In the field of graphic design, paying attention to the small details is as important as taking care of the big ones. This prevailing philosophy is what separates good designs from mediocre ones, and a good designer from an average one. Tiny things – small, seemingly irrelevant things that can be easily overlooked – can actually make or break a design. Moreover, to initiate a seamless exchange and flow of information, every aspect of a design has to be perfected.
One often overlooked, yet vital element of designing, are icons. Icons have universal symbolization, which gives it an automatic edge over a design sans icons. It is due to this very global nature of icons that makes them such a crucial part of web designing.
Icons play a multifaceted role – they convey the message of the website/webpage to the viewers directly, in a compressed format. Thus, to ensure good feedback and responsiveness, icons need to be used appropriately, and correctly. Often, many designs fail to use icons that blend in with the rest of the page, thus rendering the icons useless. So how exactly can icons be used to exploit their potential to the maximum?
Icons have to be legible
There is no point in using ten icons in a design if all of them are illegible and visually unappealing. Icons need to have beautiful designs – they have to appeal to the aesthetic sense of the viewers. Always remember, people will remember your icons for two reasons – either they look striking and fascinating, or they look like such a complete disaster that forgetting them will be tough. Needless to say, you know which category you want your icons to fall into.
The more universal the character of your icons, the better
While choosing your icons, make sure that they can be easily taken in by your viewers. Since icons deal with the various interpretations of imagery, the icon that you design has to be universal in nature, and should in no way produce confusion among the people who see it.
A standard example of the universal icon is a gear, or a wrench, which has been used as an icon of the control panel/settings/tools menu or link. So naturally, if you use a wrench icon in your design which does not have a link to the preferences section of the website, the average viewer will be bound to get confused.
Icons need to complement the central idea of your website
Your icons need to be designed in such a way so that they effortlessly blend in with the theme of the website. Before you choose/design your icons, ask yourself if the general motif of the website will be serious or comical, crisp or flamboyant, creative or plain, etc. The answers to these questions should determine the nature and design of your icons.
In graphic design, colors and textures are completely thematic – and the same can be said for icons. They have to be occasional, and represented specifically for them to hold any meaning and/or value.
However creative you may be, you can’t have a website with icons that keep changing shapes and colors every week. When it comes to icons – and their proper usage – consistency is of the utmost importance. Icons that are inconsistent result in a breakage in the smooth flow of ideas – something that needs to be avoided at all costs.
Using a steady color scheme for your icons, as well as maintaining the same shapes and profiles is very important. Also, remember to design your icons on a constant basis without using shadows and borders as much as possible, as borders tend to affect the quality – both aesthetic and technical – of the icons.