Our guest contributor devises a creativity tool – to stretch the imagination and play with ideas for icon development.

Recently a friend invited me to subscribe to a cool online file storage and sharing facility called Dropbox, which I did. I found the clean, clutter-free pages of Dropbox quite refreshing and easy to use. The icons on their pages are equally clear, colourful and beautiful, and obviously functional. Then I discovered Creative Freedom, which owns this blog, did some work on icons for Dropbox sometime ago – which was well received as per testimonial. Specifically, Dropbox needed a number of their icons – originally taken from the open-source famfamfam icon set – enlarged from 16×16 pixels to 48×48 pixels to improve usability. It felt exciting to know about this connection and to see a site with icons which have been worked on close to home.

Icon Development
This story has inspired one to devise a creativity tool that can be used in icon development. We shall call it Versions. The idea is to take the icons project one is working on through all the levels of the versions that are desired, to stretch the imagination and to see if we can come up with a brilliant set of icons beyond what a less rigorous designer would produce for a design brief.

DRAFT VERSION: We can call this version 0.5, the quick sketch first attempt. This is the version which probably nobody is going to see apart from your good self and probably a team mate or two. So the quicker you get on with it the better.

VERSION 1: This is about getting the first set of icons developed to the stage where you can show it to the client for their approval or comment.

VERSION 1.5: This is the “impress them” version. Assume this version is going to be seen by lots of people and implement all the criteria of great icons: attention to colours, sizing, functionality, the platforms on which the icons will be used, and the formats in which the finished product will be required.

THE NEXT EDITION: This is the version you develop after the icons have been in use for a while and you’ve got feedback from users. If you really want to stretch your imagination, why wait for a long time. Get a panel of testers and get them to give you feedback and incorporate their comments, sooner rather than later.

EXTENSION EDITION: Now it’s time to take your game to an even higher level! Just imagine your client now wants a whole suite of icons for a range of products: not just for the word processor, spreadsheet, drawing package, etc., but also for the versions of the program for kids and other specialised groups of users. Well, you let your imagination fly and see what you come up with.

Again, this tool may not necessarily be the ideal solution for the challenges on your current icon development, but it is an excellent one for stretching the imagination and daring to experiment with ideas you may not otherwise consider.

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