Symbols or pictograms carry meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object.
Ancient civilizations have adapted such symbols and developed them into the first logographic writing systems. These symbols were basically the very first icons – as we call them today.
Icons have become inseparable part of visual interfaces for their power to create effective visual communication. Website, application, dashboard of your car, control panel of your washing machine…. if icons are well-designed they are superior to words as a form of communication. They are universally understood, regardless of language.
During the last few decades, designers have illustrated millions of icons helping to make the world and the web, a better place.
Why do I Like to Design My Own Icons?
I’m passionate about cohesive well-designed work.
The Internet is chock full of graphic icon resources and many of them are even free. What’s the purpose of designing custom icons? You can find almost anything that will more or less fit in to your design work. And many designers (even myself) use such a graphic resources from time to time.
So why do we need more of them? Simple, because while you can find some really great icons out there, they don’t necessarily fit your brand, and don’t quite work with your project. Good enough, or almost works – doesn’t work with great design.
The most important reason to create your own icons is customization. Custom icons fit your brand design environment and become an integral part of your brand voice.
Tailored, well-designed icons, are not just a effective communication tool – they work like an extension of your brand.
Design is fun.
Playing with basic shapes – which together create a beautiful image – has been fun for me since childhood. The process enhances my skills and helps push boundaries of my creativity. Of course doing this repeatedly is called a practice. And if you practice a lot you can become better at what you do.
Anytime, even when you don’t have a particular project to design icons for, you can always design just for the sake of practice, and for fun of course. Pick a theme, perhaps your favorite sport, holidays, super heroes, cars… or be more serious – design practical icons for typical genres like the medical, legal or business fields – choice is yours.
Do at least few of them, keep going when you feel like you are on the right path, you might end up with a decent and useful icon pack.
Practice is a great thing- no need to get further into the value of practicing and honing your skills – but the bigger value here for you is the opportunity to share.
Sometimes as a result of your “practice” you’ll have an icons set you can sell on a market place such as Iconfinder or Creativemarket. You heard about passive income opportunities for designers, right? Well, it’s not such a huge thing as they say, but it’s always worth to try – especially when you have something good sitting on your harddrive. Even if you don’t like to sell your artwork you can always offer a freebie. High quality freebies are always very much appreciated by the community and spread your name around – which works for you like a magic marketing tool.
Whether you decide to sell or just to share, be very consistent, make sure your files are perfect, properly organized and never forget to name your layers. Attention to these details will be not only appreciated by other designers, but even your future self will thank you.
How to start?
Ok, this is where the fun begins. Assuming you have already chosen your theme – whether you are designing for a project or just for fun:
look around for ideas
search for similar icons or illustrations
take a look at real pictures of things you are about to illustrate – that’s always very helpful
If you are having hard time to imagining your visions and you are not a drawing master with computer mouse or touchpad, maybe piece of paper and pencil can do it just right for you.
Browse different style examples – Iconfinder, Dribbble, Bechance are perfect places you should definitely stumble upon if you are looking for inspiration. The next step is build your own inspiration gallery – if you don’t use any tool to gather images for inspiration yet, Pinterest is a great free alternative. Pinterest lets you create boards where you can pin images – this way you can easily sort them by style – for example you can create boars for hand drawing style, lined style or flat style.
That’s it. Now pick your direction and start illustrating.
How Do I Illustrate My Own Icons?
Doesn’t mater what tool do you prefer. Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator, I’m not going to judge you. You know best what design tool works for you. My choice is Sketch, for it’s simple user interface, vector capabilities and quick workflows. So, without further ado and because picture speaks thousand words – see bellow the step-by-step creation of one of my icons.
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