Finding the Right Icons for your Brand
What do websites, street signs and public restrooms have in common?
Icons, of course!
Merriam-Webster defines an icon as “a usually pictorial representation,” which is really just a more adorable way of describing a simple graphic image which conveys a certain object or function.
What makes icons so great is their ability to get a message across quickly. If an icon is successful it will take very little time to communicate the intended idea to the viewer. Icons are especially useful on websites, apps and anything else that is regularly viewed on a cell phone or tablet, because they are easy to scale and view at small sizes.
Because there are so many different styles of icons, it’s easy to incorporate them in the designs of any company or industry. Maybe your brand’s aesthetic is minimal and monochromatic or maybe it’s more suited for friendly, rounded line icons. Either way, there’s sure to be a style that fits.
Next comes the question of where to get the icons you need. This depends on a few key factors, such as budget and how specific the icon set will be. Sometimes a project requires very simple, common icons, and it’s possible to get away with downloading them for free. Often, but not always, free icon sets will require you to credit the designer. Always remember, with free icons sets you get what you pay for and will be sacrificing some customization and style options. Below are a couple free (or nearly free) icon sites to get you started.
Flaticon – This site is easy to search, and has a huge library. Keep in mind the specific style of icons you want when searching this site. You don’t want to fall in love with an illustration style, only to discover it doesn’t contain the symbols your project requires.
Maki – These icons are specifically location based icons for maps, but what’s great is the editor that allows you to change color, line weight etc., without ever leaving the site.
The Noun Project – This site allows you to choose between a paid and free membership which allows for flexibility if down the road your company discovers a need for more than just a couple icons. There are many styles of icons here, so plan on spending some extra time to really sift through and find the good ones.
Other projects will require purchasing individual icons, an entire pre-made set or a custom set illustrated by your graphic or web designer. For instance, if your company website is elaborate or if your industry is highly specific, it’s going to be next to impossible to find pre-made icons that are relevant and the right style. A designer will be able to create exactly what you need, no matter how specific or unusual. The real beauty of customized icons is that they are unique to your company. Instead of trying to search the internet for icons that match your brand, these will be drawn with your company’s style in mind. For some examples of great icon designs, I like to check out Dribbble, Behance and a fun little project called 365cons.
Sure, brand icons are physically small, but they shouldn’t be an afterthought because they play a crucial role in guiding visitors around your site or app. If you aren’t sure which budget level makes the most sense or which style of icon would look best, talk to a designer.
Once you standardize your icons, you will want to save copies of all the artwork along with the rest of the elements of your brand in your brand kit.