Why I Care About Icons
Lately I’ve been reading a great book called “Find Your Why” by Simon Sinek. The book is fantastic and since starting it I realized there are more than 100 blog posts on this site, but I’ve never really shared why I’m so focused on icons.
I hope sharing why I do this will give you a bit different perspective when it comes to icons. They’re far more than decorative button replacements.
Why do Icons Matter So Much?
I started my career as a UI/UX designer passionate about helping people have great experiences. I’m sure that if you’re reading this article, you’re in a similar situation.
As I worked with other designers and developers, I noticed they also had a real passion for making experiences the best they could be. We’d obsess over screen layouts, flows, delightful interactions, and the arrangement of type, but most of the time I noticed icons were somewhat of an afterthought…
Whether by conditioning or pure neglect, many designers choose icons from some generic set (or multiple sets) and drop them onto the page in places they seem to make sense. This process has always stood out to me because of the attention to detail so many UI designers put into their work.
I Believe Icons Speak Volumes
Icons are nothing new to the world. What we see as a simple image was perhaps one of the first forms of communication. Very meaningful and complex moments in history have been forever preserved in cave drawings and hieroglyphics.
If these simple depictions of life were compelling enough to communicate with at our most primitive, it would seem we have an innate connection with symbolism. It’s powerful and allows us to share an idea without words.
This big opportunity to speak volumes in one tiny image is what concerns me about generic icon sets and the overall lack of concern for how, where, and why icons are used. They have so much potential.
In 2013, I got tired of sitting back and got to work. It was almost an obsession, but I suppose that’s what drove me to start this site and still drives me today. I studied everything I could, which was surprisingly very little at the time.
I Want to Fill in the Gaps
I don’t think I’m the only person that can fill in the icon gap, but what I know for sure is if nobody tries, nothing will change.
What really drives me is giving people a good experience. I want everything to make sense and be as compelling, connecting, and stress free as possible. There’s something about that (even beyond UI design) that really gives me joy.
When someone uses something I’ve made and lights up, I’m fulfilled.
Of course I’m I know this won’t happen all the time. Mistakes happen, things can always be easier, and there’s often no “one size fits all” solution. But the world I dream of has real connection, even across language barriers.
The right icons can make connections words can’t, and that’s what I love about them. If you agree and want to start designing and using icons that have real intention and meaning, I hope you’ll join me.