Introduction to Icon Designing and its Categories

Examples of Two-point perspective icon set
Examples of Two-point perspective icon set

Now a days, icons are everywhere – from cell phone to tablets, laptops to computers, websites to software… They are almost everywhere! And if you are a graphic designer, then maybe you’ve already designed a couple of logos for your clients. Icon designing is almost similar to designing a symbolic or iconic logo type. For example, if you’ve to design a logo for a company and if it should be symbolic/iconic, then that symbol should reflect the company’s purpose or what the company does for its clients. Though it isn’t almost same as designing an icon or symbolic logo, I just tried to give relevance between icon designing and symbolic logo designing. Now let’s take an example of why I’m giving relevance between icon and symbolic logo designing. Suppose you are going to design an icon for a regular calendar, then how will you do it? If you have never seen a calendar or don’t know what a calendar is, then can you design an icon for it? Never. So we should have sufficient knowledge on what we are going to design and always keep in mind how the subject looks in real life, so that we can convert it into a perfect icon. As like as you should know everything about the company before you start designing a logo for them. Symbolic logos may contain text with it and we call it Combination Mark logos. It is more recognizable for its consumers. But in icons, we don’t have any text within it to describe it. It is like drawing an imperfect elephant and writing elephant on it. We can’t do that with icons. You’ve to make people understand what that particular icon means by its design and shape. So in my viewpoint, it is more difficult to design an icon then designing a symbolic or iconic logo. So let’s dig into icon designing categories. Basically there are three icon types that you might have noticed or, you can say, there are three categories of icon designing. They are:

  • Zero-point Perspective
  • One-point perspective and
  • Two-point perspective

The choice is yours in which category you want to design your icons. But remember, if you are going to design an icon set, which contains a minimum of 6 icons, then always chose a single category. For example, if you are going to design your first icon from the set in Two-point perspective, then you have to design the rest of the five icons in Two-point perspective respectively or else your icon set won’t look good or standard. But it is suitable to design icons on any category if it is a single icon and doesn’t belong to any set. Before I elaborate you about the three categories of icon designing, you must be familiar with Perspective Designing.

Zero-point perspective icon

Zero means there is no vanishing point in it. Only parallel lines exist. That means there is no any side-view or top-view in the icons. What we see is only the front side. We can give it depth-of-field by adding color variations. Basically we see Zero-point perspective in glyph-style icons, which are popular in mobile devices, web applications or toolbar icons. Here are some examples of Zero-point perspective solid-style and glyph-style icon set.

One-point perspective icon

An icon which contains only one vanishing point is called One-point perspective icon. Rather than looking flat like Zero-point perspective icons, it has some 3D effect and looks more realistic. We can draw One-point perspective icons either by intersecting picture plane on X-axis (i.e. horizontally) or on Y-axis (i.e. vertically). Here are few examples of One-point perspective icons.

Two-point perspective icon

If you want to show two sides of your icons, than you’ve to draw them in Two-point perspective. It is almost similar with one-point perspective. The difference is that, in One-point perspective, we just see one side of an icon but in Two-point perspective, we see two sides of an icon. Two-point perspective contains two vanishing points in its horizon line and can make icons more realistic than one-point or zero-point perspective icons. These kinds of icons are positioned in an angular position and the nearest part of the icon to its viewers is its corner. For better understanding, here are some examples.

So we end up our Introduction to icon designing and its categories and I hope it will help you to understand icons even better than before. If you are new to this field, then I’ll suggest you to start with basic pencil and (graph) paper method. For experts, they can use some vector graphic software like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape for developing their concepts. Good luck. Have a great time designing icons.


Nilotpal Singha

A professional graphic web designer, blogger, writer.

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