May 5, 2015 0

Icon a go-go

In last weeks hands on workshop we asked our participants to do an “icon jam”, essentially a visual brainstorming activity, in which we collaboratively (and quickly) generate a series of icons based, and then share the results afterwords and discuss. This can be a challenge for those that have not had a lot of experience drawing, but I believe people come away with a better understanding of the subjective nature of visual language, and that ‘getting it right’ is not as important as making an impact.

Icon Jam 2015 Gallery


Icons will no doubt continue to play an important role in many of the educational media assets being created in our course, so I thought I would share a few extra online resources to help you find and make them, as well as a BONUS CHALLENGE you can use to practice your icon making skills.  But first.. some resources!

The first step toward choosing or making a good icon is knowing what will be the simplest and most clear symbol to represent an idea, and for that it often helps to see a lot of eg and get some ideas. The quickest way to find alot of potential images is of course a google search. Just go into the advanced search features and choose ‘b&w’ and ‘line drawing’ to filter the results down to the simplest images possible. There are specialized service appearing that make this process easier and create an ‘icon economy’ around them so creators and buyrs can find each other. One such service is iconfinder.

Search through 518,921 icons or browse 8,119 icon sets.

MANY icons are available for purchase here, (particularly handy for those making web sites), and even if you are not ready to spend money on someone else work, I find these searches provide lots of good creative solutions to common icon problems.

Next up is The Nounproject. Also creating provides a place to find, buy and sell icon art, but admittedly has a slicker presentation and bonus features like apps and a good media campaign. I like that they provide some educational guidance towards becoming more visually literate, and have created a skillshare class called “Illustrate Your Day: An Intro to Symbol Design“. More tips from the Nounproject site include an amazing promo video, and the following essential pointers:

What makes a good icon?
Iconic – The design should be simple, bold, elegant, and contain only the essentials.
Narrative- Tell a story with your design by creating a simple scene.
Abstract – Complex ideas sometimes require abstract symbols to help depict their meaning.
The last resources that has been seeing an increasing amount of use latley especially on this site is fontawesome. This is more geared to web developers but always easy integration to a large collection of responsive icons for FREE. Of course it has its premium services available, but for some a quick and basic set of popular icons for your site this is a good place to go.

BONUS Assignment

Practice makes perfect so they say, and if you are looking to practice your icon skills there is no place better to look that the DS106 Assignment bank. One of these in particular looks at using icons to tell a story in a creative way.

The assignment is to reduce a movie, story, or event into its basic elements, then take those visuals and reduce them further to simple icons, four of them. Write your blog post up but do not give away the answer, let people guess! The challenge is to find the icons that suggest the story, but do not make it so easy.

Try it out! I blogged my own solution to this challenge and of course deployed fontawesome FTW!

Myself in Four icons





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