I Think Icon, You Can Too

I love a good icon—who doesn’t really? Living in a country with a different native tongue, now more than ever do I appreciate clear, strong visual language. A good icon has the ability to communicate past literacy, saving a lot of awkward bathroom situations and avoiding a little less public humiliation and shame.

I personally really enjoy drawing icons and challenge that comes with trying to convey a message in it’s simplest possible form. Icons aren’t always as obvious as just drawing a word, for example have you ever wondered why ‘insurance’ is often represented as an umbrella? Insurance isn’t about trying not to get wet after all—it’s about saving for a rainy day. I love that we understand this about as much as I love not walking into the mens toilet by accident.

When I’m designing an icon or a set of icons, I usually research current symbols associated with the word or message I’m hoping to communicate. I’ve got a few sites that come in handy during these times, so if you find yourself wandering aimlessly around Icon City, these should offer some guidance.

The Noun Project
An online community “creating, sharing and celebrating the world’s visual language”. Essentially, The Noun Project is a bunch of designers that upload their icon graphics for others to use. You can purchase them easily through the site and they also have freebies. If you're looking to sell your designs, it’s also a platform for anyone to do so. They do take a pretty big cut of your profit so you might want to weigh up whether the exposure of an external platform is worth it in the end. Regardless, a good resource even if it’s just to browse for ideas.

I’ve only tried out the demo of Nucleo so far but think it’s an interesting spin on traditional icon libraries. For starters, not just anyone can upload designs—ensuring quality and consistency if you’re looking to purchase a group of icons in the same style. I tend to draw icons myself, however this is a great tool for designers without a graphic background, developers or small businesses who can’t necessarily afford to commission someone. The level of customisation is my favourite feature, providing you with more variations and control without drawing something from scratch. It’s based on a subscription model, another differentiation from other icon sites.

All the icons on this site are freeeeeeee?! It’s kinda crazy in my opinion but snaps to the dude behind it, who I found out is Alexander Kahlkopf despite the fact there is no About page. You have the option to donate money if you want and I highly encourage you contribute at least something if you use his product for commercial purposes ... only seems fair in my humble opinion. Incase you didn’t notice, this one is another treasure brought to you by Germany—woo Deutschland!

Don’t be misled by the title, this web app is all about icons! Fontastic makes your website faster by turning all your icons into fonts, cool huh! And see that big yellow button at the bottom? Yup, this one is free as well. Basically you’re just losing money if you don’t sign up for this bad boy. There is also a large library of icons (also free) ready to go if you don’t have any of your own to upload

So whether you hate drawing icons, don’t have the time, your client has no budget or you simply couldn’t draw them if you tried—these websites should keep you covered! As always you can find these links quickly via the resources page for future easy access.