How To Use Iconography Effectively In Design

Design is a minefield. It’s difficult to design something well, and far too easy to design something badly. There’s nothing more deadly than playing around with iconography.

Luckily just knowing the basics of how to use iconography in design will turn your project from amateur to semi-professional in one quick click of the mouse.

So what are these design rules? I’ve gone through the basic dos and don’ts of design before, this time I’ll walk you through three simple rules for using icons, illustration and photography in any type of design you do.

First off…

Use simple icons
Icons are there to explain something so you don’t have to explain it with words. Because of this, whatever icons, shapes or illustrations you use need to be easy to understand. What they’re showing needs to be obvious and people need to be sure what the icon means.

The simple test: take a section where you’re using both an icon and words, then take the words away. Can you get an idea of what the section is about with only the icon? If no, you need to rethink the icon you’re using. If yes, you’re good to go!

Stick to one style
Any icons, fonts, pictures or illustrations need to match the tone and subject matter of your project. You wouldn’t put a picture of Mickey Mouse on a monthly financial report (or would you? Please say no).

On top of this, the icons you do pick also need to match. It’s best to download a set of icons, that way you know they match and you won’t end up with something a little mis-matched like this:

Don’t use stock images
The trouble with stock images is that they look like stock images. Be creative! Choose illustrations, graphics or simple icons instead. If you’re totally set on using photos, choose carefully. Maybe even try niche sites that provide better quality free-to-use images that look fantastic.

Remember though that good design is worth paying for. If you want professional looking icons it’s worth paying a little extra for a matching set that will make your presentation, report or infographic look great. Or even better, hire the professionals to do it for you and really stand out from the crowd.

Do you have any more iconography design tips? Tweet us!