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Icon Design in 2022: The Key Trends

Jan 10, 2022
5 minutes

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Icons are an integral part of UX design, and since their first creation in 1981, designers have found new ways to evolve their design. Let’s look ahead to what’s coming up next in 2022 icon design.

The first set of icons was created in 1981 when computer scientist David Canfield and designer Norm Cox created a set of office supplies such as documents and folders for Xerox Star.

Today we see icons everywhere, and our brain is trained to understand them without thinking. For example, when we see an icon illustrating an envelope, we know it represents an email, while triangle forms are for media, and locks and keys are associated with online security.

When it comes to icon design, there are two main approaches - symbolic and iconic. Symbolic icons are abstract forms that acquire meaning through association, while iconic ones are literal and representative.

Let’s take a look at what’s new and what’s trending in icon design!

Minimalistic

As minimalism made its way into the logo design, it also influenced icon design. Reducing the design to its essentials allows designers to create straightforward, memorable illustrations without relying too much on the color palette or the shape.

Simple icons are easy to understand, even though their representation isn’t always literal, which gives designers the freedom to be creative.

Today, even the websites that featured complex designs and icons before are moving toward a more simplistic visual presentation of their content, reflecting on the icon design.

Circular

In nature and design, the circle is the first, simplest, and most perfect geometrical shape. From icons with a flat design in a circle to three-dimensional spheres, this type of icon can establish just the right feel for users, and designers are more and more inclined to use them.

The tricky part about the circular icon design is that sometimes circles aren’t getting along perfectly with the other shapes that populate the design, such as app icons which tend to be square.

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Illustrated

In the past, icons have been relatively simple most of the time. As the screen resolution continuously increases on all devices, designers feel encouraged to experiment with illustrations that contribute to the aesthetics of the design.

As with the example below, which illustrates “Game of Thrones” landscapes, this style perfectly depicts specific concepts or meaning.

oh.my Credit: Lucía Types

It used to be quite difficult to find good illustrations online, but there are now plenty of design tools and libraries that offer great illustrations, often at a small price or completely free. One such place is our vast free illustration gallery which we regularly update with new designs!

Line style

Line icons are always a popular choice because the style is compatible with almost any other design element or overall design style. The style keeps evolving, and the new trend adds a little more visual attraction with a drop of color.

The color can fill part of the icon or simply float in the background, which ties the elements of the icon together and can emphasize the brand color.

oh.my Credit: Yulia Choo

3D gradients

The 3D gradient is gaining popularity and has become quite dominant in recent years in all aspects of design, including icon design. From enriching the color of the elements in the icon to giving a pop effect to monochromatic icons on a full gradient-colored background, this style simply looks modern and appealing.

Hand-drawn

Hand-drawn icons are more authentic and give an intimate feel. Styles can vary, from simple lines or shapes to complex illustrations.

Both colored and black and white drawings are equally appealing and create a sense of whimsy and wonder. This style is perfect for brands that want to show the human aspect of their business.

oh.my Credit: Grant Burke

Icons with depth

Creating depth on a small scale is tricky, so designers overcome this barrier by creating oversized icon sets. Adding shadows to the elements in the design creates a three-dimensional effect.

oh.my Credit: Rwds Studio

Abstract

As its name suggests, an abstract icon conveys multiple concepts and various emotions in a single symbol. The abstract icon can represent all the different aspects of a business, such as the products it offers, personality, and values.

The color palette used in abstract icons can shape people’s perception of the brand without having to illustrate a specific object or a meaning.

This design is often used in industries that connect people or businesses, such as freelancing networks or social media.

oh.my Credit: St Sohan

Bright Colors

Bright colors draw the viewer’s attention and spark positive feelings, so no wonder they are trending in all aspects of design, including icon design. The colors can be used as a background of a monochromatic icon, full-color elements, or for icons with gradients.

Bright color icons create a sense of optimism and can amplify the humanization of a brand or a product. Popular colors designers love to work with are yellow, blue, green, and purple, which complement each other and create appealing color palettes.

oh.my Credit: Silence Video

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Flat icons

The focus on flat design seems to fade in every aspect except in icon design, and this is likely due to the simplicity of flat design, which is very suitable for expression on a small scale.

Flat design is a user interface design that uses simple, two-dimensional elements and bright colors. The flat design creates a simplistic and clean impression by reducing the number of details such as textures and shadows.

Conclusion

The trends in icon design in 2022 say a lot about humanity’s search for meaning and hunger for connection. Since the dawn of time, people have relied on signs and visual communication, and icons are the core elements of that dialogue. Today, designers find new ways to reimagine the familiar visual elements by creating new art styles or re-inventing old ones.

It’s good to know the current graphic design trends, but it’s totally ok to forge your own paths. Just think about the users from your demographic, consider their needs, and find the best connection between them and your brand or product.

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Miodrag Magyar

January 10, 2022

An experienced creative talent with a demonstrated history of working in the advertising industry for more than 18 years. A strong creative writing professional with a special focus on creating content for marketing and social advertising projects. I have a Master's degree in Theater Directing. I love hiking, enjoy obscure music and European cinema. I am an avid fan of UFC!