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7 Best Principles of Icon for ui design that Designers ‘Must’ Follow

Best Principles of Icon for ui design

There’s no way to deny that Icons play a pivotal role in enhancing the user interface. In order to ensure a superior user experience, it is imperative to possess a comprehensive understanding of icon design and adhere to a specific set of principles.Icon for ui design

It is essential to understand the fundamental principles of icon design, especially when you’re a UI/UX Designer. These guidelines serve as the golden rules for creating effective icons. Could you please provide me with more details about your specific requirements or context so that I can tailor my response accordingly? So, as a UI designer, it is crucial for you to prioritize the following principles:

  • Clarity of meaning
  • Visual clarity
  • Simplicity
  • Familiarity
  • Alignment and balance
  • Consistency across the board
  • Personality and branding

You’ll find a thorough breakdown of these guidelines in this blog, along with illustrative examples of actual icon designs that adhere to these guidelines.

Why Do the Best Principles of Icon for ui design Matter So Much?

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Convey meaning quickly and easily

Icons possess the ability to effectively convey a concept or prompt action with just a quick glance, eliminating the necessity for textual labels. In the current landscape of ever-evolving and intricate user interfaces, this holds significant importance.

Reduce cognitive load

In order to optimize cognitive load, we need to implement strategies that minimize the mental effort required for users to interact with our system. When users are required to interpret text labels in order to comprehend the purpose or functionality of an action, it contributes to their cognitive burden. Icons can effectively mitigate this burden by offering a visual indicator that can be swiftly and effortlessly comprehended.

Break the language barrier

One of our key objectives should be addressing and overcoming the challenges posed by language barriers. It is crucial to devise effective strategies and implement appropriate solutions to ensure seamless communication and collaboration among team members speaking diverse languages.

Icons serve as universally recognized symbols that possess the ability to transcend cultural and linguistic barriers, enabling individuals from diverse backgrounds to comprehend their meaning effortlessly. This feature renders them a crucial asset in the development of user interfaces that prioritize accessibility for a diverse global user base.

Add visual interest and polish to a Principles of Icon for ui design

Enhance the visual appeal and refine the aesthetics of the design to elevate its overall quality. Incorporating well-crafted icons into a user interface can significantly enhance its visual appeal and overall refinement. In addition, they possess the capability to facilitate the development of a uniform and integrated design aesthetic.

How Are Principles of Icon for ui design?


In the realm of user interface design, icons play a crucial role in visually conveying navigation elements. These elements, including the home button, back button, and search button, are commonly represented by icons.


In the realm of user interface design, icons serve as visual representations of various actions or functionalities. These graphical elements are employed to convey actions like play, pause, and save, among others.


In the context of projects, icons have the potential to serve as visual representations for various filters, including but not limited to sorting, searching, and price range.


Icons have the potential to serve as visual representations of various types of content, including but not limited to photos, videos, and documents.

What Are the Different Types of Principles of Icon for ui design Considered Useful?

Action Icons

The functions of an app or website are represented by these icons. A paper airplane may represent communication, whereas a garbage can represents discarding something. By eliminating the need to go through lengthy instructions, action icons simplify user interactions by guiding users directly to the intended action.

App Icons

Icons for apps are used to quickly identify them on mobile devices. They stand out from the crowd and are simple to remember, allowing users to quickly find and launch the right app even when there are several available. The visual appeal and ease of use of apps are generally judged by their icon designs.

Navigation Icons

Crucial to facilitating mobility inside digital platforms, navigation symbols like home, search, or the ‘hamburger’ menu (three horizontal lines) streamline the looking around process. Because of how consistently they are placed and designed, visitors are able to quickly and easily navigate between different parts or pages.

State Icons

The user is given a visual representation of the current state of affairs thanks to these symbols. A user’s battery life may be shown, for instance, by a battery indicator that goes from full to half full to empty. Icons that represent the current state of a feature or function save space by conveying information visually.

Logo Icons (or Brand Icons)

Iconic logos perfectly capture the essence of the products or services they represent. When employed regularly across a variety of channels, their distinctive aesthetics help build consumer confidence in a brand.

File Type Icons

The various symbols represent the various file types. Users are more likely to get their work done quickly if they have an easy way to recognize and choose the necessary files, such as a DOC icon for Word documents or a camera icon for JPG photographs.

System Icons

These symbols reflect fundamental features of the software and are commonplace in user interfaces. System icons give a quick access point to useful tools, simplifying device navigation for common tasks like altering settings, checking downloads, and monitoring network connections.

Notification Icons

These little but significant symbols in the status bar of a smartphone represent notifications. They keep people informed without being obtrusive, whether it’s through an SMS notice or a software update.

Toolbar Icons

Toolbar icons like bold, italic, and underline in software and apps allow for instantaneous operations. They improve output and user happiness by making resources readily available.

Toggle Icons

Toggle icons, which represent the on/off statuses of services like Wi-Fi and dark mode, play a crucial role. The binary nature of their visual signals aids in decision-making and streamlines the user experience.

Indicator Icons

Such symbols provide quick visual feedback to users. Trust and clarity are cultivated through their speedy reassurances and notifications, such as the Wi-Fi icon’s display of signal strength and the padlock icon’s indication of a secure connection.

E-commerce Icons

The online shopping experience is simplified by the use of symbols that symbolize things like shopping carts, wish lists, and various modes of payment. They help people navigate the online store, from browsing for products to completing a purchase.

Social Media Icons

These symbols, representing well-known services, are clickable links to user profiles or sharing tools. Users can immediately recognize companies, engage with them, and share information because to their consistent visual styles.

Interactive Icons

Icons that respond to human input are more than just static images. For example, a heart icon may flash when a post is “liked.” These animations keep the attention of the user, making the experience both enjoyable and memorable.

Instructional Icons

Icons with directional arrows for swiping, dragging, and clicking are examples of those used to direct user interaction. They close the information gap, making sure people can use features and interfaces they aren’t familiar with.

7 Best Principles of Icon for ui design that Designers ‘Must’ Follow

Now that we have a basic understanding of icons and their functions, we can dive into the nuts and bolts of creating our own icons. You want to create symbols that convey information clearly to the user, encourage instant identification, and look good in context.

You’ll need to adhere to some guidelines if you want to do all of that. These seven tenets form the backbone of any successful icon:

Clarity of meaning Principles of Icon for ui design

The primary principle of effective icon design is readability. A user should quickly understand what an icon represents when they see it. Icons should be created with the intended audience in mind.

If you’re making a custom icon that isn’t going to be used by everyone, the clarity principle becomes even more important. Consider the icons, images, and symbols that your audience will recognize and utilize to understand the desired action.

If you were designing a ‘library’ symbol for a learning app, you might opt to utilize the standard representation of a book. On the other hand, an owl may be excessively mysterious.

Visual Clarity Principles of Icon for ui design

The second rule of icon design is that it should be easy to read. Because of their tiny size, icons must be designed with the user’s clarity in mind. You run the danger of your symbols and their constituent parts becoming a hazy blob if you include too much fine detail or lack space. Icons should be designed with readability in mind, much like text and color schemes are.

Simplicity Principles of Icon for ui design

The notion of simplicity is connected to readability in a very close way. Due to space constraints, it is critical that the meaning of each icon be conveyed in the fewest possible strokes. To avoid making the user think too much or squint too hard, icons should only provide the essential details. Put it across in the simplest terms possible.

Here are two illustrations of the light bulb symbol. The one on the left is basic, while the one on the right has more going on. While both versions are accurate, the former is likely easier to understand.

Familiarity Principles of Icon for ui design

Familiarity is our fourth concept of icon design. Don’t try to make things work differently for your users than they already do.

We discussed universal, conflicting, and singular symbols earlier in this essay. Create universally applicable icons whenever you can. Traditional icons conveying functionality include a magnifying glass for the “search” function, an envelope for the user’s inbox, a house for the “home” screen, and a printer for the printing function.

There is no requirement for originality when creating such symbols. Users have an innate understanding of what these icons represent, which is exactly the type of intuitive usability you should want to design for.

Alignment and Balance Principles of Icon for ui design

We’re down to the nitty-gritty now. Creating an icon is an art form, thus precision and attention to detail are essential.

This refers to arranging your icon’s components in a way that is pleasing to the sight. This may need dead-center placement and uniform spacing at other times, but it usually just calls for some good old-fashioned common sense.

Take a look at these two examples of Google’s iconography. The first icon is a round one with the line and arrow positioned precisely in the middle. Having an arrow that isn’t exactly in the middle of the line, it’s pointing at would be really annoying.

The + sign in the second icon, on the other hand, is oriented to the right, which looks much better given the irregular form it occupies. Use your designer’s eye to make sure each icon you create is properly aligned and balanced.

Consistency Across the Board Principles of Icon for ui design

The sixth tenet of icon design, “consistency across the board,” applies to the overall layout of icon sets. Even if each icon in a product is trying to say something different, they should all work together harmoniously. This implies that everyone must play by the same rules.

All icons should have the same visual weight, therefore, make sure they are all the same size. And if you must use color, stick to a limited palette that harmonizes with the rest of the brand’s visual elements.

Let’s go back to our IKEA illustration. Although the symbols shown vary in appearance, it is clear that they all have a common ancestor. The consistency principle is to be credited for this outcome.

Personality and Branding Principles of Icon for ui design

Finally, consider your company’s identity and visual identity while creating symbols. Icons play a crucial role in capturing and aligning with the larger visual identity since they are an essential aspect of the user interface of a product.

Do something original with this opportunity. Designing aesthetically distinct icons (without sacrificing simplicity, clarity, and familiarity) is possible through the use of color and style.

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