Giving Is Important, but Underselling Yourself Isn’t

A few weeks ago I opened my inbox and began going through the mountain of emails that awaited me.

This wasn’t a special day at all. In fact, if I remember right it was a Wednesday. So I anticipated the same routine as usual.

Then something unexpected happened.

I came across a contact form simply titled “Something for you” that read:

Hi Kyle, Thank you for the work you’ve been doing. I appreciate the time and dedication you’ve put toward icon design. Here’s a gift for you.

No strings attached, no requests of my time, just a gift.

It feels really good to give. It’s something really special because you’re handing over value without expectation.

But the effects of giving too much are rarely discussed.

What happens when something is given so much that it becomes expected rather than appreciated?

Unfortunately, this happens far too often with icon sets. “Download for free!” or “Here’s another free icon set!” litter the internet and create a lot of confusion around the value and effort of truly well made icon sets.

This is a deeply concerning issue because icons represent a language all their own.

The best interest of others is forgotten when the trend is to hand out cheap icons for likes and follows.

To illustrate what I mean by this, think about the last time you went somewhere unfamiliar.

Where you were nervous? Unsure about where to go? Worried about getting to the right place on time?

What likely helped you calm down, find the right room, and show up on time is something we often overlook: the signs pointing you there.

Try to go through that experience again and imagine confusing signs that said something like “A meeting room is on blue level”.

What level is that? What meeting room will you find there? Will that help you get where you need to go?

The ability signs have to get us where we need to go by presenting themselves at the right time, with the right wording, in the right location, and with the right emphasis are no different from icons.

The signs need to be well crafted, valued appropriately, and representative of the building they belong to.

So why are icons so often overlooked and undersold?

You have to value your skills and time before anyone else will.

Icons make the world better through ease of use, well communicated vision, and reinforcement of brand identities. If you can do that well, you’re worth a lot.

Take the iOS app Streaks for example. They use icons to help reinforce building specific habits. In fact, their Apple Watch app simply uses icons to give an overview of goals, each icon taking on its own specific meaning depending on the goal it represents.

It won an Apple design award. Not because it’s the best habit building app ever, but because:

“…the creators of Streaks created elegant, straightforward apps for iOS and watchOS.

The Streaks app for Apple Watch makes great use of notifications, custom complications, and haptics to ensure a great experience.” –

That’s a pretty awesome review and it speaks to the impact good design can have.

So please, stop handing out icons like they’re candy.

This is a call to value yourself, the skills you have, and the best interest of others. If you can make even one icon, you are worth more than $0.0001 per icon and far more than free.


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The Icon Designer's Handbook has radically changed the way many UI/UX designers approach icon design and I hope it will be valuable for you as well.


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