Tips for Creating iOS App Icon Design

What do users check out first when taking a look at your application? Right, the icon! Besides, an icon works as an image for your brand – that’s the thing users first recall when they think of your app. Can you see how important having a decent icon can be?

Well, you wouldn’t wanna make a bad first impression, would you? That’s exactly the reason why we prepared some handy iOS app icon design tips for successful app development.

ios app icon

 #1 – Simplicity is a virtue

App icons can have a variety of versatile looks and shapes. However, the most successful applications usually have pretty simple and quite minimalist designs. That’s no accident. You should think of the icon as of a road sign. Its purpose should be conveying one sole concept. But not a dozen ideas! Try keeping in mind this analogy.

Do your best to define a single element which would express the very essence of your application. Avoid excessive images.

Also, if you stuff the icon with a lot of elements you might end up getting a blurry uncool image.

#2 – Make users recognize

When a user looks at the icon of your app they should instantly get the main concept of the application, whatever it is – calling, news or geo-location. Do your best to have people make those momentary associations, not confuse them.
make user recognize

Another advice would be – pick important objects over secondary ones. Let’s say, your goal is developing an icon for a call making app. A phone would be a lot better image than, say, a phone cord. First things come first.

#3 – Throw away your cookie cutters

Although you wanna embrace simplicity and do your best to have people instantly get the main idea of your app, there’s no need to create a cookie-cutter icon with the same image like the others. The App Store is full of those clones anyway! Think outside the box.

Developers of the Evernote app can serve a good example here. Try going on the App Store and search for To-Do apps. You might be surprised how virtually all those apps have the same thing on their icons.

However, UI designers of the Evernote app went against the cliche association between ticks and To-Do lists. These guys managed to give to their icon a fresh look and we think it was a very smart, even crucial move!
cookie clutter

#4 – Pay attention to the colors

Colors do matter. In fact, they are one of the most important things for your icon. Our recommendation is keeping the color palette as simple as possible. All you need is one or two colors (preferably contrasting ones).

Granted, you can find some awesome icons that manage to be great and have lots of colors on them at the same time. However, this requires much more effort and even masterfulness than juggling with a small bunch of colors.

#5 – Don’t use photos

A good rule of thumb: Rarely do photos look nice on app icons. That’s it. Just use plain old graphics.

#6 – Do NOT use text

Basically the rule is: if you can avoid using text, go for it. Very few app icons use text and look really good at the same time. Just use a logo for your app icon.

Besides, if you do use text you can mess things up, especially if your app got a long name. Not to mention that you app’s name below the icon will simply duplicate that text.
avoid text

#7 – Do decent testing

Apple has designated requirements for iOS app icon dimensions. Don’t forget about that. And keep in mind the corner radius for icons of the iOS you are targeting, you shouldn’t forget that some part of your icon might simply get cut off.

For more information on Apple rules, check out Human Interface Guideline document.

All the rules listed there are applicable to all operating systems from iOS 7 to iOS 9.

Look for the bugs!

Testing is by far one of the most important stages of an app development. Be sure to test your icon out on different image sizes. Of course, you might use an iOS app icon template, but still, you should do some thorough testing anyway!

Besides, make sure to check the compatibility with retina as well as non-retina screens. You might wanna simplify the icon to look good with small dimensions.

Once you consider your icon ready-to-go be sure to test it on real devices. One of the most important things: do some real life testing, i. e. install your app on a bunch of different devices and give it a good test.

We advise you to test your icon against all kinds of wallpapers. You should be sure your app icon looks great with a variety of backgrounds.


Designing an iPhone app icon isn’t a matter of one day. It’s an iterative development process. The more you experiment, the better!

Try playing with the icon until you get the perfect shape. Once you find a good match in shape, the right colors will come to your mind naturally.


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