6 Core Characteristics of Superb Icon Design

Creative design work (or any design work for that matter) is always a struggle. Icons are no exception to the rule and can give grief to the most professional of designers. To help you with your icon woes, I’ve put together a few core characteristics of superb icons that I’ve encountered and experienced in my time. So, without further ado, here are some characteristics of superb icon design.

Characteristics of Icons

Simplicity

Simplicity is an important part of any design work. This is doubly true for icon design because you’re given such little space to work in. So, a great way to create a workable, effective icon is to stick with the golden rule of simplicity. Keep it simple, clean, and effective. Evaluate every piece and decide whether it really needs to be there. Would the icon be stronger without it? You’d be surprised how often this happens to be true.

Simplicity is also extremely important for an icon’s ability to match in with other designs. Icons are often featured with other icons, designs, shapes, colors, etc. This means that they need the ability to blend in, so they don’t stand out like a sore thumb. Not to mention too many icons that aren’t simplistic in nature can really clutter up a perfectly good screen. So, stick to simplicity. This will help add clarity and understanding to your icon.

Clarity

All icons should be understandable in a single glance. As a matter of fact, that is the whole point of icons – to be representative of a product or program. So, aim for clarity in your icon design. If it doesn’t have direct representation of the underlying product, in a quick and understandable fashion, it needs to at least spark some recognition of an idea or concept. Clarity helps recognition, which helps memorability, which helps your icon. So, practice clarity for creative icon designs that packs a punch.

Appropriate

Many great creative icons have fallen flat simply for a lack of appropriateness. And I don’t mean in any kind of morality sense (although that too is obviously important), but rather in the target audience and program. No matter how great the icons are, if they’re not appropriate to the subject matter they just don’t work. Always keep in mind your goal while designing your icon, and objectively monitor your success. Sometimes, it’s necessary to start from scratch from a different angle to accomplish your goal and stay true to the task.

Scaling

This is a common issue in icons, due to their sometime use of vectors and their inability to scale down as low as some icons require. It is extremely important that icons look professional in any shape, size, and setting. No matter how amazing the icon is, if elements of it are fuzzy, or it looks bad in a certain scale, it’s not a superb icon.

Consistency

All icons need to be consistent throughout their use of color, lighting, and reflections.  If this isn’t done properly, so much quality is lost it’s absurd. It is one of the easiest ways to give your icons that slightly off feeling, which can lead to general unhappiness, both for the designer and client.

This can be surprisingly hard to spot without a trained eye, but as soon as it is fixed everything suddenly looks ten times better. Our subconscious knows if these things aren’t right, and will let our brains know, even if we can’t vocalize why the icon looks so terrible. So, make sure you’ve ironed out the consistency in your icon, or be prepared to have a subpar design work.

Unique

Although it often goes without saying, it bears repeating. Make your icon unique and interesting. While relevance typically your first priority, an interesting and unique icon can be the difference between a workable icon and a superb icon.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. At the end of the day that’s what all design is. Some things work, and some don’t, but you have to be able to follow your instincts and creative senses. Keep your icons simple, clear, appropriate, properly scaled, consistent, and unique and you’re one the right path. Because the majority of all superb icon designs contain these very same core characteristics.

I hope this short list helped you better understand icon design. Are there any key points or further questions you’d like to hear about? Leave a comment below and I’d love to answer!

Social Media Icons – Available for free download

Somacro: 27 300DPI Social Media Icons by vervex
Somacro: 27 300DPI Social Media Icons by vervex
Somicro: 27 Social Media Icons by vervex
Somicro: 27 Social Media Icons by vervex
Simplito: A free social icon set
Simplito: A free social icon set
Free Stained and Faded Social Media Icons Vol 2
Free Stained and Faded Social Media Icons Vol 2
Socializic, free detailed social media icons
Socializic, free detailed social media icons
Candy media icons by TIT0
Candy media icons by TIT0
Social Icons for WPZoom by umar123
Social Icons for WPZoom by umar123
Socialize Icon Set
Socialize Icon Set
Buddycons – Vector Social Media Icons
Buddycons – Vector Social Media Icons
Social Bookmarks/Networking Icon Set
Social Bookmarks/Networking Icon Set
IC Minimal Icon Set by design deck
IC Minimal Icon Set by design deck
IC Colour Icon Set by design deck
IC Colour Icon Set by design deck
FREE Google Plus Icons by survivorcz
FREE Google Plus Icons by survivorcz
Large Updated Twitter Icons
Large Updated Twitter Icons
Twitter Speech Bubble Icons (PSD)
Twitter Speech Bubble Icons (PSD)
Twitter & Dribbble Icons (PSD)
Twitter & Dribbble Icons (PSD)
custom share buttons by JanSzpakowski
custom share buttons by JanSzpakowski
Heart v2: Free Social Iconset in Heart Shape
Heart v2: Free Social Iconset in Heart Shape

Google+ Icons – Available for free download

Google+ Icons
Google+ Icons
Google+ by Alex Patrascu
Google+ by Alex Patrascu
Google Plus (+) Icon Set PNG (dpp)
Google Plus (+) Icon Set PNG (dpp)
Google Plus(+) Circular Icon Set (PSD + PNG) | Taiyab Raja
Google Plus(+) Circular Icon Set (PSD + PNG) | Taiyab Raja
Google+ Logo by Swissendo
Google+ Logo by Swissendo
+plus+ by 1A-Design
+plus+ by 1A-Design
Google Plus Icons by 1A-Design
Google Plus Icons by 1A-Design
Google plus icons by Iconshock
Google plus icons by Iconshock
Google+ Icon by Aaron Moody
Google+ Icon by Aaron Moody
Google Plus + Icons Free PSD by Jimmybjorkman
Google Plus + Icons Free PSD by Jimmybjorkman
Sleek Google+ Icon (Plus Free Google+ Icon Set Download) | PSDFan
Sleek Google+ Icon (Plus Free Google+ Icon Set Download) | PSDFan
Google Connect! by Will Flagello
Google Connect! by Will Flagello
Google+ Icons by Chrisringeisen
Google+ Icons by Chrisringeisen
Google+ by Gabe Telepak
Google+ by Gabe Telepak
Google Plus by Matthew Martin
Google Plus by Matthew Martin
Google Plus Icons by Matt Sellers
Google Plus Icons by Matt Sellers
Google+ Icon by Sandeep Prabhakaran
Google+ Icon by Sandeep Prabhakaran
Google+ PSD Icons by Corbin Marc Hesse
Google+ PSD Icons by Corbin Marc Hesse
Google+ Icons by Daniel Sandvik
Google+ Icons by Daniel Sandvik
Sexy Round Google Plus Icons PSD
Sexy Round Google Plus Icons PSD
Google Plus(+) Circular Icon Set
Google Plus(+) Circular Icon Set
Free Google Plus Icon | Maze of Minds
Free Google Plus Icon | Maze of Minds
Free Google Plus Icons
Free Google Plus Icons
Google Plus Icon
Google Plus Icon
Google icons
Google icons

General Icons – Available for free download

iConPack - now with psd by 7UR on deviantART
iConPack – now with psd by 7UR on deviantART
Web Icon Set - Mobile Icon Set
Web Icon Set – Mobile Icon Set

 

Web Icon Set - Cute Blogging Icon Set
Web Icon Set – Cute Blogging Icon Set

 

Web Icon Set - E-Commerce Icon Set
Web Icon Set – E-Commerce Icon Set

 

Music icon pack
Music icon pack

 

micrOS icon pack
micrOS icon pack

 

app-bits : iPhone Toolbar Icon Set : iPhone Toolbar Icon Set
app-bits : iPhone Toolbar Icon Set : iPhone Toolbar Icon Set

 

3D Cartoon Icons Pack by deleket on deviantART
3D Cartoon Icons Pack by deleket on deviantART

 

NIXUS Icon Pack: 60 Beautiful Premium Icons (Free) | Tutorial9
NIXUS Icon Pack: 60 Beautiful Premium Icons (Free) | Tutorial9

 

55 free user icons pixel by pixel icons
55 free user icons pixel by pixel icons

 

108 Mono Icons: Huge Set of Minimal Icons | Tutorial9
108 Mono Icons: Huge Set of Minimal Icons | Tutorial9

 

Juicy Fruit icon set. psd included
Juicy Fruit icon set. psd included

 

Web Icon Set - Application Icon Set
Web Icon Set – Application Icon Set

 

Exclusive Payment Method Icon Set for our readers - Speckyboy Design Magazine
Exclusive Payment Method Icon Set for our readers – Speckyboy Design Magazine

 

Freebie: Incredibly Detailed 3D Icon Set | MediaLoot
Freebie: Incredibly Detailed 3D Icon Set | MediaLoot

 

Free SEO Icons Set (16 Icons, Private Use Only) - Noupe
Free SEO Icons Set (16 Icons, Private Use Only) – Noupe

 

Women's Day Icons | Cute Little Factory
Women’s Day Icons | Cute Little Factory

 

Free Apple iPad Icon Set for Your Website Designs
Free Apple iPad Icon Set for Your Website Designs

 

mac 3D icon set by LeMex on deviantART
mac 3D icon set by LeMex on deviantART

 

Soda Pop Caps Icons | Cute Little Factory
Soda Pop Caps Icons | Cute Little Factory

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Freebies: Twitter Icons for Your Blog

If you are looking to get more people to follow you on Twitter, placing one of these beautifully designed icons on your blog or website will certainly help. I have assembled an amazing collection of free Twitter icons from which to choose. I am confident that one of these cute little birds will fit your design needs. So go ahead and use one of these Twitter icons in your next project. Enjoy!

Tweet!

Tweet!
Tweet!

Free pixey birrrdfon twitter icons

free pixey birrrdfon twitter icons
Free pixey birrrdfon twitter icons

Freebies: 2 Awesome Twitter Icons

Freebies: 2 Awesome Twitter Icons
Freebies: 2 Awesome Twitter Icons

Twitter Square Icons

Twitter Square Icons
Twitter Square Icons

Twitter Block Icons

Twitter Block Icons
Twitter Block Icons

Please Don’t Tweet Me! Free Thanksgiving Turkey Twitter Icons

Please Don’t Tweet Me! Free Thanksgiving Turkey Twitter Icons
Please Don’t Tweet Me! Free Thanksgiving Turkey Twitter Icons

Twitter Icons Pack by Hasan Huseyin Gunes

Twitter Icons Pack by Hasan Huseyin Gunes
Twitter Icons Pack by Hasan Huseyin Gunes

REDmillion Stupid looking Twitter Bird

REDmillion Stupid looking Twitter Bird
REDmillion Stupid looking Twitter Bird

Twitter Icon

Twitter Icon
Twitter Icon

Archigraphs Bird Dock Icons

Archigraphs Bird Dock Icons
Archigraphs Bird Dock Icons

Twitter dock icons

Twitter dock icons
Twitter dock icons

Tweetman Twitter Icons

Tweetman Twitter Icons
Tweetman Twitter Icons

Twitter Icons

Twitter Icons
Twitter Icons

Twitter Style Bird Icons

Twitter Style Bird Icons
Twitter Style Bird Icons

Twi-birds icons

Twi-birds icons
Twi-birds icons

Twitter Icon

Twitter Icon
Twitter Icon

IconTexto Twitter Buttons

IconTexto Twitter Buttons
IconTexto Twitter Buttons

Twitter Eggs

Twitter Eggs
Twitter Eggs

Twitter Icons with Attitude

Twitter Icons with Attitude
Twitter Icons with Attitude

Soccer Twitter for OzTips

Soccer Twitter for OzTips
Soccer Twitter for OzTips

Mad Scientist Twitter Icon

Mad Scientist Twitter Icon
Mad Scientist Twitter Icon

Twitter Birds

Twitter Birds
Twitter Birds

Twitter Bird Icon Set

Twitter Bird Icon Set
Twitter Bird Icon Set

Twi-birds icons

Twi-birds icons
Twi-birds icons

Cute Twitter Icon Pack-II

Cute Twitter Icon Pack-II
Cute Twitter Icon Pack-II

Twitter Icons

Twitter Icons
Twitter Icons

40 Cute Free Twitter Graphics: Badges, Icons & Buttons

40 Cute Free Twitter Graphics: Badges, Icons & Buttons
40 Cute Free Twitter Graphics: Badges, Icons & Buttons

The Cutest Freebies: Twitter Bird Icons & Illustration

The Cutest Freebies: Twitter Bird Icons & Illustration
The Cutest Freebies: Twitter Bird Icons & Illustration

Lovely Twitter Icons by Catmy

Lovely Twitter Icons by Catmy
Lovely Twitter Icons by Catmy

Twitter 1

Twitter 1
Twitter 1

Twitter 2

Twitter 2
Twitter 2

Twitter 3

Twitter 3
Twitter 3

Tweet Tweet Cute Tweet: Another Free Twitter Bird Icon

Tweet Tweet Cute Tweet: Another Free Twitter Bird Icon
Tweet Tweet Cute Tweet: Another Free Twitter Bird Icon

Twitter Icon by Antonist

twitter icon by antonist
Twitter icon by Antonist

Tweet Bird

tweet bird
Tweet Bird

Twitter Bird by freakyframes

Twitter Bird by freakyframes
Twitter Bird by freakyframes

Twitter bird icon

Twitter bird icon
Twitter bird icon

IconTexto Webdev Social Bookmark

IconTexto Webdev Social Bookmark
IconTexto Webdev Social Bookmark

Birdies: Cute Free Twitter Icons For Your Blog

Birdies: Cute Free Twitter Icons For Your Blog
Birdies: Cute Free Twitter Icons For Your Blog

Download your Free Twitter Bird

Download your Free Twitter Bird
Download your Free Twitter Bird

Free Twitter Buttons & Tags

Free Twitter Buttons & Tags
Free Twitter Buttons & Tags

Free TwitterFun Icons

Free TwitterFun Icons
Free TwitterFun Icons

Tweetbird Free Twitter Icon

Tweetbird Free Twitter Icon
Tweetbird Free Twitter Icon

Tweeties: a Free Twitter Icon Set

Tweeties: a Free Twitter Icon Set
Tweeties: a Free Twitter Icon Set

Twitter Bird Icons 01

Twitter Bird Icons 01
Twitter Bird Icons 01

Tweetle

Tweetle
Tweetle

50 Free and Exclusive Twitter Icons

50 Free and Exclusive Twitter Icons
50 Free and Exclusive Twitter Icons

Inside twitter icon

Inside twitter icon
Inside twitter icon

Twitter icon

Twitter icon
Twitter icon

Twitter Icon

Twitter Icon
Twitter Icon

Free Twitter Bottle Cap Icons

Free Twitter Bottle Cap Icons
Free Twitter Bottle Cap Icons

Colorful Twitter Icons

Colorful Twitter Icons
Colorful Twitter Icons

Freebie: Exclusive Twitter Birds Set!

Freebie: Exclusive Twitter Birds Set!
Freebie: Exclusive Twitter Birds Set!

The Social Bird icon set – The First Inspired Release

The Social Bird icon set – The First Inspired Release
The Social Bird icon set – The First Inspired Release

Colourflow : Twitter icon

Colourflow : Twitter icon
Colourflow : Twitter icon

Free Twitter Air Freshener Icons

Free Twitter Air Freshener Icons
Free Twitter Air Freshener Icons

Twitter icon

Twitter icon
Twitter icon

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