I’ve got a simple 3-step process down for creating icons these days, and it seems to work well for high-volume production work. I’ve been creating icon sets since the very first week of my career as a visual designer, so I’d like to believe I’ve got this process down pat. It goes a little something like this:
I start out by creating rough pencil sketches for each icon – the idea here is to stay quick and loose, and to generate as many ideas as possible. The more ideas there are to start with the better, right? You bet. Once some stronger concepts have been identified, I begin by creating simple “blocky” vector shapes that represent the spirit of the design. I don’t worry too much about getting all the details right – all I’m trying to do at this point is to get the icons blocked out into rough shapes that can be used to present the concepts to the client. Finally, after the client meeting, I take the winning designs and shape and mold them into the design language I’m trying to match. Sometimes this work is quick, and other times (depending on the design language) it takes days. That’s just the way things go sometimes in the world of visual design.
I’ve found that this icon design process works well (most of the time). Loose sketches are never quite good enough to show a client, as a lot of the feeling can get lost in translation when creating vector versions. And it would be a waste of time to spend so much time creating final, polished designs that will get shot down at an instant during the review process. These mid-stage concepts are the perfect balance of “in progress” vs “final”.
Anyway, here are four mid-stage concepts for an image stabilization icon I needed to create recently. These four simple ideas are just that – simple representations that aren’t quite polished and refined yet, but good enough to present to the client to gather feedback. The first two are simple camera lenses with motion lines – a common way to represent the image stabilization concept. There is also a version of Polaroid-style image with motion lines, as well as a concept representing a simple scale.
As always, feel free to take these and refine them into whatever you need for your own project!