Alexa Serra  ·  May 31, 2023 

Foonkie Monkey’s Tips For Designing A Successful Mobile App Icon

Getting more downloads for your app in the App Store doesn’t happen by chance. Your app icon is an essential but often overlooked element that can mark the difference between instant downloads and oblivion.

Getting more downloads for your app in the App Store doesn’t happen by chance. Your app icon is an essential but often overlooked element that can mark the difference between instant downloads and oblivion.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Sound familiar? We’ve all heard the popular adage, and all through life, we have been vehemently warned against forming an opinion about something or someone based solely on their appearance. And while that is, in fact, sound advice, we don’t religiously adhere to it every single time. We’ve all turned away strange food based on how unappetizing it looked like on the plate or refused to, quite literally, buy a book with a dull, unappealing cover. We’ve probably missed countless opportunities to taste yummy food or have exciting reading experiences because our eyes didn’t like what they saw. But that’s how humans are wired, and that’s why first impressions are so important, especially in the app development world where users lack the patience or the time to give second chances. In that sense, if your app doesn’t capture their attention fast, it’s bound to fail. Hence, the importance of designing a successful mobile app icon.

Since mobile applications have undeniably become an integral part of our daily lives, and with millions of apps available, it has become imperative for app developers to create visually appealing and distinctive mobile app icons to ensure their products stand out from the competition. That’s why we at Foonkie Monkey want to let you in on some tips for designing a successful mobile app icon that will attract potential users, help you stand out from your competitors, and effectively represent your app’s brand.

Let’s begin!

What is a mobile app icon?

What is a mobile app icon?

There are nearly 9 million mobile apps available worldwide, with almost 2.09 million of those available on Apple’s App Store. Now, imagine having to beat 9 million competitors in your quest to get users’ attention and being attractive enough for them to download your app. Sounds like quite the undertaking. While it’s true that you won’t really have to compete with 9 million other apps (your app’s direct competitors are likely in the hundredths), the reality is that your mobile applications need a way of appealing to their potential users before your rivals. Here’s where your mobile app icon comes into play.

A mobile app icon is often the first thing users see when searching for or coming across a new app. It is a miniature graphic or image that represents your mobile application and is displayed on app stores and on the home screen of your users’ mobile devices. Therefore, it is a crucial part of your mobile app design strategy because it not only acts as a visual representation of your app but it also acts as a unique branding element that can help you differentiate your app from its competitors and make or break its success. What’s more, since your mobile app icon is typically the first point of contact between your users and your product, it can be considered as a digital face of the app, which can also help your users identify and remember your brand and your application.

A well-designed, attractive mobile app icon can also create a positive, long-lasting first impression on your users, helping to increase the chances of them downloading and using your mobile app. In that sense, it’s paramount for your mobile app icon to be unique, beautiful, recognizable, and, overall, very visually appealing. And that’s what we’re here to help you with! So don’t let people skim over your app and read on to find out what are the best tips for creating an app icon that stands out!

1. Keep it simple

1. Keep it simple

As it goes with most design-related things, the best mobile app icons are usually the most straightforward, clean, and easily recognizable ones. Think WeTransfer, Instagram, Audible, or HeadSpace. These, and many more well-known mobile app icons, are clean, simple, and unique. They manage to avoid looking cluttery while focusing on a clear concept that adequately conveys what the app is, the brand’s colors and feel and helps users instantly recognize the brand. That is precisely what you must aim for when designing your mobile app icon.

Simplicity is critical for designing a successful mobile app icon as a simple icon not only looks more visually appealing but is also easier for your users to recognize, remember, and associate with your brand. So, when designing your mobile app icon, it’s essential to keep in mind the following:

  • Your mobile icon must convey the purpose of your app clearly and concisely.
  • Your mobile app icon should be easily recognizable and should stand out amongst your competitors.
  • Users should be able to understand the purpose of your mobile app by just glancing at your app’s icon.
  • When designing your mobile app icon, you must consider its size and shape so that it looks good in a variety of sizes and adjust to different screens, from a small icon on a user’s phone’s home screen to a more prominent icon on the app store or on a tablet.
  • The simpler your mobile app icon, the easier it is to remember, and the more likely your users will be drawn to it.
  • Try to use a minimalist design approach when creating your app’s icon. Use the minimum amount of colors and elements to create a clean, uncluttered design.
  • When designing your icon, try to focus on your app’s main feature or function and use it to define what your design should look like. For instance, if you have a banking app, you could use an icon that shows a money sign or a piggy to represent what your product does and convey its purpose in a simple manner.
  • Avoid using too many colors and elements that can clutter your mobile app icon and will overwhelm and confuse your users.

So, always make sure to keep simplicity at the forefront when designing your mobile app icon. It’s one of the most effective ways to create a beautiful, functional icon that will make a lasting impression on your users.

Communicate your app’s purpose.

2. Communicate your app’s purpose.

Yes, we know what we said: keep it simple. But how can you implement simplicity and manage to communicate your app’s purpose at the same time? Wouldn’t you need a lot of detail for that? So, while it’s true what we said, you should aim for simplicity and not clutter your mobile app icon with too many unnecessary elements; you still need to strike a balance between simplicity and recognizability. In that sense, you must ensure that your icon is clearly associated with what your app does and at least conveys your app’s main functionality clearly and straightforwardly. On the contrary, creating a too simple or abstract mobile app icon will undoubtedly look good but will likely confuse your users and leave them unable to grasp precisely what your brand is and what your app does.

So, when designing your mobile app icon, you must consider your users, your brand, the services you offer, your unique value proposition, your app’s intended use, and its main features. Then, use that information to create an icon that accurately represents the core of what you’re offering. Think of Instagram’s logo, for instance. It contains a couple of vibrant colors and a universal, easily recognizable symbol of a camera, simply and clearly conveying what the app is about.

Colors matter

3. Colors matter

Choosing the best color combination, or color scheme, for your mobile app icon is one of the most important yet overlooked aspects of designing an attractive face for your application. Identifying which color or colors to use is pivotal to ensuring all the elements of your app complement each other and create a wholesome look your users will love. So, once again, striking a balance here is crucial because you need to ensure that your colors of choice align with your brand while ensuring they look good, appeal to your potential user base, and help your icon stand out.

Keep in mind that colors have a significant and often overlooked impact on human emotions and can even influence some behaviors. Different colors tend to evoke different emotions and feelings, and some even have deep meanings in some cultures. For instance, yellow is associated with creativity and warmth, while blue evokes professionalism and trust. Green often signifies freshness and nature, while purple represents luxury and ambition. So, it’s essential you do your research to understand not only the psychology behind colors but how those colors affect your target users before choosing a color scheme for your mobile app icon.

On the other hand, bright colors can help an app attract the user’s attention, but too many can be overwhelming and can look tacky. Soft, pastel, or muted colors can create a sense of calmness but, in some cases, can look boring and not attractive enough. Moreover, you need to ensure your mobile app icon also looks good on a variety of different backgrounds, such as dark and light modes, so using contrasting colors can help your icon stand out against other apps, on the app store, or against their phone’s wallpaper or background image.

Lastly, no matter which color scheme you’re tempted to choose for your mobile app icon, it’s vital to test different color combinations before making any final decisions. Experimenting with varying combinations of color and, most importantly, getting feedback from your target audience is extremely helpful in making an informed decision and ensuring the color harmony and effectiveness of your chosen color scheme.

Use little or no text

4. Use little or no text

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Truer words have never been spoken…at least in this context, and we can’t stress this enough: it is vital for your users to be able to understand and recognize your mobile app icon by itself, no text needed. Remember, when you’re designing your mobile app icon, your main goal, or at least one of your main goals, should be to create an image that communicates the gist of your app with a simple, quick glance, which is about the amount of time it takes to get your users’ attention. However, and while it may sound counterintuitive, using text isn’t a great way to communicate your app’s purpose. In fact, it can actually hinder the effectiveness of your mobile app icon. Why? It is mainly because text can be challenging to read in the limited area of your icon, especially when displayed on small screens or in low resolutions. As a result, it can make your icon look cramped and overwhelming, driving your potential users away.

By avoiding text when designing your mobile app icon, you can focus on creating appealing visuals that are appealing and attractive and have the power to communicate the essence of your app at a glance. For that purpose, make sure you use colors and shapes to communicate what your app is or highlight its most important feature. You can also make use of negative space to create an image that can be easily recognizable and associate it with your brand. Still, if you’re set on adding text to your mobile app icon, make sure that the font you choose is easy to read, doesn’t clash with your design, and doesn’t make your icon look cluttered. Also, make sure that the text you use is as short and concise as possible, and avoid using long blocks of text such as promotional content.

Keep it consistent

5. Keep it consistent

Consistency is critical in any scenario where you’re dealing with branding or marketing material. In app development, even more so. Your mobile app icon is a part of your entire application, meaning it needs to stay consistent with your entire branding strategy. Consistency in mobile app design is essential for creating a cohesive and recognizable experience that users can easily associate with your brand. In that sense, keeping the color, typography, feel, style, and all other visual elements of your mobile app icon in line with the rest of your app can help you establish a visual identity for your entire in-app experience.

Consistency can also help you give your users a sense of trust, professionalism, and reliability. This applies to branding but also to the context in which the mobile app icon will be viewed. Suppose your mobile app icon manages to remain consistent in different device types, screen sizes, and resolutions. In that case, it can help to ensure that it looks great across all devices and platforms and enforces your app’s trustworthiness.

Moreover, consistency can also help you improve the app discovery process and make it easier for your potential users to find and choose your app. As you may know, when browsing through app stores, users are often bombarded with hundreds of different app icons and titles that can make their decision difficult or even overwhelm them. However, when a mobile app icon is consistent, it helps that application stand out and be easily recognizable, even in a crowded app store. As a result, you can create a visually appealing and consistent mobile app icon that will help attract and retain potential users.

Closing argument

Closing argument

So, as you can see, designing a successful mobile app icon isn’t as challenging as you may have initially thought. Yes, your mobile app icon is the first impression users get of your app, and it can make all the difference in attracting them and ensuring the success of your product. And sure, it is a critical aspect of creating a successful mobile application. Still, by paying some extra attention to factors such as your mobile app icon’s simplicity, choosing the appropriate color scheme, communicating your app’s purpose (hopefully with no text), and enforcing consistency, you can create a visually appealing, professional, and memorable mobile app icon.

So, by following these and many other tips and using the right design tools, you can create a mobile app icon that not only stands out from the sea of competitors but also appeals to your potential users and effectively represents your application and your brand.

We at Foonkie Monkey have ample experience in designing beautiful mobile apps with equally appealing mobile app icons. We always strive to stay on top of the latest trends in design to develop innovative, cutting-edge products that stand the test of time. So, if you want us to make your idea a reality, please Contact us! We’d love to help!

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