Every day emerges a new way of designing things, although they might not be recognized due to various aspects. However, when they do, they become trends to the point of tiredness. But we’re not here today to establish trends in icon design. What we’re going to do is to analyze 5 concepts of designing icons, new characteristics or “patterns” that could become relevant, and the characteristics concerning new paradigms.
We have to say, experimentation might seem one of the new things which has been going on in icon design. Not so many years ago, we’ve been used to a lot of realistic design, which basically did not change from its foundation, although it suffered little upgrades due to the improvement in devices quality. But in recent years, the rise of flat design took the world by surprise, and albeit you can find some really good work in icon design, most of it is experimental.
One example of it can be appreciated even in relevant companies like Apple. As this article points out (an obvious statement if you think about it, and something we mention a while back) while designing the icons for iOS 7, there were, in fact, multiple teams onboard, and they were competing with each other, which makes sense when you look at some icons and don’t see a defined style, but instead the confrontation of multiple styles. Of course, it would be naive to think this is a “final product”. This experimentation is, in fact, something that needs to improve, and the most possible thing is that it changes.
The necessary redesign
When companies took a long time to deliver different options on their product’s design, they have two options: they change and succeed or they don’t and surrender. This is the case of Facebook, which interface has changed regularly through the years, but when it comes about iconic symbols, like the Facebook Thumbs up image, they haven’t will be removed from the user interface according to this article. This makes sense semantically since there was always the problem of liking “unlikable” things, like a disaster or a death. The new redesign of the icon might solve that partially because the word “like” would still be present, although Facebook said they would give relevance to the share button, which could be a more suitable option for that kind of situation.
Emerging design: organic design
Now that environmental issues are on the table of individuals and governments all around the world, designers have been focusing in natural styles, inspired by the shape of trees, plants, and animals, with the interest of transmitting organic values and a communion between nature and us. It also involves environmental issues like urban farming, the use of the bicycle and green architecture, most of them created because this is becoming an important for clients who want to “green” their websites and apps.
This are some examples regarding natural icon design:
These two icons created by Jason Smith convince perfectly both natural and outline concepts.Trees, rivers and other elements of nature can be represented in different styles like in this design by Daniel Patrick Simmons.You can actually unite elements of nature to create expressions, like in these icons designed by Rosie Manning.Shapes and vectors can easily be converted to nice representations of natural elements, like in this design by Rogie King.Another icon design by Daniel Patrick Simmons resembling mountains.Here, the studio Tie a Tie shows us how to create a fox icon with the help of guides.
It is not strange to see a rising of outlined icons and, as you can see in this nice tutorial, they are not difficult to create. In this category, we can appreciate many different styles which complement the previous work of other designers who created great icons for all sorts of projects. Is important to note that, as a rule, designers don’t tend to use outlines of different thickness, even if they need to. Here are some examples of outlined icons.
This set of icons has a nice style, composed of more than one type of outline and colors. On the other hand, the outlines in this set are complemented by irregular outlines working as small pieces of every icon’s content. Created by Amit Jakhu.These two icons created by Q. Li make the outer circle part of the design, although they have no specific line width.Here, we can see a set of rounded corner outline icons created by Antonin Nhek. Its main characteristic is that they have rounded corners and a specific thickness.The prominent feature of this set by Cam Wei is the shape of the relevant corners of the buildings, for instance, the antennas.
Long Shadow Icons
There has been an increment in the amount of designers that started to design long shadow icons. This kind of design includes incredibly long shadows, and they look very cool, but they have a reduced use and some layouts do not look good with this kind of icons. The shadow, in this type of design becomes another design element, even as relevant as the rest of them.
The following are some examples of long shadow flat icons.
In this set of icons created by IconShock, the shadows are nicely integrated to create a smooth effect without darkening the icon itself.
This is a nice experiment by Autumn Zheng on how different shadows look and give us and why long shadows look great.
Nice chess knight by Andy Mangold with a long shadow effect, perfect for any related app.
Can this be a new trend, please? A flat skeuomorphism! Pretty nice huh?
Sometimes two types of design blend and create awesome new things, that’s the case of this set.
Retro Flat? we’ve seen some of this elements before, and they look awesome!
Whether you call them trends or just experiments, these concepts are worth to keep an eye on since they have been used for a while and they can represent important design movements in the near future. In the meantime, we can just have fun to adding these icons to our websites, projects or mobile apps.