How to Design a Great App Icon

8minutes read
how to design an app icon

Did you know this shocking fact? Now, users spent more than 90% of their time with their smartphones using mobile applications. Each of us has more than ten programs installed on the phone, and this number is only growing every year. To stay ahead of the competition for the user, create a unique app icon that enhances your brand awareness. We will tell you how to do this in the article. Use our tips on how to make a great icon for your mobile application.

What is an app icon?

A mobile app icon is a small image that represents an app on a marketplace such as Google Play or App Store. The small image that users see in the phone menu is one of the most important elements of your project’s identity. The icon helps you stand out, remember the brand, and reveal the essence of your unique value proposition.

ios vs android app icons
ios vs. android app icons

According to statistics, there are currently more than 2.9 million apps available in the Google Play Store and nearly 4.4 million apps available in the Apple App Store. Therefore, your task is to design an app icon that instantly grabs attention and makes you want to know what is behind the visual image.

What is the Difference Between an Icon and a Logo?

Some people think that there isn’t much difference between a logo and an icon. But the main difference are:

icons vs. logos
icons vs. logos differentiations


  • An icon directly represents an idea, concept, or action. Icons make it easier to work with a graphical representation for the user.
  • Icons are commonly used in applications to represent what the application is used for and a key element of the UI/UX mobile design.


  • Logo is used to recognize the main part of the symbol used to represent the organization. The way of representing the organization can be direct or covert. The logo must be associated with the organization. This reflects on the thinking of the organization and presents a graphical summary of the organization.

Categories of the icons

There are two types of icons in design – icons for the Android operating system and the IOS one. Although at first glance they are very similar, they differ in many technical nuances that should be taken into account while designing.

You can also learn more about the difference between IOS and Android design from our latest article about the Difference between Flat and Material design.

Tips on how to create a great icon for your app:

Delving into the topic of creating icons for a mobile application, we offer you some tips on how to create a cool icon that will appeal to your target audience.

how to create an app icon
tips on creating an app icon

a) Make your app icon unique

Don’t forget that you are making an icon for a competitive market and you will compete with a huge variety of other mobile application icons. That is why, if you want to be chosen, you need to stand out and be unique, not like everyone else. You need your audience to respond to your icon and use your application day by day.

You need to do a competitor’s analysis to assess their icons designs and decide on your icon according to that.. Investigate the most popular mobile applications in your niche, take a look at their icons, what special features they have, whether they have something in common, what is different, what colors they mainly use, and think about how you can stand out among them. Perhaps, creating an icon with the opposite color or using a different graphic design to make your icon stand out from the crowd. But be careful with experiments, because your main task is to satisfy the tastes of our target audience, so, first of all, you should study their tastes in detail and understand what attracts them and what they like in general.

b) Follow simplicity

Keep your icon simple but thought out to the smallest detail. Don’t use overly complex designs. Firstly, your icon is tiny; few people will be able to see any text or details in it. The more details, the more difficult it will be for the user to recognize and perceive it correctly. Your icon should easily scale across different media and be easily recognizable, whether it’s a phone screen, a store where apps are downloaded, or a control panel.

Let’s take a few icons of famous mobile applications as an example. Learning from and drawing inspiration from successful brands is a great idea!

  • WhatsApp icon- phone icon on a green background;
  • Google Maps application icon: the most simple white background and a multi-colored pin;
  • Zoom app icon is just a camcorder.

Look at most of the applications on your phone – all icons will be as simple and understandable as possible telling the main idea of the app.

c) Use a visual symbol rather than words

For a greater impact on the user’s attention, it is better to use a visual symbol rather than text. The text always makes it difficult for the audience to perceive the icon. Likewise, you shouldn’t use a photo as an icon, as this will also complicate users. For greater engagement, use a symbol that best describes your company or brand.

To properly determine which symbol best describes your brand, make a list of thoughts that are associated with your product. This will make it much easier to find the right symbol and turn the words into an image. Take a look at the logo of one of our projects as an example. The airplane symbol makes it clear that the application is designed to book airplane tickets. One picture, instead of a thousand words.

d) Make it coherent with your app brand

All users appreciate when the created design is thought out to the smallest details. Make sure your icon captures the essence of your mobile app. This is why mixing content and design is one of the most certain ways to connect with your audience and create a strong visual identity.

Use corporate colors, shapes, and textures to ensure your icon is consistent with your branding. If, for example, your application has geometry or a gradient, try embedding it into the icon.

It’s also worth combining your icon design and functionality. When users first see the icon of your application, they should understand from the first glance what purpose this application is used for. For example, the Airbnb app.

They used an airplane in the design of their icons, which makes it immediately clear to users that this application is related to the travel industry.

e) Choose color-wise

Since for many, color can be a determining factor in choosing an application, choosing a color theme for an icon should be done carefully. Here are some tips for using colors for your icon.

  1. The selected color of your icon should be associated with your brand and the color palette of your application as a whole. The colors of your application and icons must be identical and look good on different backgrounds (be it black, white, or colored)
  2. Don’t use too many shades in your icon design, as this is the risk of turning your design into a mess and confusion.
  3. Among the most famous colors used for icons are blue, red, white. Keep track of color statistics, consider what market you are making your application for, and keep in mind all the factors that affect the choice of color for your target audience.

You can read more about colors and how to choose them correctly in our article about UI colors.

f) Test your icon and improve it further

Testing an icon is like inspecting a kart before a race. It is better to spend a few minutes checking before starting than to spend a lot of time and money correcting mistakes later.

To create an effective application icon that will not only look good among competitors but also increase conversion, it needs to be subjected to two stages of testing:

  • technical testing;
  • testing on the audience.

Technical testing of an icon can be divided into stages:

technical testing stages of app icon
technical testing stages of an app icon
  • testing on various devices (see how the icon looks on screens of different sizes);
  • testing in different sizes (let’s see how the icon looks from the smallest to its largest);
  • testing on different background options (testing the icon on white, black, gray, and other backgrounds and wallpapers);
  • testing among competitors (we check how the icon looks among other applications in the stores). testing on the audience.
  • Is the icon easy to find?

This aspect should always be tested in context.

First, ask yourself the following questions and do a heuristic analysis:

  • Does it harmonize with other icons?
  • Is it located where expected?
  • Are other elements on the page distracting attention from it?

After that, you can figure out how long it takes new users to find this or that icon. During testing, ask people unfamiliar with your site or application to take a specific action and record the following information:

  • How long it took them to find the right icon.
  • How often did they manage to choose the right icon on the first try?

To Sum Up

So, let’s briefly summarize what the icon design should be for your mobile application:

Captivating simplicity

Find the element that conveys the essence of the application and put it in a simple, memorable form. Add details carefully. The overly complex content or shape of the icon is difficult to distinguish, especially at reduced sizes.

Sharp focus

Create an app icon with a clear focus that grabs attention and identifies the app.


Nobody will analyze the icon to understand its meaning.

For example, an image of an envelope is traditionally used as an icon for a mail application, which is associated with mail. If you want a good icon, take the time to develop an attractive and understandable abstract symbol.

No photos, screenshots, or interface elements

Do not include photos, screenshots, or interface elements in the icon. The details in the photograph are difficult to see when small. Screenshots won’t tell you the purpose of the app. The interface elements in the icon mislead the user.

Test the icon on different wallpapers

People choose different wallpapers for their home screens, so when you are making an app icon, you should test it against different backgrounds.

That’s all! We wish you good luck and many beautiful icons for your applications.

Well, if you still have any doubts and do not know how to make your app icon, then we will be happy to help you with this. To see our expertise, you are welcome to our projects at Dribbble and Behance, as well as you can take a look at our services and what we can provide you in your work.

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