Have you ever needed to create an icon, and not known where to start?

How do you go about crafting the right message, the tone, the line work and getting it to work in the environment it's supposed to; be it mobile, operating system, or browser. Thankfully we now have the place to go.

This book begins at the point when you need to create your own icons. Its purpose is to guide relatively inexperienced designers through an icon design workflow, starting with favicons and working up to application icons, as well as inspiring and providing a reference point for existing icon designers. It does not set out to teach you how to draw in a particular application. The aim is not to improve proficiency in particular applications but, rather, to show you how to create icons with the common toolset found in most of them, so you can be more versatile.

Here’s what you can find in the Icon Handbook:

Chapter 1: A Potted History of Icons

A short look at the history of icons, focussing on the the last century, and in particular how ‘icon’ came to mean more than religious painting.

Chapter 2: How we use icons

Looking at the uses for icons beyond simple decoration, how they help us navigate, give us feedback and express our mood. It also looks how not to use icons!

Chapter 3: Favicons

Starting with the simplest form of icons, looking at how to get crisp artwork at small sizes and the various ways favicons are used.

Chapter 4: The Metaphor

Working through the process of discovering if a metaphor already exists, and how to decide on the right one if there isn’t.

Chapter 5: Drawing Icons

Walking through the drawing process, working with simple pictograms and small colour icons, and looking at the pitfalls on the way.

Chapter 6: Icon formats and deployment

There are many different formats and deployment methods for icons, depending on the context, which can have a bearing on how we create the artwork. In particular I cover all the methods for displaying icons on websites.

Chapter 7: Application Icons

We finish on the largest and most complex of all the icons, which are more often than not, photorealistic works of art.


Handy reference, including: Common icon badges, overview of drawing and creation tools and a comprehensive icon reference chart.

Along the way, I talk to icon designers such as Susan Kare, David Lanham and Gedeon Maheux of the Iconfactory and many more about their process behind well known icons.