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6 Tips for Effective Use of Icons in Design

Icons are one of the most used visual elements in contemporary design. We see them both online and offline, in presentations, websites, videos etc. It is a visual language that can communicate quickly and universally across different languages. Also, proper usage of icons creates visual interest and grabs the user’s attention.

Comparing to creating a full illustration or purchasing stock images, icons can be a cost and time efficient tool to spice up your design. Here are a few tips on icon design that will help your work stand out.

Use brand colour
Icons are part of your brand’s visual identity; hence it should follow your brand’s colour palette. If you use stock icon sets, make sure to get them in an editable format, so you can change them to your company’s colours to reflect your branding.

Consistency in size and alignment
If you have multiple icons on one page, keeping them the same size and aligned properly will make the layout look neater and more professional.

Keep the icons aligned and use equal gaps in between

Consistency in style
Icons come in all kinds of styles – monochrome or colourful, line or solid shapes, geometric or hand drawn… Whichever style you choose to use, make sure to use it consistently across the whole design.

Icons in inconsistent styles

Unified style makes the layout more professional

Consistency in silhouette
A layout could look messy with icons in very different silhouettes. Either choose icons in similar shapes or consider putting them in a background shape to unify the silhouette.

Icons in various silhouettes looks a bit messy

Adding a circle background is a easy way to control the silhouette

Consistency in line weight
We have seen a large boost in the use of line style icons (hollow icons) in recent years. Should you choose to follow this trend, keep in mind to use consistent line weight. Attention to detail like this will make your work looking more sophisticated.

Icons with different line weight

Consistent line thickness helps to make your design more sophisticated

Don’t abuse icons
There are a lot of benefits of using icons, but we should also keep in mind to not overuse them. Icons become nothing more than decoration when there are too many in one layout. It will not only make the layout messy but also weaken their effect of attracting attention and communicating a message. By limiting the number of icons, you can avoid your user getting tired of them and losing focus.

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