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Icon design with Adobe Illustrator

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› Icon design with Adobe Illustrator
  • Published on October 1, 2015

Icon design is increasing in importance as the number of applications being developed grows and the number of internet connected devices is also expanding rapidly. Although icon design was once limited to applications on desktop and laptop computers, it has spread well beyond phones and tablets. From self-service check-in kiosks at airports to watches, portable fitness monitors, and Internet connected appliances in the home, the need for icons is everywhere.

Icon design needs to be intuitive

While designers may have envisioned creating posters, brochures, magazines, websites, and entire apps, the need for icon designers is growing as is the importance of their role. Despite their small size icons have significant importance as they are no longer limited to the launch screen of a phone or tablet. Well-designed, icons provide key information for a user that relates to the context, device, and function of the app or website. Designers aren’t simply trying to create a good looking icon and must consider the screen being viewed, the task the user wishes to perform, and the type of device. Users working with a device one-handed, or seeing things in a rush on the start screen of a phone or watch will have different needs than someone coming to the end of reading a longer-form story. Thee

Icon design testing considerations

When designing icons, the screen size and resolution needs to be considered. While working in Adobe Illustrator at a 500% magnification an icon may appear clear and intuitive to you, but may not be easy to understand when placed as part of the overall interface design on a portable device. It is important to create prototypes of pages and screens that incorporate icons, and include user testing to receive feedback on their clarity and ease of use. Well-designed icons are much more than an emoji symbol and play an increasingly important role across the ever expanding number of connected devices with the expansion of the Internet of Things (IOT).

Tools to use for icon design

Adobe Illustrator is the most common tool used for icon design. It enables designers to work in a vector format, which keeps artwork clean, crisp and legible. Illustrator also makes it easy to test icons at different sizes, and export them at varying resolutions for testing purposes. The Illustrator skills needed for icon design are covered in the Illustrator classes offered at American Graphics Institute or can be discovered on your own using a book such as the Adobe Illustrator Digital Classroom.

About the author

 is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.

Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.