Principles of Effective Icon Design Discussed [Interview]

If you want a designer who believes passionately in his craft and your results, talk to University of Porto–trained graphic designer and Fiverr Pro seller João E. Pereira. He spends his days and nights at his UltraBold studio, working on brand identity and strategy campaigns to help customers stay relevant and recognizable in a world full of icons and symbols. He finds ways to make a few simple yet strong symbols crackle, both in digital formats and in print. I asked him what entrepreneurs need to understand about design for the year ahead.

Nico: First of all, thank you for participating in this interview. For those who don’t know you, can you give us a little background about yourself and what you offer on Fiverr?

João: I’m an art director from Leicester, UK (about one hour from London) with more than 10 years of experience in branding, corporate identity, and logotype design. I do have a soft spot for typography and lettering, and that accounts for a few sleepless nights per week designing and experimenting with letterforms.

On Fiverr I offer logotype design, business cards and letterhead design, and app icon design. Obviously, all these projects can expand into several other branches of graphic design such as poster and brochure design, flyers, and signage, depending on the requirements of the project.

I joined Fiverr because it allows me to be involved in amazing and unique projects with an international audience. Also, the platform protects the investment both ways – the clients and the designer’s work.

business card design gig on fiverr
app icon design gig on fiverr

Nico: Let’s say that an entrepreneur within Fiverr has an app idea for their company and they think they will strike it big if this ideal app gets made. What would you recommend first: visual design or icon design?

João: I always say that the app icon is the first contact your target audience will ever have with your product. When browsing Google Play or Apple Store, people are confronted with a myriad of little icons that have to concisely and effectively communicate a service and intrigue you enough to download and try an app. So a professional and engaging icon is necessary to create a good first impression. Needless to say that the UI and UX should reflect that experience and professionalism once the user explores and navigates the app. The keyword to retain is cohesiveness.

Nico: Regarding icon design trends, what are the exciting current trends that seem set to continue throughout 2018? Do people recognize icons faster than words?

João: I believe that flat and minimalist design is here to stay. Most of the relevant branding projects done recently mimic this visual language while searching to serve a larger audience with simple, clean graphics allied with bold colors. And, of course, gradients are also coming back in a more prominent way. Nonetheless, the form should always follow the function, so the original concept should always guide the project.

All languages are derived from a pictorial system, from hieroglyphs to alphabets and nowadays to emojis. So in this sense, people recognize and use icons to communicate short messages. They can also be used to break language barriers, since most symbols can be read universally and interpreted as part of a global culture.

Nico: What are the key business points that a perfect icon design should convey? How much does an app icon influence user engagement?

João: An icon, just like a logotype, is a vessel that can be imbued with a multitude of meanings and messages. Regardless of the message, either rebellious or more constrained, friendly or serious, the app icon is only a part of a more expanded and complex visual system. As such, it should communicate effectively within the specified guidelines so that it fits harmoniously with other aspects of the brand like the UI or other medium used to communicate.

Nico: Speaking about user interface design, what are the essential features of efficient icons in UI design?

João: The most special feature of icon design (for digital purposes or even printed materials) is consistency. Each icon should be able to communicate on its own, but also be a part of a suite once paired with other icons from the same brand. This ensures that an engaging experience is maintained on all outlets of the brand. To this effect, I can point out the use of colors derived from the established brand color palette, consistent use of visual traits (e.g., same line weight), background, and so on. My advice is to keep everything simple: Design a grid where all the elements can sit and experiment with legibility, ensuring that your icons will be decipherable even at small sizes. And, of course, don’t forget to keep visual details that make your icons unique and relevant to the main brand.


We’re surrounded by images, logotypes and icons. And João reminds us that everything we show a customer – even our color choices and use of gradients – can make a statement about who we are and what we do. It’s wonderful to have committed visionaries like him share their talents on Fiverr, helping clients make bold and memorable statements every time a customer sees their message.

How do you feel about flat, minimalist designs? Does your brand’s icon communicate enough of your unique values? Let’s talk in the comments below.

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