In this post, we lay out 5 of our favourite app icon designs – from simplistic masterpieces to elaborate works of art, these app icon designs have become a firm favourite among design lovers everywhere. For our list, we have chosen app icons that really stand out among the crowd, there’s just something about them that… Read more »
The app icon has become a massively important part of a designer’s career these days. With more and more companies out there trying to tap into the digital market, the app icon is a key feature in their arsenal to increase clients and drive traffic to a particular app. In this article we are going to… Read more »
From the obscure and niche – to the bold and popular, app icon inspiration can come from a variety of places. The beauty of designing an app icon, is that you have some room to play with and unlike other icon designs – you’re given greater freedom to explore and experiment. As it’s one of… Read more »
Creative Freedom has become increasingly aware of how quickly some of the biggest brands out there today keep changing their logos. From subtle tweaks, to full blown redesigns – has our fast paced, consumer driven world now reached such speed that brands need to continually rethink their entire aesthetic, as well as the services they’re… Read more »
As we’ve explored multiple times in the past, icons are an increasingly universal – and extremely effective – feature of many mobile games. They’re an incredibly quick way of getting a message across (“we process visual information 60,000 times faster than text”, so the saying goes), and ultimately help keep the user experience seamless and… Read more »
Ever since the birth of the Google Maps app, map interface designers have relied heavily on icons to help their users navigate both the app and the world around them. Its popularity was huge, and it has laid the groundwork for many navigation-based apps (including Pokemon Go and Ingress) since. However, this has been a… Read more »
Now that the dust has finally settled around Instagram’s controversial new app icon, it’s time to take a relatively level-headed look at the changes the company made to both their app icon and interface. Many users were shocked and outraged at the new icon. Instagram themselves describe it as: “inspired by the previous app icon,… Read more »
We’ve explored the use of icons in mobile games before from a design perspective. Game UIs are an extremely important aspect of game functionality, and need to maximise options and information for users without distracting from the content of the actual game. With new games constantly hitting the market, there’s more and more solutions to… Read more »
It’s often easy to generalise about aesthetics. We’ve spoken about app icon trends in the past in terms of there being three-dimensional, flat, and almost-flat icons, but this doesn’t really tell the whole story. There are many, many other ways to play with perspective and dimension using a simple design—like an app icon—and obtain some… Read more »
In our last post in this series, we introduced three iterations of Android and their app icons: the vanilla OS, Samsung’s S-series, and LG. Weirdly, Google’s stock Android icons have stood out the most so far, probably thanks to the company’s coherent and unified design philosophy—something that others are lacking. LG’s app icons, however, are… Read more »
With the recent releases of iOS 9 and the new OS X, El Capitan, Apple have introduced a number of incremental updates to their operating systems—mostly oriented towards speed and optimisation.
Visual changes are few and far between, but the operating system is as beautiful—and often, unnecessarily prescriptive—as before. With over 1.5 million apps on the App Store, it’s no wonder that many designers find it difficult to stand out when they’re starting out.
Although many iOS app interfaces tend to utilise similar visual elements, Apple aren’t—believe it or not—actually hell-bent on forcing all of us into the same visual boxes as them.
By paying attention to some of the lessons of Apple’s design worldview, we can actually help to maximise the impact, efficiency, look and feel of an app UI. These principles include:
Aesthetic integrity, or how coherently an app’s aesthetics integrate with its function. A very basic illustration of this principle would be a keyboard app. The keys should correspond to the musical notes, and hopefully they should correspond to a real-life keyboard. You wouldn’t replace the keys with pictures of barnyard animals, even if barnyard animals serve the same function as keys in your app.
In Apple’s own words:
“An app that helps people perform a serious task can put the focus on the task by keeping decorative elements subtle and unobtrusive and by using standard controls and predictable behaviours. This app sends a clear, unified message about its purpose and its identity that helps people trust it. But if the app sends mixed signals by presenting the task in a UI that’s intrusive, frivolous, or arbitrary, people might question the app’s reliability or trustworthiness.”
Consistency, or those aspects of interface design which allow users to transfer their knowledge and relationship with one element of a UI to another, or “from app to app.”
There’s that consistency thing they’re so keen on again, but as they rightly point out:
“A consistent app isn’t a slavish copy of other apps and it isn’t stylistically stagnant; rather, it pays attention to the standards and paradigms people are comfortable with and it provides an internally consistent experience.”
So if you’re designing an app that has several different ‘areas’ (such as a pizza delivery app having pages for ‘menu’, ‘offers’, ‘drinks’ etc), it’s important that they don’t look and feel totally disparate. Users don’t really want to have to think a lot about what they’re doing on your app. Pretty simple, really.
Feedback and user control, or what I like to call “things reacting to other things”, has seen a number of major changes throughout the life cycle of iOS. Feedback involves the interface reacting to its user, and as such, it opens up a lot of space for us as designers to add flare and exercise creativity in the interface, especially when it comes to animation:
“Subtle animation can give people meaningful feedback that helps clarify the results of their actions.”
Apple are talking about animation feedback here, which is a hugely broad concept filled with possibilities, but the same also goes for kinetic feedback (like vibration) or sound.
As an exercise, you could try to draft a feedback animation that doesn’t appear anywhere else in iOS, but remains completely consistent with how the system feedback animations function. The most important thing about feedback is that it tells a user that they are in control of the interface, and you want your feedback animations to do just that. Don’t make them too long or extravagant, as these can make a user feel less powerful:
“People—not apps—should initiate and control actions. An app can suggest a course of action or warn about dangerous consequences, but it’s usually a mistake for the app to take decision-making away from the user. The best apps find the correct balance between giving people the capabilities they need while helping them avoid unwanted outcomes.”
Apple are particularly renowned for their use of what they call metaphors:
“When virtual objects and actions in an app are metaphors for familiar experiences—whether these experiences are rooted in the real world or the digital world—users quickly grasp how to use the app.”
Along with interface feedback, this idea of metaphors offers perhaps the greatest creative freedom to designers. It’s a great exercise in lateral thinking, and by encouraging software designers to approach interface problems as a designer would a physical object, metaphors fully encourage good design thinking and problem-solving.
Go back to basics
As concerned as many people are with making zany, aesthetically beautiful, high-concept user interfaces, many tend to fall down when it comes to usability. It benefits Apple to have excellent, well-produced software on their platform just as much as it benefits you, the designer, and your users. So it’s worth paying them some attention if you want to capture the sort of intuition and cleanness that Apple aim for.
While they are restrictive, a lot of Apple’s guidelines actually serve to encourage new solutions to problems by forcing designers to work within certain boundaries. By mastering these basic design ideas, you’ll be well on your way to creating something not only useable, but hopefully, truly unique for iOS.