Icon Design Made Easier

New to icon design, or perhaps, looking for simple ways to create one? The design guidelines below demonstrate icon design in four easy steps. While the steps follow best practices and principles of effective design, such as clarity and consistency, they should not be looked at as strict rules but rather as a guide only. The guidelines apply to both web icon and print icon design.


But before we go to the steps and best practices, let us first identify the important principles of effective icon design.

  • Form – This refers to how the underlying structure of an icon is made. This can refer to the basic geometric shapes it is made up of and how they’re used in general. Among the shapes you can use are variations of circles, squares, and triangles.
  • Consistency – Make sure all your designs basically share the same elements. These elements include having the same rounded or pointed corners with the same specific size, having consistent light weights, playing with the same style and color palette, among others. Take note of this aesthetic unity especially when designing a set of icons to be used for the same project or brand.
  • Recognition – Other than the icon being legible and clear, recognizability also refers to the icon’s ability to stand out easily and be unique and memorable, while being aesthetically appealing at the same time. Going together with consistency, when creating an icon set, using the same elements for each icon design will help us recognize that they come from the same set.

Now, on to the four simplified steps to help you with icon design:

  1. As with any design project, it’s always best to follow a grid. Set a margin, around 2px, around the grid and avoid going over this margin to provide some legroom.
  2. To follow the form principle, start with geometric shapes – circles, squares, and triangles – as the icon’s foundation. It is also best to use the shape tools instead of hand drawing, as hand drawing cannot assure consistency in edges.
  3. Make everything as mathematically precise without being too mechanical and boring. Focus on corners, edges, curves, angles, and line weights. It is critical that these details are precise to ensure quality.
  4. Use consistent accents or peculiarities and design elements across all icons. These help add recognizability and trademark to your icons. However, remember to use these, along with other details and decorations, sparingly.

The steps above are just basic guidelines and need not be followed accurately all the time. These are just to help you maintain consistency. If you like to share more useful design guidelines, let us know in the comments! Don’t hesitate to contact MicroCreatives if you need design advice and assistance.