Have you ever thought about what makes it easier to open an application on a computer or want to open it, in the second place, right after wanting to use it for its purpose? It’s the icon that captivates the user.
Every single one of us remembers, as children, launching an application just because the icon was attractive. This is one of the reasons for all applications to have an icon.
Having an icon is very important for all applications but do we know what goes on behind the process of making one? Do you have an application that you wish to make an icon for but are stuck with where or how to start the process?
Do not fret or worry, the following article has everything to answer the popular query “How to make an icon for my app on Windows 10 or 11?” Without further ado, let’s get right into learning the best procedure to make an icon for your application’s attractiveness.
What is a Computer Application Icon?
A computer icon for an application is a unique sign or symbol that represents the application while allowing the user to interact with it for launching the application. This is something that is unique for all applications.
For example, the icon for the Google Chrome web browser is a multicolored spherical geometric design with a sky blue sphere in the center, that resembles a flower with three equally sized petals – red, yellow, and green.
When the first computer icons were introduced over three decades ago, the entire point of it was to connect the graphic elements to real-life objects and the application so that the user finds it relatable.
If you look at them, the old icons were, generally, objects that you will find in an office. This was because when the concept of icons was come up with, the designers took inspiration from whatever they could lay their eyes upon in their office.
This was also the beginning of visual language communication on computers. In a way, this is responsible for the way Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) evolve into the way they appear and function today on modern and upgraded computers.
What is the purpose of a Computer Icon?
About thirty years after the idea of assigning icons to features on the computer was conceived, the purpose of it has changed and so have the people’s requirements in an application and its icons. As of the 21st century, these are the main reasons why an icon for an application is necessary/used –
Prompts simple interacting
This is the utilitarian purpose of the computer application icon. An icon is a sign for the user to use when they want to access an application without any difficulty. The presence of an icon makes the other harder steps to launch a process obsolete. When a user sees an icon, they interact with it to open the application and this is hardwired across a lot of minds, that use computers, by default.
Makes it clear for every lingual medium
Icons serve as international graphic elements that overcome language barriers by depicting visuals that can easily be comprehended by users from all over the world.
Certain depictions will have users remembering a sign in order to include it in their vocabulary. Typically, this occurs when individuals are exposed to new theories or technology to which they must get used. This is the other purpose of having an icon for an application.
Improves eye to mind co-ordination of the user
It has been scientifically proven that visual elements attract human eyes more than just text. This will also increase the viewer’s want to interact with the image more.
Applications with boring text icons are less attractive than those with a symbol for an icon. Besides, an icon with a few application-relevant images is always aesthetically pleasing to look at.
They look good
A good-looking icon can make more system users look at it. This will prompt interaction and this is what is expected from them. Deep down all of us know that is the exact same marketing strategy that stores use; placing the good-looking objects for obvious view. This is based on the theory that visual triggers are more captivating to the human eye.
What to do and What not to do when you create icons?
There are some Dos and Don’ts for icon designers to follow when you are making application icons on any platform.
Less Complicated Icons
Simple icons are the best. Too many elements in the icon can be too much for the user to comprehend. Everything you have included in the icon might have some form of significance but they may not be necessary.
It might look efficient to you but to others, it could come out as clutter. We have seen several application logos that could have been optimized before they were published as the final output.
Basic Shapes make it easier to work on
A lot of logos come in simple shapes like circles, squares, and even triangles. These icons come out to be more reaching than other complicated ones. When you start with basic shapes, you might be able to come up with more intricate icons that should look good. If the simple shape is not the final icon, you can always build upon it.
Use a small color palette
Colors make your artwork more beautiful but do not make it too colorful. The icon is made of much fewer pixels than an actual image. This means that you cannot overload these few pixels with a lot of different shades.
This will make it really uncomfortable to look at. If you are familiar with the color theory, you should be able to choose the perfect color for the icon you are designing.
No text in the icon
The point of using an icon is to replace the text for accessing the application and its features. If you are considering fitting the entire name of the software in the symbol, do not; there will be other better options.
As an exception, you can use a single alphabet or an acronym in the icon for easier identification. For instance, the icon for Adobe Premiere Pro is a purple square with rounded edges, and in it, the letters “Pr”. This is a simple logo for an application whose dedicated logo is the first two letters of the application’s name.
Factors to Address when you design an icon
When you are designing a logo/icon for the application you need to design one for, there are four major factors that you need to look into. With these requirements fulfilled, you would be making the best possible icon that the users find relevant and relatable.
How the icon looks are very important since this is what we are striving to create – an image that would make the users remember the application well. It is very important for the icon to be relevant and appropriate for all users.
It is very important that this is not negatively targetted towards any individual or community. It is also important for the icon to look inviting and not aggressive. The exceptions for this include action and shooting video games only.
Every application icon has an intangible aesthetic value that not many designers look into. This could be a very tiny factor or an element in the logo that makes it so good to look at or interact with.
For instance, the Discord mascot, Wumpus, on its logo has the shape of a game controller. Considering that Discord is mainly used by gamers to communicate in-game, this design adds a little aesthetic touch that wouldn’t exist with the previous Wumpus design.
The most important factor to look into while making an icon is to make one that signifies the application and its purpose. If you are making an icon for a photo editing application, it will not look relevant if you use an element that has nothing to photos or editing.
This might look like we are restricting your creativity but what we mean is that the icon you design has to be of significance to the application that it is being designed to represent.
Ability to attract users
The core of an application’s emblem, or what makes it distinctive, determines the software’s recognizability. The viewer’s ability to perceive the thing, idea or activity depicted by an icon ultimately determines whether it works.
Recognizability, in the case of an application icon, can contain aspects that are unusual or surprising, as well as traits that the observer usually associated with that notion.
Remember that recognizability encompasses not just understanding of the thing, idea, or action being portrayed, but also the identification of your individual symbol.
What Tools Can You Use to Create an Icon?
There are two different sets of computer software that you can use to design an application icon with ease.
Graphic Design tools
There is a number of excellent tools used for graphic design and editing. Any of them will be able to help you design the icons that you need for the application. These could be digital tools with elements that you can add, move and delete to make an icon.
Or you can use the tool to edit an image and make adjustments to it to make it an icon for the application. Most of these applications require varying levels of knowledge to work these applications and use them to create content.
Some of these apps include the following –
- Adobe Photoshop (Subscription)
- Adobe Illustrator (Subscription)
- Adobe Spark (Subscription)
- Microsoft Paint 3D (Free)
- Gimp (Free)
Online Icon Generation websites or applications
There are several icon or logo generation websites on the internet that will make you one instantly, with some input. You will even be shown a number of options that you can choose from. The last time we tried to test an interface like this, we were asked to enter the name of the brand and the sector it was designed for.
Since we were generating a logo for a game, we were shown several options related to the genre of the game. This is an option for developers who do not want to spend much time in the icon designing process. This helps you focus on the functioning of the application, rather than how the accessibility options look like to those who use it.
Choosing which kind of tool you wish to use for making an icon could be more daunting than you can imagine. There are different requirements, for both these types of icon creation tools, on the basis of time, effort, pre-requisite knowledge of the interface, and maybe, pricing.
Alternatively, you can outsource this to a professional graphic designer with details that you want them to know while designing your icon. But why do that when you can have the fun of doing it on your own?
Tips to make the best icons for your Windows PC
We have six design tips for you that will help you make the best possible icon for your Windows application. Make sure that you follow all of them for getting a standard output on your icon designing process.
Begin the designing with a grid
A grid is a base for your icon that is the easiest to work on. This is basically a page or a blank screen with several squares for precision while placing or drawing more elements while designing.
This is a technique that is used by artists to make bases for bigger portraits. It is a great idea to use this technique as we will also be making art, digitally. With the grid, the maker would be able to add or remove any other shapes easily.
Because we are making an icon, the grid doesn’t have to be very big. You can just use a 35 x 35 grid to work on. It is advisable to have a border about 2 pixels large.
This is the place you can use as a reference to avoid adding elements. The border is highly recommended for square-shaped icons since this border will prevent your design from occupying all the space allotted for an icon.
Use Geometric Shapes as the base for your icons
Beginning your icon productions by sketching out the primary forms using simple circles, rectangles, and triangles is the right way to start the process. Starting with simple geometric forms will sharpen the edges and allow you to conveniently modify the icon’s design while adhering to the grid and form, at any point of the designing process.
Note: If you are using the Adobe Illustrator application, you have made a great choice and you will find this tip very useful.
Add touches to Edges and Angles
It is very important for the curves and angles on your icon to be mathematically accurate to the extent feasible so that it does not appear mechanical and dull.
It never is a good idea to freehand this digital drawing because the output will definitely become inconsistent. An icon riddled with inconsistency is not a good icon but a subpar one that lacks quality and maybe, even other aspects to look for in an icon.
Maintain Design Element Consistency
The previous tip was to emphasize icon consistency for your work and this one is to maintain the same for the elements you will be using for designing. This could be lines, shapes, angles, and even other objects. Only when this is kept at the right level, will you be able to adjust the aesthetic value of the icon you are working on.
Keep an eye for Details
Details are important but never too many details. An icon must be able to express a concept or a subject in a very short amount of time; this is good for identity promotion.
When there are too many little elements, the icon becomes more complicated and even messy, at times. This makes it harder for the user to recognize the icon, considering that an icon is only a few pixels tall and wide.
The amount of detail you put into one or more icons is also significant for the icons’ aesthetic value. When you are trying to decide on the proper degree of detail and decoration for an icon, a principle you have to keep in mind is to include the lowest possible number of elements required to make the icon stand out in all its glory.
The icon has to stand out from the rest
Several icons are designed while keeping in mind a non-existent set of rules set by those who do graphic designing. Some are being limited by those who have several conditions for making the icon. Your icon can be inspired by anything relatable to what your application does.
As a designer, it is a bonus when you think out of the box and does not stick to the current trends in the field, at any point in time. It is also important to understand that there are and has to be certain boundaries to this.
How to Make an icon for Windows 10/11?
There are five steps involved in creating an icon to represent not just an application but also a company, service, or any other organization. Even one of these steps cannot be skipped as they involve starting from scratch to the ending.
- Research for the perfect icon idea
- Designing the icon
- Making Adjustments with the icon
- Exporting the final output
- Publishing it
Creating an icon for your Windows 10 PC
Research for the perfect icon idea
Doing your research before starting to work on such a project is a must. Try finding content that is relevant to the application and if you are lucky, you could stumble upon some great metaphors.
These can be very unique to your icon. You might also find something that has sentimental value to you as an individual, which makes it worth more to you.
Dedicated research will always give you more ideas to design the perfect icon. By the end of your research, you will have a lot of options for you to choose from. The one you find most apt can be taken to the next level.
Designing the icon
With the ideas or concepts that you have in mind, you can now start making them come true with your computer. If you have a visual of how you want the icon to turn out, make a sketch of it on paper. This will also give you something of a reference to look at while working on.
Designing the icon is the most complicated portion of this process. It can take a really long time to get the perfect output. Anyone can make mistakes or you might not get the icon to turn out to be the way you want it to be.
The only piece of advice we learned is to save the changes you make as frequently as possible. Then, you will not lose data and the minor changes you made, which cannot easily be spotted.
Making Adjustments with the icon
The odds of getting the perfect icon on the first try are really less. As we mentioned earlier, any designer can make mistakes and it will take time to fix the most intricate ones. This is the process where you review all the content and make the necessary changes.
Once you are done adjusting the icon, make sure that you have included everything that you wanted to. When the double-checking is complete, let’s move on to the second to last step, exporting the designed output.
Exporting the final output
The process of getting the final output is much more complicated than you can think. There are several formats supported by most editing applications for exporting the designs. But there are two formats that were created specifically to accommodate icons – SVG and PNG.
Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) as the name suggests can be scaled to different sizes while maintaining the image quality. On the other hand, Portable Network Graphics (PNG) format is supported by a lot of browsers. It is your call in the end and chooses the one that will fit in with your application.
The last part of making an icon is publishing it. But if you are just the designer, your work ended in the previous step itself. The application’s developers will be able to figure out where to place the icons on the interface and as the tool’s representative icon itself. Give yourself a pat on the back once you reach this step.
Issues that occur while creating icons
Misalignment of elements
A wrongly placed object on the icon may not be good to look at. This will affect the appearance factor of your icon. Since this could also be the representing element of your application, you will need this to be perfect.
This is not a serious issue and can be corrected very easily in the image editor. Tools with the click-and-drag-to-adjust feature make it even easier.
Improper rotation of the shape(s)
Alignment is quite different from rotation. The angle the objects are placed on your icon also affects the way it looks. There will be options for you to adjust the angles so do not fret. But make sure that you have the correct angle before exporting the finished copy.
Incorrect size differences
It is essential to keep the objects you place on the icon within certain boundaries. If not, only a part of the icon will be shown on your computer. Ensure that the elements in your icon stay well within the limits of the borders, we first asked you to set, of the icon.
Wrong export format
The export format is something that is really important to take a look at before publishing the icon. It is a very common mistake to make when the export format is not what it is supposed to be.
Most default output format for several photo editors is JPEG. As mentioned above, PNGs and SVGs are the two recommended image formats to be used to export icons. Make sure that either of these formats is set before you begin the export process.
This article has everything you need to know about making an icon for your Windows 10 or 11 application. We have not mentioned the steps to do so, because the choice of the icon designing application ultimately lies with you. You have all the information you need to make the perfect icon for the application.