Icons and Branding

Icons and logos can be an important part of the overall package to brand and market products. It’s no wonder that some companies spend huge budgets on brand design and marketing. Other factors being equal, the companies that create h4 or easily identifiable brands usually get a head start in the competition for customers.

In whatever context they appear, icons are either the most visible feature of a brand or some of the most used elements of a product. The symbol of the Red Cross organisation is a good example of the former, while icons in software packages are an example of the latter.

Often, users and consumers assess the ease of use or functionality of programs and products by how effectively the icons facilitate usage. Whether in a computer software program, on an iphone or a digital camera, consumers expect icons which are self-explanatory and enable instinctive use of the features of the product.

So it pays to give a lot of attention to getting the best icons designed for your company or product. As icons are an element of presentation, some of the criteria for assessing what makes for a good presentation can be applied equally well to icon design. Here are a few reminders of what to consider for a good presentation and, by extension, the design of your icons:

Pay attention to small details

Proofreaders will tell you that serious typographical errors can be spotted a mile away, but little errors are harder to spot. Yet it’s those teeny weeny errors in copy that end up irking readers later on. The same goes for designs, and especially for small-in-size designs like icons, one needs to work very closely with the designers to ensure accuracy and precision to achieve the effect for which one is commissioning the work.

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Keep it simple

Often the more simple and clear-cut a design, the better it works. Go for simplicity and effectiveness in the delivery of your message, not for fancy and over-elaborate stuff which can confuse users.

Be consistent

This element can be viewed from different angles: consistency across the board if you have a range of products or a family of products, or consistency with the overall corporate image you are trying to project. For instance, an organisation geared to providing services for teenagers will obviously want a modern, appealing-to-the-youth set of images which reflect that niche, in contrast to a design package for a charity for elderly care.

Be forward looking

Your icons package needs to take the element of upgrade-ability into account if your program requires regular updating or new versions every so often. In software packages for example, the solution you choose could vary from total redesign with major upgrades to subtle updates to keep your look fresh and appealing. Company logos, on the other hand, need to be stable over longer periods of time as a brand becomes easily identifiable and established in the market place.

Test it on users

If you already have a community of users, why not market-test the designs to get their feedback? If you are in a new niche where you are not certain of consumer response, conducting split testing of different versions of your icons may be a helpful move.

Adam Parrish

Owner and creative director at Creative Freedom Ltd. Unbelievably cool icon design expert, husband, and father of two awesome girls. A proper decent chappy and thoroughly fab to work with. Ok, so I wrote my own bio…

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