When designing a set of brand icons, it is important to carefully decide what messages need to be communicated. For example, if designing a range of value icons, those values should be properly defined. From here, a clear visual explanation can be drawn. We recommend designing and testing icons at very small sizes, approximately 10mm x 10mm in size to ensure they remain legible and understandable when printed. This will also ensure that there is no unnecessary content. The more complicated the design, the more opportunity there is for misinterpretation. This, therefore, renders an icon unusable as clarity is the main goal.
Efficient use of space
Icon design is also incredibly useful in situations where physical space is limited. It may not always be possible to write complicated descriptions — this is where iconography can help. Since it is possible to express a great deal in a small amount of graphic real estate, iconography also reduces the need for text to be used on web pages, which ultimately make them more accessible and inclusive for those with visual impairments or limited understanding of language.
Brands such as GoPro have also devised a list of icons to help users create content on a very small device. The buttons and interactions have very little writing due to the lack of physical space, so it becomes a visual language through which content creators can interact with the product.
An international language
Another major advantage of iconography is that they are, by their very nature, universally understood. This means they do not rely on a viewer to speak a specific language, increasing accessibility and opening up content for users that have otherwise been excluded. Airports are a fantastic example of this — clearly produced iconography is used to help navigate people to the correct place. Since this setting serves time-short people from all over the world, it is important to cut through the language barrier and deliver information quickly. The classic Dutch design system of Schiphol Airport has become the standard that all major international airports follow.
Wayfinding design and directional icons
Similar to the above airport example, iconography is used extensively in wayfinding design. For example, when visiting a restaurant in a foreign country, the universal language of a toilet sign is easy to identify. This can be applied for almost any physical setting, guiding visitors to a payment kiosk, changing room or service area. Iconography can also be used to create a sense of direction. This can help guide a flow of traffic to ensure a space is used efficiently with no bottlenecks. They are also subtle enough to feel passive, while language can often feel harsh or deliberate when issuing an order.
Brand value icons
Brand values are commonly summarised with icon designs. These help to communicate the values of a company and can be used in all channels, from PowerPoint presentations or websites to posters and other printed material. Iconographic representations are particularly popular because they are easy to read and allow a level of interpretation.
If your business would benefit from a fresh approach to brand identity development, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise on the best route forward. We recommend that a strategic audit is undertaken before starting new strategic work to ensure it uses a solid evidence base.