point to help clarify what you want to achieve and also ensure that your icons package comes out a winner.