Need a little design inspiration for creating an awesome app icon? Here are 19 examples and what makes them impactful.
There’s an app for everything these days, meaning that when customers head over to their App Store or Google Play, your app will have a lot of competition to beat.
Functionality and ease of use are by far the most important considerations for the long-term success of any app. However, it’s the design of the app icon that might entice a number of users to try it out.
Here are 19 outstanding examples of app icon design, from some well-known favorites to creative app icon inspiration ideas. We’ve split them into several categories, so finding a design style that matches your brand is easier.
Symbols and graphics
If you want your app icon design to quickly convey what the app is all about, using a recognizable symbol or image is a good idea. Of course, remember to keep the details to a minimum, as this will ensure graphically designed images are clear and recognizable even in small sizes.
Opto VPN Security
Keys and shields are popular symbols in all sorts of security logos, and they also make a sensible choice for app icons. This modern design uses a simple outline illustration paired with a sleek, gradient background. Since blue is supposed to be a color that inspires trust, it’s an excellent choice for an online security app.
Those that remember the old days of Instagram (those sepia filters live forever in my heart) surely remember the “retro” app icon of a polaroid camera. More recently, Instagram successfully redesigned the icon fitting to more modern, minimalist aesthetics. However, even though it’s just a simple outline, it’s still pretty easy to recognize the shape of the camera.
The gradients in the background add an extra modern flair, which was later introduced to other icons of apps owned by Meta (formerly Facebook), such as Messenger.
Plenty of period tracking apps use hearts, leaves, and flowers, so it can be refreshing to see something different. Flo stays similar to its competitors with the color choices (I’m sorry to say it’s yet another pinkish, coral, ladies) but opts for a sleek feather for its icon. Perhaps the image itself doesn’t necessarily convey the app’s main functionality immediately. Still, it does inspire a particular feeling (lightness, being carefree), which is what you’d want in an app like this.
Purple and pink color schemes are very popular in the tech industry. Here’s another example of a chat app icon concept that makes clever use of color and simple speech bubble shapes.
This app icon design example is a little hard to place into a specific category since it’s pretty simple yet incredibly clever. It’s Amazon’s new app icon introduced in 2021. And after a bit of tweaking (the blue strip initially resembled an infamous mustache), the app now has a polished new look. The brown color is pretty unorthodox in app design but perfectly fits the company and the app. And the clever incorporation of a part of Amazon’s logo is seamless. Much better than the dated shopping cart and company name!
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Abstract app icons
In the world of SaaS (software-as-a-service) businesses, it can sometimes be difficult to show with very literal symbols and imagery what an app is all about. That’s where a more abstract approach, using shapes and lines, can be pretty impressive. Take a look at some of these app icon ideas.
We have to mention this industry giant for several reasons. Even though Slack is technically a professional chat app and could easily be represented by a simple speech bubble, the app icon, and company logo take a totally different approach. The brilliant idea behind Slack which incidentally made it such a success is that it merges different communication tools and channels in one app. The app icon and logo design reflect that through the use of different colors and fluid shapes combined into one entity.
Remember when I said there’s an app for everything? Well, this example really proves it! Substrate is an app that helps you learn organic chemistry in a fun, engaging way. Created with a mobile-first approach, this app is available as an iOS and Android app and designed for learning on the go.
The modern logo reflects that perfectly, but it also references the topic since the lines might represent chemical bonds.
One of the most basic principles of designing a successful app icon is to keep things simple. Well, this example takes that piece of advice seriously with an almost shockingly simple orange circle. Why does it work, though? For a couple of reasons. First of all, the design is eye-catching precisely because of its simplicity (and the beautiful orange shade is also quite unique). However, it also translates the app’s primary function into design very well. Headspace is a mindfulness and meditation app, and just focusing on this orange dot inspires such a sense with the viewer.
A mascot app icon is a great way to build a connection with your target audience and give your design “more personality.” Of course, a mascot would ideally be present in your logo as well, which will help you build brand awareness.
Love it or hate it, Duolingo’s owl is one of the most famous mascots in the world of app icons. The choice of an owl, the “wisest” of animals, is an obvious one for a learning app. However, it’s even more interesting to note that the app’s functionalities (the incessant push notifications and email reminders) have transformed the mascot’s character. And the company quite cleverly embraced this, joining in on the joke that their cute mascot is now a language-teaching sociopath.
Of course, even without the elaborate backstory, the wide-eyed mascot is sure to grab people’s attention on any home screen.
Dumb Ways to Die
So it’s not exactly a mobile app, but there’s a lot to learn from this mobile video game in terms of icon design. Unlike sleek app icons, many games don’t often have stellar design: they’re usually colorful and a bit messy.
This game (incidentally one of my favorites) uses game characters as icons, adding fun details. It’s also a good example of using different variations, since the iOS and Android icons are different.
Another owl in the world of app design is, of course, Tripadvisor. They used to have a more colorful logo, but moved to a more modern and minimalist design with an outline illustration against a green background in recent years. And it also makes a memorable icon since the color is noticeable but pleasing to the eye, while the mascot’s wide eyes help draw the viewer’s eyes to the image.
Another recognizable chap (chimp), this cute app design uses a bright color that grabs attention. Like Tripadvisor, Mailchimp has stripped down its logo to the basics, and the result is a crisp, modern logo that will probably stay relevant in years to come.
Letters and words
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As a rule of thumb, app icons shouldn’t contain full words as these can often be illegible on small home screens. However, if your brand uses a wordmark or lettermark as a logo, you should try to keep app icons close to that by using letters or company name initials.
Here are a few app icon design examples that use this approach well.
As a file-sharing app, there were plenty of other routes this company could have taken with their mobile app icon. Still, this unique letter X is very eye-catching thanks to good use of contrast (blue and orange are complementary colors) and a custom shape that also resembles an hourglass.
Everyone has a mobile banking app on their phone these days, but unlike other “leisure” apps, the design language of this kind of icon needs to convey trust and credibility and not just attract attention. This fintech app design concept is sleek and modern; however, the blue and grey color palette gives off a stern, professional vibe.
A skilled designer can find a way to fit a lot even in a very small space, and here’s an example to prove it. While there are plenty of apps with a similar look (as we said, purple and gradients are very popular as well as sleek, custom letters), this fitness app helps provide an even better user experience by adding the full name of the app into the small icon. The slight difference in line thickness might not be something you catch when glancing at your screen, but it helps make the lettering more noticeable while the overall design remains well-balanced.
Remember when I said you should try to keep things as simple and minimalistic as possible? Well, here’s an example that breaks those rules and very successfully so.
Buzzfeed’s fun food network uses an icon that combines text (an entire word, in fact), a handwritten font rather than a crisp sans serif, colorful background, and additional illustrated elements in said background. However, it conveys the app’s fun, casual nature well, and even with all the details, it doesn’t look overcrowded.
Whether it will still look relevant in a few years is a big question but, for now, it’s playful, enticing, and aesthetically pleasing.
Illustrated app design
In closing, here are a few examples of more intricate designs using different types of illustrations. This is definitely something that you shouldn’t attempt to do if you don’t have any design knowledge. However, an experienced graphic designer or even a place like our free illustration library can definitely offer a great design solution for almost any type of app.
Cinnamon Roll App
Using photos in app icon design is usually not a great idea, but a photorealistic illustration high quality PNG file is another story altogether. This style allows you to add more details to your design but still keeping in mind the (space) restrictions you’re dealing with. For example, this idea for an app (presumably) for cinnamon roll recipes is bound to make anyone’s mouth water and would be difficult to overlook!
Although it might look like a mindfulness app, Prune is actually an award-winning mobile game that invites players to cultivate trees and save them from poisonous red orbs. The illustration itself here is not too intricate, but the overall design is beautiful and would likely catch your attention amongst numerous tacky icons that pop up in app search results.
Pencil and watercolor illustrations give any design a more “human” feel, and in this field, it can really make a design stand out. This playful concept for some sort of drawing app combines the two techniques to create a simple and cute icon with a lot of personality.
We hope this list gives you plenty of food for thought for designing your own app icon! When it comes to design, try to stick to the basics and keep details minimal, but don’t forget to infuse the design with your brand identity and add something a little extra (whether it’s a contrast of colors, 3D effect or a mascot) that will help your app stand out from the rest. If you need further inspiration, or even some awesome ready-made icons that you can customize, be sure to check out our free icons library with thousands of free designs!