The Curious Link Between Icon Design and Candies


Do you like candies? Come on, even if your outer adult doesn’t want to admit it, your inner child is reaching with its palms out! Do you remember when you were a kid with how much attention you paid when you were selecting which candies to buy in the local candy shop?

Because you couldn’t taste the sweets without buying them first, you wouldn’t know how delicious the candy was. The only way to choose was to pick a candy with an appealing label (FYI – I liked chupa-chups as a child!)

By the same token, AppStore has become a huge candy shop for people who are after interesting apps, services and business solutions. An application is like a piece of candy and every application / piece of candy has its own icon thumbnail in the store / label on the wrapper. The bright colors and lush fonts all attracted your eye in the candy shop first, so why should your application icon be any different?

Does your application icon attract attention? What message is your icon sending?

The icon really builds up the desire in a person browsing the AppStore to try & buy the application. This mean that application icon design isn’t just another aspect of application design but rather a necessity.

“Could you buy candy without wrapper? – I don’t, because the best tasting candies are the wrapped ones!”

The icon / wrapper should motivate a user to try and buy the application / candy. If your application is everything your clients need, then you need to present it like so! Everything is important when it comes to icon and other forms of design: the colors, the materials and the most important – informativeness. What are your main and secondary messages?

And so this is the problem with most applications on the AppStore

They neglect the icon design. Do you? Today, an increasing number of new application icons deviate extremely from these rules entirely. Highly detailed icons have become a very popular trend for the last year.

At first everything was fine and fresh – real-world objects were stylized and placed in the design of an iOS icon (square with rounded corners). As time went on, and the AppStore become more popular over time, and so these ideas were repeated ad nauseum.

Imagine a customer searching for applications that all look the same with hundreds of identical camera, box and other objects but all completely differ in functionality. All this started an arms race of ever increasing icon detail which comes from a place of pure ignorance!

A majority of users only see the icon in 114x114px size (if we talk about iPhone 4) and sparingly few view the icon in a resolution of 512x512px if they download it from their desktop iTunes. Most users never even see the 512x512px icon!

It doesn’t puts an end to high quality and detailed icons in 512x512px. They are actively used for promotional materials and other important goals but we must not make this the main canvas which we design the icon from. It is secondary, supporting material.

The icon should just be an icon

Now that that’s clear, what’s next?

Clients will have an interest in staying ahead of this trend and will want to incorporate this into their icons too. This is because very soon, almost all new applications will be similar to each other and it will be harder to differentiate from the rest of the pack and thus will stop working from a marketing point of view.

This is where the clever designers shine and go with the trend curve by analyzing their icons and cutting off the excess. By thinking about the application in the icon methodology, they will focus on the bigger picture – unique branding rather than trying to cram all design skills into the small, minute details of the icon.

Eventually, everything will return to the pure form and color. The icon will be a logo and branding books will have a new page that show how to use logos in icons.

Will the creation of such the application logo’ be faster? No.

Easier? Probably not.

Will clients understand this? It all depends on us – the designers.

Where our work begins, so do the creation and promotion of these trends.

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