Icons have become daily occurrences in our visual language. They can add visual interest, break up text, and act as navigation cues. It may seem like a small detail in your branding or website design, but don't underestimate the impact these visual cues can have. A good icon system can cross language and literacy barriers, and provide your audience a better experience.
Mandalu Designs has it's own set of icons (above) that were developed to communicate core values of the brand: illumination, outreach, connectivity, and messaging. Below is an exploration of another style and some tips to keep in mind.
Tips for effective icons:
- Don't reinvent the wheel. You want your icons to be unique and clever, but they also need to communicate clearly and quickly. If a visual exists that communicates your point - use it. Don't overthink ways to indicate "teacher" when an apple clearly signals that idea.
- Consider your audience. Especially if you are reaching international platforms. Some symbols don't translate the same way across cultures. A thumbs up can say "good job" or "up yours" depending on where you are.
- Keep it simple. Remember, you want your icon to communicate quickly and without doubt as to what it represents. It needs to work big or small, full color or black and white.
- Stick to your branding. Always keep in mind your organization's branding when designing or selecting icons. Do clean lines and flat colors or hand drawn lines fit with the rest of your brand?
- Think of the whole picture. Your icons should be able to work when shown all together and individually. Visual cues - like the hand drawn lines I used here - symbols, or repeating items can help maintain a cohesive whole.
- Hire a designer. Whether you create original icons or select from stock, a designer can bring expertise on providing your organization the right assets to elevate your message and avoid confusion.
To illustrate this week's highlighted Mandalu Service, I created a series of icons for a fictional Creative Writing Scholarship. Hand drawn lines and simplified details create fun, youthful, and effective icons that could be used in a print piece, email, or website.