Six tips on how to create better apps icons

Thursday 22nd August 2013

Bad app icons are among the top three reasons why they get rejected from the App Store during the review process. This is a common mistake made over and over by developers, so we are going to provide you with some top tips on how to not make this pitfall yourself.

The app icon has to stand out from the crowd, as its usually the first place people will encounter your app. When people initially see your app icon in the App Store they build assumptions as to how good the user experience will be, whether they’ll find it enjoyable or knowledgeable.

There are six things that will distinguish every great app icon from the rest:

Tip 1: Focus on a unique shape

App icons are very different with some having different colour or gradients but they all start from a simple shape. The icons can be all different sizes, they are large in the App Store, smaller on the home screen and even smaller in the notification centre/groups. You will need to make sure your image you choose for your app icon can easily be reduced to fit any size, yet still be recognisable.

Tip 2: Carefully select colours

Limited colours used for your app icon is better than trying to pull off a range of colours. Stick to a limited palette of one of two colours, this should match your brand.

Tip 3: Avoid using a photo

Try to avoid photos in app icons. Sipp app is a great example of how an app icon can have the same elements as a photo, but it was illustrated with the shape of the letter ‘S’.

Tip 4: Avoid a lot of text

Try to use no text when designing your app icon, remember the apps aren’t very big so a lot of text will get in the away. Symbols or logos are recommended instead, just like Ness, Pocket, Vine, Snapguide and Pinterest.

Tip 5: Accurately portray materials

This is perhaps a little surprising given the changes in iOS7. Paper is one example, Square wallet also ‘just pops really well’ with it’s hologram and distinct shape. The icon for 1password brilliantly reflects the security of the data and LifeKraze has an app icon that nails the skeuomorphic approach so well.

Tip 6: Be Creative

You want your app icon to stand out and often the trick is to develop the simplest concepts. Sometimes the most complicated designs distract you from what the app is actually about.

Bonus Tip: Test your app icon on different wallpapers

Everyone will most likely have different wallpapers set on their phones or tablets, and whilst your app may look great against the old raindrops, there’s no guarantee it will look just as good on other wallpapers. Try grouping your designs into folders to evaluate how good it looks.

App icons in the App Store

App icons in the App Store

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