Our Ergosign colleagues found out how to correctly design and use icons in the annual Icon Design Kickstarter!
Icons have a huge impact on the usability of a product. If something’s not quite right with the icons, the user is quickly left with a negative impression. Badly designed icons can make a product seem of low quality, and if the metaphor isn’t chosen correctly, a user will have problems correctly interpreting the icon.
In May, I had the honor of spending the day teaching five Ergosign colleagues from various sites the essentials of icon design.
To design an icon, you need more than just a suitable metaphor and a good style - you need tact and an eye for details.
As you generally don’t have much physical space available (e.g. 24px), it’s advisable to reduce something that might be complicated to its basic shapes (square, triangle, circle). Simplifying objects was therefore one of the many topics covered at the Kickstarter.
At Ergosign, we place great importance on a culture of open/healthy discussion, as receiving honest and constructive feedback is essential to learning. That’s why the majority of the workshop is dedicated to practical exercises.
We began with a short warm-up exercise where we drew as many metaphors as possible for terms such as “mechanical”, “washing”, “feeling” and “beginning” in two minutes.
„Any idea is a good idea, except the not-happy ones.“
A tried and tested approach in finding metaphors is to write down all your ideas and thoughts on a piece of paper without judgement. You can then pass all ideas around the room, filtering out the less good ones and building on the good ones. So you don’t feel blocked by internal discussion right away; you can just start designing.
In the main part of the practical exercise, we came up with several versions of icons around the topic “eco”. The primary goal was to find suitable metaphors for topics chosen at random, from “CO2 reduction” and “zero waste” to “urban gardening” and “saving water”.
After each participant had designed various metaphors on paper and found their favourites, the icon was digitally created as an “outline-filled” vector graphic and then presented to the group.
I really enjoyed the Kickstarter, as always, and I’m impressed by the results. I’m looking forward to seeing my new icon design colleagues’ projects!
Marie-Claire has been with Ergosign GmbH since 2012. She is very interested in graphic design and is in charge of classic UX projects as well as the field „illustrations & icons“.