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The first icon I ever did was when I was at Apple. It was a 1 bit, 32x32 pixel icon for one of their software products. [I'm pretty sure it was HyperCard.]
Most people hated doing them, but not me. I loved the anal-retentive challenge of designing little pieces of communication within such limited confines. No colors, no greyscale – just binary black and white.
From an execution standpoint, icons these days seem like a walk in the park. But there's always caveats – with higher quality execution comes equally higher emphasis on effective communication design.
Although icons have been around on desktops for a long time, their prominence has recently skyrocketed with the rise of smartphones. Never before has a good icon been so important, because a well-designed one can make your application stand out in a sea of competitors.
In a design sense, icons are tiny pieces of communication. They are visual metaphors, and are often the first thing the user will experience when using an application. Effectively communicating what that app is or offers at a glance is vastly important.
Like mini branding opportunities, they are the virtual equivalent of boxes on shelves that reinforce the user experience.
Like mini branding opportunities, icons are the virtual equivalent of boxes on shelves that reinforce the user experience.
Flat with long shadows
1 bit - Vintage 1990's
Just for Fun