What Makes a Good Icon? There are three things which make for a good icon: 1. An icon must be universally recognized 2. Icons must be clear and concise 3. Icon design must adhere to platform guidelines Icons can be compared to cars (no really they can!). A flashy looking hot-rod will turn a few heads, but when it comes down to it, most people need a reliable “point A to B” vehicle. We don’t want a world without hot-rods, I for one love them, but it’s important to know what’s appropriate for your situation. In contrast, an icon with an excellent construction and bad rendering will mostly be met with a negative response (It’s ugly, I don’t want to use it, etc.). Now that I have you thinking about cars, let’s kick into full gear, cruise the Autobahn of design guidelines and leave the “clunkers” choking on our dust.
1. An Icon Must be Universally Recognized Icons improve user productivity and are generally understood faster than text. With over a billion personal computers worldwide — and mobile devices are predicted to overshadow this number in the future — it’s important for software developers to appeal to a global audience. If an icon is based around an object or metaphor that only appeals to a small section of the community it will frustrate more people than it helps. On a larger scale, what may be recognized in one country may not be recognized in another. A popular example is the Toolbar icon for email. We all know that email is commonly represented by an envelope, but why when you could also use a postbox? The answer is cultural context. You will find postboxes all around the globe, but what you may not know is that the design of a postbox is completely different depending on