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5 Tips on How to Design an iPhone App Icon

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Generally there is a lot of work behind creating an app for the iPhone or iPad, but in order to make the app really stand out in the sea of others on App Store, the little details can sometimes do the trick. Like, for example, the app icon. The icon is actually really important because good design can get the user to try out an app, and besides, this little image is the first thing they will see any time they use the app. Therefore, the icon design should be approached very carefully because it truly is the face of the app. Now here are some useful tips to help you with it.

1. Beauty is in the little things

The icon has limited design space (57×57 pixels for the app itself), so it shouldn’t be oversaturated by unnecessary details that no one will study or even pay attention to anyway. Minimalism, a clean look and an economic use of color always seem to do it in design, and it is sure to look professional from a user’s point of view.

Example: Pocket

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2. Details matter

A minimalist approach doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to details. Actually, it is exactly this kind of approach that makes it necessary to accentuate the limited number of details the icon is made up of in a way that will make it stand out in a slew of others. Designers usually use a varied color palette, shadows, reflection effects, contrasts and other similar tools that can help turn an ordinary icon into an extraordinary one.

Example: Dark Sky

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3. Avoid texts!

An icon should speak a visual language; in other words, it is a graphic representation of a concept or a function, and its design should avoid words or typography of any kind. Besides, using any descriptions or slogans in the icon just reduces its visual appeal, and it’s doubtable how legible a text in such a small space can be anyway. There are, however, some exceptions, in the sense that an icon can be very effective if it consists only of one or two stylized letters; for example, a variation of a logotype of the brand that launched the app.

Good example: MiniatureCam

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4. A sense of ‘reality’ can make a difference

Have you ever noticed how visual elements of certain icons have a high level of reality, a kind of three-dimensional look? That kind of an approach is a sure shot, and not only in app icon design. A rich texture, a glossy effect, curved lines and see-through elements are only some of the ways to give your icon a realistic look and leave an impression that a lot of effort and attention to detail have gone into it.

Example: Pro Keys

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5. Icon as a message

The icon design should be in accordance with the app’s function itself. In other words, the user should intuitively understand what the app is for based on the icon. For example, if the icon contains funny or caricature characters it is probably some kind of a game or fun app. An icon whose design contains the illustration of a pencil or pieces of paper, on the other hand, suggest that it is an app used to write notes or organize activities. In other words, the icon should already at first sight let the user know what a certain app can generally be used for.

Example: NoteMaster

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