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Icons are great.

They help us quickly recognise concepts and generate cognitive connections to what we’re seeing. They are little visual cues that make us more likely to remember details of an experience.

All of which comes in handy when you’re trying to communicate what a brand or a service is about, for example on their website.

When you notice that the company that made it has gone to the trouble of crafting custom iconography, it tells you that this company cares about crafting an experience, but more importantly, it makes your experience more meaningful and engaging. It gives visitors a better understanding of the content and a deeper experience of the brand itself.

The thing about icons

First lesson: Creating a set of custom icons is neither quick nor easy. The extra effort it requires can shift the project timeline from a couple of days to several weeks. Before you start make sure everyone on the team is on board with the decision, and that the client understands that the extra effort will be worth it.

Another very important thing that I didn’t learn until after I’d done many icon projects was that including iconography in the Art Direction phase is super helpful. Many clients have never evaluated a moodboard before, so laying out some of their original content paired with beautiful and compelling iconography really helps them understand what they’re looking at and visualise the outcome. After seeing the potential of a custom icon set in action, most of them become enthusiastic.

In the design phase, the main challenge I kept facing was the lack of visual elements. The iconography style is generated from the website’s visual ecosystem, which is composed of a logo, colour palette, typography, illustrations, photography and even the tone of voice. But there were many occasions when I was designing with no more than a logo and a couple of colours, so I had to get better at grabbing anything that could spark ideas.

With time almost every project I took part in included custom iconography, and I’ve kept getting better at the design process.

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This article is by Andrea Mata