How to Conceptualize and Create Brand Icons

Over the past few weeks, I've been discussing the importance of icons. How your business can benefit from custom icons and 12 ways your business could utilize custom icons.

In this post, we're going to get to heart of conceptualizing and creating your own icons. 

We'll work through brainstorming icons ideas, creating icons style standards and the platforms you can use to create the icons. 

Let's get started!

How to Conceptualize and Create Icons | In order to design icons for your creative business there are a few key steps you'll want to take from conceptualizing ideas to software resources. Read the full blog post at #designtips #branding #smallbusinessbranding



Before you create your first icon, you'll want to brainstorm concepts. In this section, I'm going to walk you through a few ways to come up with ideas for your icons. 


1 | Synonyms

Let's start with synonyms. A synonym is a word closely related or similar to the word you are referencing. 

For example, money could have the synonym of cash, dollars or payment. When you've chosen the icons you would like to use, try not to get stuck on the exact word you're thinking of. When you're discussing payment a dollar sign may not seem like the exact right icon, but it will still visually translate.


2 | Visualize the take away

When you are brainstorming your icons, you may find yourself stuck on how to visually represent your goal. A great way to narrow this down is to visualize the take away. 

What will your audience receive in the end? For example, if you are asking your audience to subscribe to your resource library, you may be stuck on how to represent this as an icon. Well, instead of feeling pressured into making a library icon, you could make an icon that represents the take away, like content upgrades, workbooks, checklists, etc.


3 | Get inspired

If you're still feeling stuck, don't be afraid to search for inspiration. 

Your inspiration can be as traditional as a simple Google search. Google, Creative Market* and Pinterest are all great resources for finding icon inspiration. 

You can also look to company websites, Instagram Story covers or restaurant menus. You can get inspired anywhere!


Create icon standards

Once you've come up with design concepts for your icons, you'll need to create design standards for your icons. The design standards ensure cohesive branding, easy recognition and enhanced communication. 


1 | Decide if you'll use text

Some icons include the use to text to ensure communication is clear. When designing your icons you'll need to decide if you would like all of your icons to include text.

I suggest only using 1-2 words for each icon so as not to distract your audience from the visual aide.


2 | Create a color palette

Next, you'll want to create a custom color palette solely for your icons. This ensures all of your icons are visually similar, cohesive and increases brand recognition. 

I suggest choosing 2-3 of your brand colors for your icons. To create more visually dynamic icons, take each color and use tints and shades to create a broader color palette. 


3 | Decide design standards

There are a lot of different ways you can diversify your icons. Before creating your icons, you'll want to create a few rules for how all of your icons will look. 

For example, will your icons be outlined or filled? Will they include a background? Do you prefer hand drawn or illustrated? There are a lot of choices to be made here, so take your time looking through different icon design styles before picking your favorite.

How to Conceptualize and Create Brand Icons | Design Services Icons


4 |  Ensure easy recognition

Before you move on to making your icons, you'll need to confirm that the icons make sense. 

An easy way to do this is ask a friend or family member to glance through your icon sketches. If they don't understand the relation or relevance of a few of the sketches, ask their opinion on what would make more sense to them. 

Sometimes, we are too close to our company and products that we forget our clients and customers don't have the same understanding of our field. Things that seem obvious to us, are not nearly as clear to them. 


Creating your icons

You've made it! You've gotten your ideas for icons, they are communicating your message and now all you have left to do is create them. Well, below I share three ways you can create your icons from purchasing icons to utilizing a few different software options. 


1 | Creative Market

If you are nervous or incapable of making your own icons Creative Market* is a great resource. There are many designers on Creative Market that sell icons for every market, style and user-friendliness. 

You may even be able to find a designer through Creative Market to create custom icons for your brand. Many of the designers on Creative Market, including myself, use the platform as a supplement to their income rather than their primary source of income. Plus, it never hurts to ask for custom design work!

*Creative Market is an affiliate partner. If you purchase something through my link, I may receive some cash-money. Thanks!


2 |  Canva

Canva is a resource that falls somewhere between Creative Market and Adobe Illustrator. 

Canva helps people with their designs through templates, fonts, colors and patterns with an easy drag and drop platform. I don't believe Canva has a specific section of their website that offers free icon designs. 

I can't advise you on the copyright of these icons, so you'll want to read them before using them on your website or products. 


3 | Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is your best bet for creating custom brand icons. 

Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based software that you can use to create illustrations of all kinds. It also offers you the most flexibility in design styles, standards and aesthetic. 

What tool will you use to create your brand icons? Let us know in the comments!