Principles for designing better icons

Principles for designing better icons

The principles are here are concepts that are used to organize or arrange the structural elements of design. They inform us on how to begin to think about designing an icon set.

Icon designers can use these fundamentals as a framework from which to design icons and symbols. The way that these principles are applied affects the message that an icon conveys.

Emphasis

Emphasis

Emphasis is a way of using the elements to develop a main idea. It can be achieved through placement of objects, size, complexity and color that may dominate a picture by taking up more space or by being heavier in volume. However, there must be a balance between the dominant and subordinate elements.

A work of art will often have a single element (main subject) that is emphasized and dominates a painting and the other elements support it. All together, they create a message and effect for the viewer.

Unity

Unity

Unity is created by using harmonious similarity and repetition, continuance, proximity, alignment and closure of design elements in different parts of the work. This helps elements relate to each other and create a unified whole, rather than an ill-fitting and meaningless assortment of elements.

Balance

Balance

Balance is the arrangement of lines, colors, values, textures, forms and space. It can be symmetrical, asymmetrical or radial. Symmetrical tends to be the most stable since two sides are exactly the same.

While asymmetrical has no “center line,” it does have a sense of balance that is achieved by contrasting different elements together to create equal “visual weight” on the sides of the picture plane. Radial balance is a circular balance moving out from a central object to maintain balance.

Contrast

Contrast

Contrast refers to a major difference between elements. Small differences may add variety, but they are not strong enough to create contrast. Various sorts of contrasts are found in art and nature such as light and shadow, large and small, straight and curved, rough and smooth. Contrasts even depict moods such as joy and sorrow.

Rhythm & Movement

Rhythm and Movement

Movement is created in art by the way the artist uses the elements of design. The use of lines, colors, values, textures, forms and space to carry or direct the eye of the viewer from one part of the design or picture to other is called movement.

In a still picture such as a painting or photograph, where nothing is actually moving, various strategies can be used to give the viewer a sense of movement and speed, or to move the viewer's eye through the work.

Entire books are written about each of these art terms, filled with definitions, histories, insights, tips and examples. Remember that design principles aren’t hard and fast rules, they are guidelines.

There is no one correct way to communicate that two elements are similar or different, for example. Understanding these principles forms a basis for design, and can create interest when we have a reason for breaking them.


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