Categories: Mobile Apps


Businesses used to have a sign outside their front door. Now they have icons. That’s right: icons have all but replaced old-school media like signs, business cards and office stationery. As a mobile app developer, your icon is your calling card. It’s the first impression that users get of your business – and for many app successes, it becomes the reigning symbol of a brand.

So what makes a great mobile app icon?

Mobile app icons should be clear, simple and word-free

Mobile app icons should be clear and simple.

Mobile app icons should be clear and simple.

Icons don’t give you much design real estate to work with. That’s why clarity, simplicity and readability are key. Aim for a design that encapsulates your brand using clear, pictorial design. Your icon isn’t your logo, so don’t just cram your wordmark onto it. In fact, you should avoid using words wherever possible – and avoid photographic design as well. Icons are about abstraction. They’re meant to be a graphical representation, a visualization of the product the user is about to encounter.

Mobile app icons should be scalable to the max

Your icon isn’t static. It will be displayed at a range of sizes and resolutions across the platform you’re working with. That’s why scalability is so key. Well designed icons are clear, readable and distinct at all sizes – whether on a retina screen, in the App Store, or squashed down on the Settings panel. You can design for scalability by keeping your icon focused on one key element, checking it against a variety of backgrounds, and testing your concept at different resolutions as you go.

Mobile app icons should be distinct and recognizable

Mobile app icons should be distinctive.

Mobile app icons should be distinctive.

Your icon is a bit like a business card, so it needs to set you apart from your competitors. Is it distinct from the others in the App Store? Is it easily distinguished on your home screen? At the same time, you don’t want to be too different. You want your design to clearly be a part of a particular genre or family of apps so that users know what they’re getting straight off the bat. Your design needs to strike a balance between being novel and distinct and being recognizable and meaningful.

Mobile app icons should be consistent with your app

It goes without saying that your icon should be indicative of the larger app experience. The look, feel and design should tie in with your app’s overall aesthetic. Consider your icon as an extension of your app – not as something separate. You can improve consistency by aligning the color palettes of your app and your icon, and by using design elements that are symbolic of the app’s function. A cloud, for example, suggests a weather app, while a music note suggests a music app.

Haven’t thought about your mobile app icon? It’s time you did.

Your icon shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be something you’ve considered throughout the mobile app design process. After all, in many ways it’s the very distillation of your app: its look, themes and functionality condensed into one tiny picture. So make yours iconic.



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Touchtap is a mobile development agency specializing in mobile development. Learn how to get mobile applications developed.

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