ASK DN: How do you create unique icons from a blank page?

over 6 years ago from

I'm familiar with the pen tool in both Photoshop and Illustrator. But I don't really have any artistic experience with a pencil & it's tough for me to "plan" icon ideas digitally.

The only way I'm able to create an icon from scratch is by looking at what others have done and cloning a similar shape. This feels like a crutch and I really want to be able to create unique icons from scratch. Icon design is a huge part of web design and it's the one area that I'm really lacking in skill.

Can any icon designers share their working process when creating icons from a blank white page? Are there any specific tutorials or methods that I should follow? Would learning traditional art help me visualize shapes better? I'm just kinda lost trying to learn UI icon design and would love to hear opinions on how I should approach this.


  • J LiJ Li, over 6 years ago

    In design school, we're taught to sketch the daylights out of everything. Great ideas won't come to you by browsing the internet, it comes from sketching on paper. Whether it's icon/logo/layout design, if it takes a hundred sketches to come up with something great, so be it.

    Also came across an article that gives a quick rundown on some design principles that may help: https://medium.com/@szczpanks/so-you-call-yourself-an-icon-designer-b67223e9d36f

    1 point
    • Adam Sezler, over 6 years ago

      Thanks for this link! It definitely helps a lot and shows that learning to draw will have a tremendous impact on icon design.

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  • Tanner ChristensenTanner Christensen, over 6 years ago

    My process typically involves thinking about what it is I'm trying to represent, mocking it up quickly in vector format (I use Sketch), then fine-tuning repeatedly until the elements come together.

    I have nearly zero artistic ability outside of clicking and dragging vector points around.

    It helps if you have an artistic eye, however. Being able to see the small details that make something what it is are invaluable to the creative craftsman (or woman).

    For example: highlights give depth to objects. Not all icons need to have highlights, but if you're trying to convey one object above another, or a difference in heights, a cutaway or lighter shading on part of the object can go a long way.

    As for process shots: Dribbble has about 283,000: https://dribbble.com/search?q=icon+process

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