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App Icon Design Best Practices

Search for an app in the App Store or Google Play and you’ll see why a great app icon design is so important. Along with the app name and screenshots, the app icon is one of the most prominent elements in the search results.

A poorly designed app icon could cause your app to look less appealing or credible, and discourage users from clicking through to your page, or downloading your app.

Having a high-quality and relevant app icon is obviously important. Here are three pointers we give to any company having an app icon designed:

1. Keep your app icon design simple

There’s a reason so many popular apps have minimally-designed app icons. It’s because these designs must look great at a small size.

Viewers need to be able to know what they looking at, with a glance.

The following app icons are great examples of simple app icon designs that work at a variety of sizes. From left to right you have: Skype, Evernote, Twitter, Hubspot and Dropbox.

Simple app icon design examples

 

2. Don’t use your company logo as the app icon design

Your marketing department insists on using your company logo as the app icon – but there are truly few situations where this actually works or makes sense.  Here’s why:

Example app icon designs with and without a logo1. A mobile phone screen is a tiny canvas. How great does your logo actually look when shrunk down to 120 by 120 pixels? Does it still comply with your brand guidelines? Can you read it?

2. An app icon is exactly that – an icon. If you’re lucky, your logo design already includes an icon – such as Slack’s hashtag, Hubspot’s hub, the Southwest heart – in which case that design element should absolutely be made into the icon. A text-based logo is just not meant to be an icon. It lacks creativity; and even Apple advises against using text in your app icon design.

3. The name in your logo is already going to be printed right below your app icon on the home screen. Go have a look at your phone, every app has a name under it. Repeating that name in the icon is redundant and a wasted opportunity.

 

2. Use an image to tell a story

If your logo already has an icon as part of the design – like Expedia, Hubspot and Alltrails, we recommend using that as your app icon. If not, then now is a great time to have a brand icon designed that is clever and memorable. Some app icons that use an image to tell a story include:

App icon design examples

Final Thoughts

If your company is having an app developed, be sure to invest in a quality app icon design to go with it. This icon should be consistent with your branding, simple and memorable. If you’ve partnered with an app development agency like Big Fish, they should have an experienced app icon designer as part of their team.

I hope you now feel a little more prepared for the app icon design process. Stay inspired!

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Sara @ Big Fish

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara MacQueen is the Founder and President of Big Fish - a custom software design and development studio in Tampa Florida and Raleigh North Carolina. She was named one of "25 Mobile Women to Watch" and has been interviewed by local and national media for her expertise in mobile technology and business.