The Key to Making a Good Icon Set

Awesome icon set example

This week I listened to an awesome interview by Kyle Adams, a famous icon designer, giving tips on why he is so successful with icon design. Some of his tips really resonated with me.

The main points I enjoyed were that before you even begin designing an icon you need to consider what the goals are behind the icons and then you need to think about who the audience is as well. Answering both of those questions will really improve the look and feel of your icons, and improve your overall design of the icons.

It was also discussed that there are a lot of established icons already and there needs to be a reason to change what is already established. A lot of times icons will be very similar, but they will have their own style on it depending on the target audience and what the goal is behind the icons. Designers can still put their own twist and style on already established icons, and get creative by setting their own set of rules to help keep the icons with continuity. These rules will vary and are established based on the goals and audience of the icon sets.

This educational icon set (below) uses already established icon designs, but uses different design principles and colors to create a new take on them.

Awesome icon set example


Contrast is one of the strongest design principles and it is used in a lot of ways with these icons. First, there is contrast between the background shape and the light art board the icons are placed on to help emphasize the icons themselves. There is also contrast with the shadows in the the icons. The extreme light and dark portions of the design contrast well against, as well as the red and green contrasting color choices.


Having repetitive design elements unify the overall design set. In this case, there are several repetitive elements for these icons. First, they are all placed within a circle shape. Secondly, they all have curved edges, even on the elements that are rectangular or square in shape. Another repetitive element is the distinctive diagonal shadows coming off all the icons. All of these ‘rules’ that are repeated really unify the design and help them look professional.

Color Scheme

The color scheme of these icons unify the design as well. The same few colors are repeated throughout the various icons and are another set rule this designer chose to use. The main color choices are green, blue-green, yellow, yellow-orange and red-orange. The colors are a mix between warm and cool colors, and they work well to bring in color contrast and interest. All the colors are in multiple icon selections, and the scheme really improves the unity of the design.

Having these design principles in mind can really elevate an icon set design. But more importantly, having a goal in mind when designing icons is the key to creating well designed icons that will be perfect for your client.


Getting Nostalgic With Illustrator Icons

While I don’t particularly know much about bears, beets or Battlestar Galactica, I do know a bit about The Office. So when we got the fun assignment to come up with an idea and then design small icons related to that theme I knew somehow I had to incorporate my love of The Office characters.

Project Specifications

We had to use Adobe Illustrator to create 4-6 original icons to communicate a specific message. We couldn’t have any text, gradients, drop shadows, pixels, or raster effects. Other than that, we were free to create whatever we wanted.

My Theme

I decided that the theme of my icons was going to be The Office characters pretty early on. I found The Office TV show right after I graduated college, and I remember staying up in the middle of the night watching The Office over the years with multiple newborn babies. It kept me sane, and I still watch the show regularly today. I have a love for the show and it’s characters, and I thought it would be a fun challenge to try to recreate the characters into icons.

Target Audience

I wanted to target people who are fans of the Office, typically people age 16 and up who enjoy comedy and the fun characters on the fun TV show. This was actually an interesting challenge, since the target audience is very specific. In order to really appeal to my audience I needed to make my icons easily recognizable and communicate who they were through my design.

Color Scheme

I didn’t quite know how to choose colors for this particular assignment because I didn’t want to be limited in the colors I chose for the characters, but then I realized I could have complimentary and contrasting colors in the background that would bring in a nice repetitive element to the design. I chose soft pastels and then a more vibrant color in the same scheme for contrast. I think the colors contrasted each other nicely and made the design fun and colorful.

Design Analysis

I started my design by sketching out multiple sketches of the characters I wanted to do. I knew the most iconic characters were Michael Scott, Dwight, Pam, and Jim. The next few characters were a little more fluid.

When I was ready to start working in Illustrator I did not like how my first draft turned out. It looked too kiddish, it didn’t look very good. So I started from scratch and liked my second version much better. Here’s what I turned in for my rough draft.

After some feedback I realized I forgot to put in the line on Jim’s background, I swapped out Michael and Andy for Darryl (warehouse manager) and Kevin as character icons because they were more easily identifiable, and made Angela’s face more skinny because that’s a running joke in the show about how small she is.

Final Versions

Here are the final products of my design.

I am happy with how the final assignment turned out. I think all the characters work together, are identifiable, and there’s consistency with the color backgrounds, face shapes, eyes and basic profile layout.

I’ll leave with these wise words from Michael Scott.

“Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”

Perhaps that’s what I want to communicate with this design as well. Words to live by. Words to live by, my friends.

Creating a Magazine Spread With InDesign

Rough Draft Version 2

The past few weeks in class we have been studying InDesign and have been designing a magazine spread layout as one of our projects.

Project Specifications:

For this particular assignment we used Adobe InDesign to create a 3 page magazine spread, using at least a two column layout, with three subheadings or headings, a pull quote, at least two photos we’ve taken ourselves, and one word wrap. We were to be purposeful with our typography and photography choices. We each chose our own topic for our magazine spread from BYUI Scroll and LDS.Org.

We’ve already learned about design elements to help make a design look more professional, so though it wasn’t specifically outlined on the ‘requirements’ we knew if we wanted to do the best we needed to remember to keep things aligned, have contrast, have some repetitive design elements and keep things in proximity with the title and other important information.

For my assignment I chose the article Become As a Little Child by Jean A. Stevens. You can find the article HERE.

Determining My Target Audience

My target audience for this project is LDS adults ages eighteen and up, expanded across the globe. The author is targeting all adults, but I feel specifically it is targeted towards parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers or anyone who is around children. The design appeals to this target audience because it is conservative design, draws attention with the photography of the children with good contrasting images, and has an overall softened appearance because of the script title and headings.

Main Communication Goal

The one thing I want to communicate with my design is the important role that children have in building up the Kingdom of God and that their divine attributes help us with our own spiritual journey and growth.


These photos are all taken by me of my children (aka my 4 little birdies) during our fall break trip out of State. Since my topic was becoming as a child, they were the perfect subjects.


The typography I used for the main body copy was Arial, in the San Serif category. For the Title and headings I used Bernadette font, in the Script category, and Georgia in the Serif category. I chose Script to soften the appearance of the overall design, and felt serif contrasted nicely with it. Arial is a classic san serif font that is easy to read for body copy.

Color Scheme Choice:

Create a Color Scheme with Your Photos You Take to Give it a Nice Coordinated Design
I chose my color strategy based on the photos I took. I liked the idea of having cooler, calm colors for the spiritual message, but have a nice warm contrasting color, pink, with the design elements.

Design Analysis:

I started off my design journey by sketching it out on paper first. Here are a few of the ideas I had before I opened up inDesign.
sketch 3
sketch 4
sketch 4
I’ll readily admit I didn’t stick to my sketches firmly once I started using InDesign (as evidence of my examples below), but I thought the sketches helped me come up with somewhere to start instead of just staring at a blank canvas and not knowing where to start. There were some things I tried out and instantly didn’t love, and other things I did like and eventually tweaked to work for my final submission.

Here are a few examples (of the seven rough drafts) I went through. I will note that the colors don’t coordinate quite yet because I hadn’t changed them yet, and you can tell I hadn’t lightened up the photos I had taken out of camera either (I had to resort to taking photos in dark shade since I took the photos at noon).
RD 1
Rough Draft Version 2
RD 3a

Rough Draft

Rough Draft Submission
RD Submission
For my rough draft submission I ended up deciding to do a two page spread on my title page, and a single page for my third page. I submitted my rough draft to get critiqued and got some feedback from others in the class and my accomplished college professor. I felt seeing things from their perspective was helpful in producing an even better design. I moved some things around and shortened my quote. I didn’t have too many corrections to do, so the rough draft isn’t drastically different than my final product.

Magazine Spread Final

Final Draft of InDesign Magazine Spread Project
indesign magazine spread example
This was the end product of my magazine spread. I moved the triangles so they weren’t covering any of the wording on the front page which was distracting, and I made my pull quote a little shorter as suggested. I also made the blue line on the third page a little narrower to fit with the lines in between the photographs, as instructed by my gifted professor.

The main design decisions I made was keeping things relatively conservative since it is a religious magazine. I also wanted to stick with the main elements of design by keeping things left aligned, making sure there was good proximity with the headings and the title information. I also wanted to add repetition with the design elements and color, including the triangles on bottom corners, the green bar on the bottom of the pages, and the blue lines near the photography. I wanted to add contrast in the design and felt I did that with the use of photo placement and how large the photo is on the first page. I feel there’s good contrast with the headings because of the color and typography, and added some contrast with the dark blue background and lighter font color for the title.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed learning more about inDesign and how it works. I can see how helpful it can be when creating newsletters, brochures, and other handy items for print. I’ve never really used inDesign before, so I learned a lot and am happy with how my project turned out. It is a little less friendly than other Adobe programs I have worked with before, but it allowed me to make a nice magazine spread.

Contrasting Typography and Why It Works

Reverse Engineer Post
We learned about typography this week in our visual media design class. I know that typography is important not just because it allows us to share information and communicate, but it also has a beautiful way of adding to a design. This is especially true when the fonts are used effectively together. The design I chose for this reverse engineer post is a book cover for the 2013 edition of Best New Poets. (You can find where I found the cover design for the book HERE.) While the alignment may not be to Bro. Lybbert’s taste since it is center aligned, it does show a good contrast between two different fonts with it’s typography.

Typeface #1

The first font on the design is a Modern style font. While the design does have serifs, the serifs are thin and horizontal and you can see on the B there is no bracketing. There is no sign of a slant with the font; the stress is vertical as seen in this example with the O. You can also decipher that it is a modern font because of the radical thick to thin transition in the strokes, as shown above on the letter e.

Typeface #2

The 2nd font shown on this design is a decorative font. I can tell it is decorative font, first because I know if I had to imagine reading an entire page of copy with that font I would want to throw up a little. (Robin Williams’ description, not mine.) It also doesn’t confine itself with alignment like the other type categories because the N is lower than the E or the W, making it decorative and different. It also has more defined slants that aren’t parallel to one another, and part of the fonts are see-through to give it a paint-brush feel, and it doesn’t have any straight edges on the ends giving it a decorative look.


I think the two fonts contrast well together for a number of reasons. The decorative font has no serifs and it’s edges look like brush strokes, which contrast nicely against the elegant horizontal serifs of the modern type font. The Modern font is perfectly vertical, while the decorative font is more slanted and random. The modern font also shows a radical difference with it’s thin to thick transition in the strokes, while the thickness of the decorative font has little to any contrast in the thickness of the strokes. Having contrasting typography draws your attention in a positive way and makes the design creative and fun.


I think the typography of this design works well with the contrasting fonts. The typography works well because of their contrasting differences, but also the type of fonts use work well with the theme of the subject – which is transitioning from the old (modern font) to the new (more modern, decorative font). The designers even took it a step further by adding other design elements, such as the torn page and the added turquoise color, to show the contrast between the two font types. In conclusion, it is a good use of contrasting typography.

Why You Should Give a C.R.A.P. about Design Elements

I found this awesome flyer designed by Damien Raymond and Paul Filippi of Studio Shebam. [Disclaimer: I don’t actually speak French. I just asked my dad. So if this info is incorrect you can blame it all on him. His name is Vaughn and he lives in a van down by the River.] The backlinks to the Studio haven’t been working, but you can find the post where I found the flyer on
visual media reverse engineer posting
There are a lot of reasons why I’m drawn to the flyer. First off, it hits on all the main design elements I love: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity. It also has excellent use of color. Let’s dive in and talk about each of these elements. It’s going to be fun!


I love the obvious contrasting elements on this design. The bold lines contrast nicely against the white. There’s contrast between the photograph portion of the design and non-photographed triangle sharp lines. The colored portions of the flyer also contrast against the black-and-white photo. The title font offers visual contrast with the font because it is bolded and much larger then the font next to it. Because there are so many fun, bold elements on the design it easily draws attention and creates interest.


There are many repeated design aspects evident in the flyer. There’s repetition in the angled portions of the design that make the page segment into triangle designs. There are also whimsical design elements in it that bring in repetitive colors (green, gray, white) and shapes (lines, triangles). The repetitive portions of the design help unify the design and strengthens it by tying the elements together in a creative and fun way.


The alignment on the page is quickly evident by the Title and text of the flyer being flushed right. The bottom text is aligned with the lines on the left too. Something else I liked to see was the design of this flyer highlights angles and lines a lot, so I found it pretty clever that they aligned the P in Production and the C in Cabaret to align with one of the lines of the design as well. The alignment on the flyer unifies the design by keeping things organized with an invisible line and also in the process keeps the design in angles that flow with the rest of the design.


The physical closeness of the text implies a relationship between the information they are communicating with their audience.The top circled section is the main attraction they are advertising followed who is performing in it. Both are the main points, emphasized by their proximity and font size. The next section explains the time and dates of the production, obviously still important information because it’s bolded and larger but it’s relationship to the Title of the attraction is obvious because of the spacing between the two. And the small font on the bottom of the file is the ticket and contact information and you instantly know that it is not information related directly to the main event or dates of the event – why? Because of the PROXIMITY between it and the other blocks of text above.


Lastly, there are some basic color design principles in play here that are really nice too. Not only is color working as a nice contrasting element, but the colors have a nice relationship with one another. The green is the same color through out, but when paired as an overlay over the photograph on the top allows the green triangle to compliment as an analogous combination because they are similar greens, just lighter and darker shades. I also like how the designer incorporated the same color branding of white, dark gray and green through out to unify the design nicely.

Final Thoughts

Due to it’s nice use of contrasting elements, information proximity, color branding, whimsical repetition, and nice right alignment the flyer is very unified and creative, and professional looking as well. It’s evident that the designer didn’t just stick inside the box, but added additional design layers and elements that created a fun feeling and added dimension.

Next time you see an advertisement or design that draws your attention, remember to give a C.R.A.P. and see what makes it visually appealing.