Icons are small images which represent something specific. Icons are used on websites, product packaging, signage, and much more as a way to help customers and consumers understand the product, find what they are looking for, or comprehend what they are viewing. The advantage of using icons instead of text is that they are often more attractive, take up less space, and are easier for people to follow. For example, the small icon of a shopping cart in the top right hand corner of an e-commerce store’s website is now universally known as the place where people’s products are kept until they are ready to check out.
The idea of tiny cartoon images doesn’t really evoke the thought of professionalism – however if desinged correctly, icons can be very professional and used in multiple professional settings. Icons aren’t only for websites and instructions for building cheap furniture. Once you have a collection of cusotm icons deisgned for you, there’s a good chance you will end up using them all the time. Here are some different places that icons are helpful:
- Press kits
- Technical directions
- Employee handbooks
While there are thousands of free icons available online, having branded and unique icons designed just for your company is relatively inexpensive. The advantage of having something custom made is that 1) it will represent your company and help you stand out and 2) you will have all rights to the icons and never have to worry about your competitors using the same icons as your company. That being said, it is important to work with a design firm that has the experience and technical skills to produce high quality icons which will be effective and professional. Here are some of the key elements of professional grade icons:
- Simple - A good icon will get its point across without much fanfare. Just one or two color, simple lines, few or no words, and scalabe so it can be used in many different sizes will ensure a simple yet effective icon.
- Effective - A good icon must not be confusing. You will only be able to give one direction or convey one message with each icon, but there professional icons are never confusing or frustrating. For example, the cell phone bars everyone sees at the top of their phone quickly relay the information of how good the phone’s current reception is without any confusion.
- Aesthetic - While icons are simple, they still should look good. A professional design firm will have the a staff with the skills necessary to make icons which don’t have much to them but still look great thanks to eye-catching colors, well designed edges, movement if necessary, and more.