With the entire world moving online, mobile apps are assuming bigger, more important roles in our lives. Designers have to compete with thousands of new apps being launched in their niche and have to consider other factors like branding, logo association, and creating a suitable visual symbol of the app in just one tiny icon. 

What are the crucial guidelines to keep in mind before starting to design a mobile app icon? Let’s find out.

  1. Less is more

Your mobile app icon should be simple, clear, and recognisable. It should stand out on the user’s screen, which will be filled with app icons more often than not. Yours shouldn’t get lost, which is why the fewer elements it has, the more it pops out. At the same time, the icon should be bold, meaningful, and designed in high resolution. It should be easily identifiable on any device, a mobile, tablet, or a PC.

  1. Avoid words/images 

As a rule of thumb, your mobile app icon should not be an actual photograph, nor should it be an illustration filled with details. Words, catchphrases, puns, etc., should also be avoided as users are more habituated to icons being crisp and symbolic. If there’s a particular verbal statement or word meaning you’re trying to convey, use a symbol, shape, or design to represent the thought. The use of individual letters designed aesthetically and memorably (e.g., Facebook icon) is completely permissible. Alternatively, if your brand name is short, like Uber or Paytm, the name’s use is also suitable.

  1. Color it right

Resist the urge to create an app icon with too many different colors. 90% of users tend to lean towards a visually appealing design, and colors create a subliminal calling when used responsibly and correctly. Choose two to three bold, bright, or standard colors that would stand out in any background. It’s also advisable to pick colors that go with the brand philosophy and utility. However, it’s not always necessary to use the same brand logo as the app icon. A variant of the logo designed specifically for the mobile app can work well too. Designers can also experiment with the use of light and shadow, such as the Gmail mobile icon.

  1. Use a unique shape & size

70% of app discovery occurs in Google Play Store or Apple Store. If your app can stand out at first glance, it would be through its uniqueness, which by default means that special touch you give to the app icon. Experiment with striking shapes, perspectives, and forms that can be identified on any screen. Unique geometrical patterns, forms, and symbols that also convey the app’s functionality just by looking at the icon are the way to go. 

  1. Know the audience

Keep in mind the target audience you’re creating the app for a while, also considering the purpose of the app. A news app should not be made to generate an emotional charge, and an entertainment app cannot be dull and business-like. Based on your niche, investigate the design and colors of competitor apps, and study the differences and similarities among them. Designing an app icon that looks unique but doesn’t appeal to the target audience is a no-go. It should have resonance as soon as the user searches the App store and goes through the list of icons. They should be able to relate immediately.

  1. Test, test, test

First of all, the app icon design should be created based on Apple and Google submission guidelines, which can be found online. iOS and Android designers can follow Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines and Google’s Material Design icon guidelines to stay in accordance with current trends and incorporate more cohesiveness into their designs. If you’ve shortlisted two final designs, you can try A/B testing in the market to see which one is the most appealing and effective and creates a more positive response. To keep engagement levels high, you can create different themes with the changing cultural and social events like Halloween, Earth Day, Diwali, etc. 

More importantly, you should test the look and the feel of the app icon against as many backgrounds, patterns, and shades of colors as you can. 

  • Bonus tip

Check latest trends

If you’re still using 3D instead of flat design, don’t always know the best fonts, color palettes, and haven’t heard of retro styling, you might want to look up the latest app icon design trends that are ruling the market. That said, you don’t always have to follow a trend just because it’s popular. Using discernment with respect to your app objective is recommended. But it doesn’t hurt to check the trending elements in the app business.

In the end, the more polished, elegant, and distinct your app icon, the better are the download rates for the app.