Boosting How to Make an App Icon Correctly

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8 min read
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Apr 27, 2024
In the third quarter of 2022, there were about 3.5 million apps available on Google Play and another 1.6 million on the App Store. Users have plenty of apps and games to play, and competition for them from developers is higher than ever.
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In this article, we explain why an app icon is really important and share the steps to make a perfect app icon.
To attract users’ attention and gain market share, your app must be perfect in everything. The icon that welcomes the user in the store, that lives on his desktop and accompanies him all the time while working with the product, is first and foremost. In this article, we will discuss why the icon of an app or game is so important and how to make it stand out.
Why the app icon matters
Which does the human brain process faster: images or text? The correct answer is images. Visuals are processed much faster than text.
In other words, when a user encounters your app, its icon will be one of the first elements they notice. This is why the app icon plays an important role in App Store Optimization.

While the icon may seem like an insignificant part of your mobile product, consider the following:

  1. The icon of an app directly affects the number of downloads. Since most users search for apps in stores, the icon should be memorable and eye-catching. It is the first thing users see, so developers should work on creating a positive first impression. In addition, a unique icon will stand out on the smartphone’s home screen among others, drawing attention to the app and encouraging users to spend more time in it.
  2. The icon is the bridge between the user and the app. In many cases, a book is judged by its cover. In our case, apps are judged by their icons. A beautiful icon can serve as a good wrapper for your app and generate more interest in it (the right icon can increase the number of installs by up to 40%). While of course, the functionality of your product is of primary importance, the user may never get to it if the app repels them on an aesthetic or emotional level. Conversely, a beautiful icon can establish an aesthetic and emotional connection that will encourage virality.
Is the icon a logo?
No, in the conventional sense, your app’s icon is not a logo at all. While icons do have some of the “branding” qualities of logos, they have many of their own limitations and meanings. Major players in the market use a logo as an icon because it is already a recognizable identity.

You must understand the differences between these concepts.

A logo is a scaled image, an element of company branding, that is used on letterheads and billboards. An icon is a visual representation of your product; it should not just look nice and stand out wherever it is used but also convey the core essence of your app.
How to create a good icon for your mobile app
Step 1: Conception
  1. Here are three rules we recommend following when coming up with a design idea for the perfect app icon.
  2. Focus on your audience. For an icon to work as a marketing tool to increase downloads, it must appeal to your target audience. This should be reflected in the colors, pattern, and overall design.
  3. Be authentic. You are unlikely to strengthen your brand and stand out if your icon looks like your competitor’s icon. Moreover, a bad icon that doesn’t match your brand can confuse users and drive customers away.
  4. Describe your product using visual language. The icon should tell about your app. Create a list of descriptive keywords and brainstorm with your team on how to represent these keywords as symbols or pictures. These can be the basis for the design of the best icon.
Step 2: Platform recommendations for creating app icons
When creating an app, be sure to adhere to the interface of the operating system itself and its accepted norms. In other words, you must be authentic and conform to the standards of the platform and its app store.

Both iOS and Android have developed a specific set of rules regarding templates, style, layouts, etc. You can find Android design guidelines here, and iOS design guidelines here. Below, we’ve compiled a summary of the main differences between these stores:

Google Play Store (Android)
  • Resolution: 512px × 512px
  • Format: 32-bit PNG
  • Colors: sRGB
  • Shape: square — Google Play will automatically round the corners (20% of the icon size) and add shadows
App Store (iOS)
  • Resolution:
  • - iPhone: 180px × 180px (60pt × 60pt @ 3x), 120px × 120px (60pt × 60pt @ 2x).
  • - iPad Pro: 167px × 167px (83,5pt × 83,5pt @ 2x).
  • - iPad, iPad mini: 152px × 152px (76pt × 76pt @ 2x).
  • - App Store: 1024px × 1024px (1024pt × 1024pt @ 1x).
  • Format: PNG
  • Colors: sRGB or P3
  • Shape: square — no rounding or shadows
There are also non-technical differences — for example, Google Play does not recommend using elements denoting a rating, while the App Store does not recommend using weapons, so do a good job of studying the rules of the stores where you are going to publish an app or game.
Different rules do not mean that you necessarily need to design different icons for each OS. Creating a uniform design and tweaking it can save time, money, and effort.
Step 3: Icon design and size
When creating an icon, remember that a beautiful and pleasing image for your product is probably just as important as proper functionality.
Here are some tips that are important to consider from the design stage of the image itself:

1. Remember about scalability. The icon represents the app almost everywhere (in the store, on the home screen, in the task manager, in notifications). Therefore, its size will be different and you need to make sure that your icon will look good everywhere.

2. While loss of detail in different sizes is inevitable, the clarity and original idea should remain. Also, the app icon should be optimized for different devices. There are different tools that allow you to see how the icon will look in a particular format.

3. Make the details to a minimum. The icon should be symbolic. The best way to achieve the desired result is to minimize the amount of detail used in the design. After all, simplicity is the key to success. A simple design conveys a clear message and also fits into the current trend of minimalism in design. In addition, a simple icon helps reduce confusion among your users. The more simple the design is, the easier it is to understand. You can choose one symbolic element and make it the centerpiece of the final icon design.

4. Be unique and recognizable. First of all, a unique image is recognizable. It evokes an emotional connection with your users. Second, uniqueness gives you a competitive advantage. You are unlikely to want to use the same patterns and colors that other developers use. To avoid copying, today’s consumers value authenticity. They don’t want to deal with replicas or pirated copies.

5. Choose colors carefully. It is needless to say that colors affect the overall perception. Color can speak volumes and appeal to the human subconscious.

6. Prefer symbols to text. You don’t need text to make your app icon clear or to tell about your product. In fact, you can do away with text and speak through symbols and images that epitomize your brand identity. However, if you still want to use text, keep it to a minimum. You can insert the name of the app if it’s short, like BBC, for example. In any other case, it’s better to limit the text to one letter. For example, Skype uses the letter “S” and Facebook uses the letter “F”. Adding too much text degrades the readability of the icon, and it will definitely become unreadable at small sizes.

7. Be informative. An effective icon can provide context about the functionality of your app. For example, an e-commerce app might have a bag to represent shopping, a reading app might have a book, a music app might use a musical note, and a fitness app might have a flame to represent burning calories.
Step 4: Testing
The path to the perfect icon that attracts and retains users is found solely through testing. Without feedback, you can’t be sure that your icon works as intended and is maximized.

Testing involves creating multiple design variations and testing them. Android developers can use Google Experiments in Google Play and iOS developers can use Product Page Optimization (PPO) in the App Store, which will allow them to test different elements of the app page, including the icon.

Keep in mind that due to audience differences, icons that work best on Google Play may be less effective on the App Store, and vice versa. As we pointed out above, it’s not necessary to create different designs for iOS and Android. But it’s better to test different variants in the respective app stores to understand which works better.
Creating an icon is the start of success
Today, an icon is an integral part of brand identity and the first point of contact between your app and the user. It plays a key role in attracting the user’s attention to your mobile product. Moreover, it is the perfect tool to present your functionality and communicate your brand message before users even open your app.

Free icon designer maker by Love Mobile

What to consider when creating an icon — checklist:

  1. The icon design should be based on the target audience.
  2. Your app icon should be original.
  3. The icon should reflect the specifics of your app: make a list of key points and brainstorm how to encapsulate these meanings in a visual.
  4. When creating an app icon, it is important to pay attention to the operating system’s interface and conform to its standards.
  5. Keep scalability in mind: the app icon should be optimized for different devices.
  6. It is important to make the icon design as simple as possible. The best way to achieve the desired result is to minimize the number of details used in the design.
  7. Prefer symbols to text. Using text in the icon design can create “noise” that will make it difficult to perceive.
  8. The app icon should be informative and convey context about the functionality of your product.
  9. Test different icon design options. Without feedback, you can’t be sure the icon works as intended.