Today we’re talking to Justas from Icon Utopia. He started his newsletter / blog a little over a year ago, to help designers make better icons. As icon-lovers we can only encourage that and we’ve seen more and more icons and illustrations on Dribbble lately. Coincidence? Probably, but that doesn’t matter :)
Hey guys! It’s a pleasure. I’m a 25 year old guy blessed enough to be able to do what I love the most for a living – create icons! I’m also running a blog about icon design called Icon Utopia. And if that’s not enough, I’m also a co-founder of an ecommerce startup Oberlo. With so many responsibilities on my shoulders, I rarely have time for anything else. But on those rare occasions when I’m not in my studio I like spending my time doing active thing. Biking, hiking, and traveling are those things that help me clear my head the best way, so that I am able to tackle my daily hustle with a new energy.
Happy to hear that you’re a subscriber! I’m doing my best with providing top-shelf information about icon design for everybody. A few years ago when I first started crafting icons seriously, I noticed how little valuable information about iconography there is on the internet. I had to learn almost everything I know now the hard way. By trying and failing. So basically it became the reason why I started my blog Icon Utopia about a year ago to help everyone who wants to become an icon designer by providing my insights and knowledge I’ve accumulated throughout my carrier. At first, I was concerned that I knew too little at that time to start a blog. But now from all the positive feedback I’m receiving, I could say without a doubt that everyone can teach. I’m growing way faster as an individual and as a designer by sharing what I know.
At first, I was concerned that I knew too little at that time to start a blog. But now from all the positive feedback I’m receiving, I could say without a doubt that everyone can teach.
A big part of my icon design process is actually analysing and researching if an icon will convey the correct message clearly. Which metaphor will the target audience understand right away, and what icon style to use to approach them. Another big part of my process is sketching. I’m spending a lot of time sketching my icons and trying out different variants, but in the end, paradoxically enough, it also saves me a ton of time. When I’m perfectly happy with the icons I came up with on paper, I simply vectorise them. If I did a great job with the sketches, vectorising usually doesn’t take that long. After having all icons from the set vectorised, I start to refine them. I usually print them out and see how the overall set could be made more cohesive or simplyimproved.
I’m spending a lot of time sketching my icons and trying out different variants, but in the end, paradoxically enough, it also saves me a ton of time.
In my opinion, icon grids are a bit overrated. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a great grid is an essential part of a wonderful icon set, but it’s definitely not a necessity. Usually I’m setting up advanced icon grids only when I’m creating huge icon sets. The more icons of the same style you need to create, the more solid the guidelines should be. But most often I’m using the simplest grid possible:
Grids are a fairly complicated topic and I have written a whole article on when and how to use them. If you’re interested, you can check it out on Icon Utopia.
For anyone who is interested in designing icons I would recommend to JUST DO IT. People tend to overthink everything and that keeps them from actually starting to do things. And as it is with the majority of things, starting out is the most difficult part. Don’t be afraid to simply take your sketchbook and start sketching icon ideas. Little by little, you will see how a full icon set emerges from that.
And for those who still has some doubts about starting icon design – I made an icon design guide. It should kickstart your icon design carrier and answer all the questions you might have before you create your first icon set.