Making Your App Icon

By October 20, 2016Game Business Blog
Making app icon image

Why is an app icon important?

There are literally millions of apps in the App Store, with the number growing by the thousands each day. The App Store receives about 54,000 app submissions every month, and almost 14,000 of those submissions are games. The App Store is ever expanding, and with an increasing number of competitors, how can you possibly make your app stand out? When it comes to apps, do people really judge by the cover?—or, in the case of apps, the app icon?

Yes. Your app icon is very important because it’s the first thing that people see when they visit the App Store. People don’t normally tap on an app if they don’t like the icon or if gives off the impression that it was poorly made—they’ll just scroll right past it. So you want your app to make a good first impression with its icon. You also want your icon to reflect the quality of your app. If the icon doesn’t look professional or interesting, people will assume that your app isn’t either.

So when making an app icon, you should remember that it needs to be well-made, as well as give an idea of what your game or app is about.

Take the following app icons as examples:

'app icon examples image'

The first two icons (Clone Rush and Color Switch) are more minimalistic in design. Still, they are visually pleasing, and they perfectly reflect the simplicity of the games they represent. The colors in these icons also match the colors within the games, a detail which gives the player a sense of continuity between the icon and the game itself.

Meanwhile, the last two icons (Jump Paths and Parrot) are more detailed. Instead of a simple color matching, the designers of these icons decided to showcase some elements from the game. This design choice works too, but only for certain apps. It actually depends on the genre of your game and on the trends of your specific genre. This is why you should do some research before making an app icon. You have to familiarize yourself to what your competitors are doing, so you can use and improve their approach to your advantage. Here are some more examples, according to genre:

'Farmville Icons Image'

Farm Story, FarmVille 2: Country Escape, and Hay Day are all farm-themed simulation games. As you can see, their icons are cartoonish yet simplistic—the icons only exhibit a single element from the games.

crime based app icons images

Meanwhile, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Criminal Case, and Urban Crimes are all mystery adventure games. Their icons exhibit a portrait of one or two of the characters that players will encounter in the game.

Minimalist icon images

Lastly, these minimalist games (Line Zen, Wire Bounce, and TwinsJump) show action or movement in their icons. Most minimalist games have an element of motion in their icons so as to create interest with their simple designs.

From the above pictures, it is clear that each game genre has an icon trend that developers use to attract more people. Once you have recognized the trend, you need to improve on it. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are certain games in your chosen genre more successful that others? What did they do right? 

Remember, the success of the game doesn’t rely on the icon alone. Sure, the icon is your gateway to new downloads. But if the game itself is not as good as your competitors’, bad reviews will come in, downloads will be discouraged, and your app will ultimately fail.

  • What are their design cues? What is the trend among the icons of the games in your genre?

Looking back at the examples shown earlier, the design cue in the icons of the farm-themed simulation games come from an element within the games. Meanwhile, the design cue in the icons of the mystery adventure games come from a character that the player will encounter when playing the game. Lastly, the design cue for the minimalist games is motion or action. These design cues are often the trend as well, but you also have to look at how they are presented in the icon. For example, the farm-themed simulation games have cartoonish icons, the mystery adventure games have a more serious tone to them, and the minimalist games stick to the simplistic design of the games they represent.

  • How can you improve on your competitors’ designs?

The best way to improve on your competitors’ designs is to think of ways on how you can apply their approach to your own game. Does your game have a plot? What emotion do you want the players to feel while playing your game? What is the theme of the game? What can players expect from the game? Your answers to these questions should also reflect in your icon, one way or another. Again, the icon must show the identity of your game. What sets your game apart from the rest? Translate that uniqueness into your icon.

iOS Icons vs Android Icons

If you want to sell your game to both Apple and Android devices, you have to know the difference between iOS and Android icons. While iOS doesn’t support transparent backgrounds, this format is acceptable in Android. iOS is also strict with the shape of your app icons. If it isn’t square, iOS will fill the background with black, and this may ruin the whole effect of your design. So if you want to use a non-square icon for Android devices (such as diamond or circle), then you will have to create a separate icon for iOS. Tweak your design so that it fits inside a square icon. Or, to avoid the trouble altogether, just use a square icon for both Android and iOS devices.

Icon generators: How can they help?

Icon generators are great tools to help you imagine a starting point for your design. However, they shouldn’t, in any way whatsoever, be the final icon that you use to represent your app. You should apply the same principles of when you’re looking at your competitors’ icons and using the trend as the foundation of your design. After creating a startup icon using an app icon generator, improve on it by translating the identity of your game or app into the design.

Nonetheless, here are five simple icon generators that you can use to create an initial icon for your app:

X-Icon Editor allows you to create app icons in different sizes. You can choose from four preset sizes: 16 by 16, 24 by 24, 32 by 32, and 64 by 64. Aside from a custom size, you can also change the colors and font depending on what best suits your icon. The X-Icon Editor has a simple interface, so even inexperienced app creators can use it without any problems.

Icons Flow has an array of preset badges from which you can choose from. You can fill each preset with your desired color scheme. You can also add effects on the icon if you like. Change it up a bit with a drop shadow, an inner shadow, or a gloss effect. The presets will make the process a lot easier because you can choose the focus point of your design with just a simple click.

Junior Icon Editor looks a lot like Microsoft’s Paint, but it will still help you create a simple initial design for your icon. If you want to be more creative, you can also adjust the size of the image outside of the restraints of a typical app icon. It has a more pixelized look to it too, so if you’re a bit old school, this is the icon generator for you.

MakeAppIcon has a simple user interface that any app creator of any level of expertise can easily understand and utilize. With this app icon maker, you can also create icons in bulk. If you’re developing multiple apps at once, you’ll have a one-stop shop for your icons with MakeAppIcon.

Android Asset Studio is an Android icon generator that gives you a wide range of options when it comes to the size of your icon. You can create an icon from as small as 12 by 12 to as big as 1024 by 1024. It may have a simple user interface, but the editing options are not limited. You can upload an image, add a text, apply effects, and change the colors of your icon if you like. The Android Asset Studio provides you with different settings that will make your generated icon look professional.

To sum it up…

Here are a few things that you need to remember when creating your app icon:

  • Your app icon must reflect the uniqueness of your game. It must be interesting and visually pleasing.
  • Do not use a generated icon as your final app icon. It can be your foundation. It can also stand as a placeholder while you’re finalizing the details of your true icon. But it should never be the representation of your app. Nothing screams mediocre and unprofessional more than a generated app icon.
  • The best icon generator for your game depends on what you want the icon to look like. Choose from the list given above, or do more research on the subject.
  • The icon will not compensate for a poorly developed game. If you want your app to sell, both icon and game should be well-made.
  • iOS and Android icons have different specifications. iOS doesn’t allow non-square icons and transparent backgrounds. Android, on the other hand, allows these designs.
  • You can use the “model and improve” approach when brainstorming for design ideas: Look at what your competitors are doing, and then improve on it by applying their approach to the overall theme and plot of your own game.
  • Icons have trends for a reason. Your icon has a higher success rate if it follows the trend.
  • When creating an app icon, don’t be afraid to put your own twist and to make your own statement. Again, your game must be unique, and your individuality is important if you want your icon to stand out.
Tiana Crump

About Tiana Crump

Tiana Crump is the social media manager and staff writer for Buildbox. She's an avid game enthusiast with 5 years professional writing experience primarily focused in online, social and mobile gaming.

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