On Icon Design

A lot of iPhone developers seem to think that an app's icon should be a scaled down image or highly detailed graphic of some sort, possibly taken from their desktop app. I, albeit having little design sense, think that's the wrong approach. To me, an icon is about representing what your application does in the fewest amount of shapes. Some developers in the store must think the same way I do, as I've found some of the best apps have the simplest icons. For example, the Speed icon consists of three shapes -> a roundrect, a circle and a round-bottomed-triangle (excuse my terminology). Even in black and white you can see how it resembles a dashboard speedometer. I'm not saying that my icon is good (I let Apple do that for me), but it's better than a lot of the crud. Another great icon is that of Things, the to-do list / project management application. It again uses roughly three shapes -> the roundrect, an inner square (or roundrect, depending on how you look at it) and the tick mark. I admit, for some applications it becomes very hard to define in terms of shapes, but it's hard to deny that the simpler icons look best. I'd like to see more application developers thinking about their icon instead of slapping something together and saying "that'll do". There are over ten thousand applications, and a mere handful with icons that don't suck. I'd really like to see that change as iPhone development matures.


  1. Great post! I have taken the same approach with my app icon for Babelingo.

  2. An awesome example! Took me a second looking at it, but it makes perfect sense. Two speech bubbles joined like pieces of a puzzle.

    Clevert art


  3. omg, if only atleast 30% of ppl in the appstore read it, my non themed springboard would look 500% better...... its so hard to find a good game and at the same time not be ashamed of seeing it on your homescreen. less is the new more i guess!! =P

  4. You're very perceptive - kudos to you!

    // dave

  5. Totally agree on the simplicity argument for icons, particularly AppStore icons, where a buyer can easily be swayed between competing apps on the look of the icon alone.

    The AppStore is an eye-candy battleground!

    I've bought loads of apps and my favourites are those who attend to the details, including a beautifully clean app icon.
    Of course I am a designer myself, so maybe i'm a little biased ;-)