15 Insider Tips Revealed for Newbie Designers to Create a Masterpiece App Icon!

By Janil Jean , Apr 16 2014
Masterpiece App Icon

Featured Image: Pexels/wayX

Any product with an appealing visual identity reaches quickly to the audience. The same philosophy works for mobile app market. In today’s lethal competitive environment among app developers, no app can stand longer if it fails to capture the audience with a killer icon. An app icon is like the face of your app and if that face lacks the appeal then you have lost half the battle.

Just like logo design, an attractive app icon creates charm, catches the eye and infuses interest in the audience. If you ask an expert what makes the best logos so good (icon in case of smartphone app) – be it Walmart, FedEx, NBC or Apple – one of the common responses you hear is, a good logo tells the story of the brand and makes it stand out of the crowd. Similarly, an app icon will create the right impression only if it sets itself apart from the rest.

In a previous article, we discussed 8 crucial Android apps for designers to rock the show and now considering the importance of app icons in this smartphone era, I am going to list 15 expert tips that will help newbie designers to create exquisite app icons. Here they are:

1. Use Right Color Palette

Colors add substance to an app icon and bring out its true personality. Truly successful designers incorporate appropriate colors to attract their target audience.

Clear App Icon

For example the Clear App comes in red, orange and yellow which signify energy. The colors relate to the idea of productivity, while the check sign gives a clean look to the icon.

2. Make It Apt for Different Screen Sizes

Scalability matters equally to the design as any other variable. Your app icon must look awesome on every screen size, whether it is smartphone, tablet or even a desktop PC. The pixel value of a standard icon is 57×57. You can even scale it up if you use the toolkit of iPhone 4 icon.

Ness App Icon

The Ness App icon is a perfect example of how an icon should look on different screens. It looks amazingly same on every screen size without losing its integrity. The heart gives a sense of personal touch while its colorful design suggests the variety of restaurants that it can search.

3. Be Thoughtful With Fonts

Fonts add substance to the brand image. The font of an app icon must go with the type of app you are creating it for and it should harmonize the overall personality.

Zillow App Icon

The Zillow Real Estate & Rentals App has an icon which is a good example of using the right font style that complements service. It features a hut with a “Z” pattern which is the first letter of the name of the app.

4. Use Suggestive Elements

Your app icon should implicitly suggest the idea behind your app. It must put across in words, shapes or image the core philosophy of your app.

Fx Cameras App Icon


As an example, you can look at Fx Camera’s icon that uses the image of a camera lens which symbolizes the idea of this app.

5. Create a Matching Theme

All great app icons have one thing in common: they embody the theme and idea behind creation of the app. The design of your app icon should encompass the core idea that it was created for. If that idea lacks in your icon design, it cannot capture the target audience.

Google Play Music

Google Play Music is a quintessential personification of a music player icon that appropriately blends the idea of music in its design. The app makes you feel as if it is a playback button. The fusion of musical theme in its design makes the user fall in love with this beautiful app.

6. Remain Consistent With Design

Just like in a logo design, consistency plays a key role in creation of an app icon as well. Your icon must look uniform with the app’s interface in terms of color selection, theme, design and shape. An inconsistent design will distract attention of the audience and they will lose interest in your product.

76 Synthesizer App Icon

76 Synthesizer app icon is known for its consistent design. The app features the black and golden color in its app icon which complements its interface that uses the same colors in the lead.

7. Make It Age-Appropriate

An app icon must integrate the graphic elements that make it a perfect fit for the age of its audience. It should include the imagery or color combinations that could attract a particular age group.

Chatter Pix Kids App Icon

Chatter Pix Kids is a good example of an icon that goes with the age of its users. The app is a tool to draw different cartoon characters and give them voice. The icon features a cartoon face with a duck which shows that it is meant for kids.

8. Insert an Element of Individuality

Your app icon must look unique in order to remain in the memory of your audience. Every time the viewer glance at your app icon on iTunes or Google Play, they must feel compelled to come back and know more about it.

Turnplay App Icon

Ramotion designed an icon for Turnplay – it’s based on the concept of vinyl record. It reminds viewers about the classic vinyl record that was popular in 50’s and 60’s. The icon is unique in its sense of design and concept.

9. Make it Appealing

Cinemagram App Icon

Create automatic corrections to add Aesthetic value. Apart from the standard functions such as rotating, cropping, correcting, and auto-enhancing, Aviary Photo Editor also has focus functions, text input, cosmetic corrections (red eye, make-up) and a cool meme generator. Isn’t it a wonderful mix?

10. Infuse Creativity

Make your icon app stand out among others in the market. You can create a memorable app icon only if it stands as different in the list of others apps. Get creative with the layout and come up with a design that sets aside the unique aspects of your app.

Artua Design Agency App Icon

A good example of this would be the icon of Instagenius, designed by Artua Design Agency. The design is symbolic of a smiling human face. The icon is fairly creative and it goes with the functionality of the app that focuses on photo-editing.

11. Bring out the Details

Detailing gives weight to the design of your app icon. A balanced detailing accentuates the beauty of your icon and takes everything behind in the design.

Convertbot App Icon

The icon of Convertbot gives you a good shot of what users can get from the app. The designer paid attention to the detailing aspects and created an icon that closely resembles the app interface. The grey gradients and shadows go with the theme of the interface, while the unit icons clearly define the purpose of the app.

Remember: A successful icon design relies highly upon the effects of subtle details. Make sure it exists in your app icon.

12. Pay Attention to Clarity

Clarity is the essence of an appealing app icon. Overly complicated designs with too many images or graphic elements only confuse the viewer. If a viewer fails to clearly identify with your app icon, he will lose interest and will not bother to know more about it.

Things App Icon

The app icon of Things App wins here. It uses the check sign which gives a simple and clean look to the viewers. No complicated shapes and images.

13. Match the Icon/App Suitability

The sales of your app will depend radically on the design of your app icon. As a newbie designer, you must understand that an icon is the identity of an app. Therefore, your app icon should aptly stand for the philosophy behind the creation of your app. If the audience cannot interpret that idea from your icon they will lose faith in the product.

Wii U News App Icon

Wii U News App uses the blue theme, which suggests reliability. This conforms to the functionality of this app which serves to provide the users with authentic and up-to-date news.

14. Create a Picture Perfect Shape

The shape of your app icon creates a visual effect on the viewers. The exquisite shape enhances the design of your icon, while the inconsistent and bizarre contours only reduce its aesthetic appeal. The two defining factors that will count here are: (1) consistency and (2) scalability. Your choice of shapes should match with borders of your icon. Similarly, the shape should not lose its value when it is viewed on different screen sizes.

Wunderlist App Icon

Wunderlist, a task management app, uses 21st century nationalist’s emblem that looks consistent on every screen size. The badge justifies well with a rectangular border. The icon is an imagery of communism and it looks equally fantastic on PC, tablet and smartphone.

15. Make it Elegant

And last but definitely not the least, your app icon should have an aspect of elegance. Nothing catches the human eye more than simplicity. To create that charm in your audience, your app icon must look simple and stylish at the same time.

Blackout Labs App Icon

The icon of Ringtone Designer Pro by Blackout Labs perfectly fits into the idea of simplicity. It uses a music note as an imagery to suggest the idea of music. The blue color of music note elegantly mixes together with the ash white and black background.

Being an app developer and designer, it is essential to understand the critical points that epitomize a successful app.

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Janil Jean is an idealist blogger and social media addict who loves conversations related to branding, storytelling, startups and small business technology and design.


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