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Different Ways to Use Icons in Mobile Apps More Creatively

Icons play an integral role in the user experience of mobile apps. Not only do they clearly communicate the purpose of a button or feature, but they can also add personality and flair to an app’s design. 

For designers looking to incorporate icons more creatively into their mobile apps, there are many ways to use icons to make your app stand out from the competition. With a bit of creativity, icons can be used to make an app look more professional while still being functional and easy to use. 

Read on to learn more about the different ways you can use icons to enhance the user experience of your mobile app.

What are icons, and why are they important?

Icons are small elements used to represent actions, tasks, functions, or objects graphically. They are used to guide the user in a visual way, helping them to understand quickly and intuitively what an action or button will do. Icons are also used to visually indicate a user’s progress or the state of a task. 

Icons are important because they improve the user experience of an app. They make it easier for users to understand what each button does and make the overall user experience more intuitive and enjoyable. Icons can also make an app look inviting, drawing the user’s attention and adding visual interest.

Additionally, icons can help to speed up the user’s task execution, as they often require fewer clicks or taps than text commands.

Types of icons

Several types of icons can be used in mobile apps. These include standard icons, such as arrows, magnifying glasses, and checkmarks; illustrations, such as hand-drawn icons; and emoji icons, such as smileys and hearts. Each type of icon has its advantages and disadvantages and should be used per the needs and goals of the app.

Standard icons

Standard icons are the most common type of icons and are often used to communicate simple tasks or functions. They are easy to recognize and understand and are often used in combination with other icons to communicate more complex tasks or processes.


Illustrations are more unique and give an app a unique look and feel. They are often used to create a sense of personality and emotion and communicate complex tasks or functions.


Emojis are an icon that is becoming increasingly popular in mobile apps. They are often used to communicate emotions or feelings and can add a bit of fun and playfulness to an app’s design.

Icon design principles to remember

Several design principles should be followed when designing icons for mobile apps. These principles will help ensure the icons are easily recognizable and understood without overly complicated or distracting.

1st design principle: Keep the icons consistent. 

This means the icons should follow a similar style and color palette throughout the app. This will ensure the user can quickly recognize the icons and understand their purpose.

2nd design principle: Keep the icons simple.

Simplicity is key when it comes to using icons in mobile apps. The icons should be easily recognizable and understandable without unnecessary details or elements. This will help ensure that the user’s attention is focused on the task rather than being drawn away by overly detailed icons. The icons should be kept consistent throughout the app so the user can easily recognize them and understand their purpose.

When designing icons, keep them simple and focus on the function they’re meant to represent. For example, a magnifying glass icon should be simple and focus solely on the purpose of magnifying something rather than being overly detailed or complicated.

3rd design principle: Use a grid system.

This means the icons should be aligned to a grid to appear organized and uniform. This will help to give the icons a professional and polished look.

4th design principle: Use negative space.

This means the icons should have a clear and defined shape, with no unnecessary elements or details. This will help to ensure that the user’s eye is drawn to the icon, making it easier for them to recognize and understand.

Creative ways to use icons in mobile applications

Create original illustrations

Creating original illustrations is one way to use icons more creatively in mobile apps. Instead of relying on stock icons, creating custom illustrations can help to give an app a unique and memorable look. Original illustrations can also be tailored to better fit a brand’s visual identity, helping to create a cohesive user experience.

When creating original illustrations for mobile apps, keep in mind the practicality of the icon. It should be easy to recognize and understand, even in small sizes. The illustrations should be kept simple, with few colors and details, to ensure they’re easy to identify and don’t take up too much space. If the illustrations are too complex, they can become difficult to recognize or take up too much space, hindering the user experience.

Combine color and animation

Color and animation can also make icons more engaging and memorable. By using colors that match an app’s brand identity, icons can become more closely associated with the app, helping to create a more cohesive user experience. Likewise, animation can draw the user’s attention to specific elements, making them easier to recognize and understand.

When using color and animation in icons, remember the context in which the icon will be used. The colors and animations should be subtle and not overly distracting, as this can make it difficult for the user to focus on the task at hand. The colors and animations should be consistent throughout the app to ensure a cohesive user experience.

Combine multiple icons

Another way to use icons more creatively in mobile apps is to combine multiple icons into one. This can be effective in communicating complex functions or tasks clearly and concisely. For example, a combination of a plus and minus icon can indicate the ability to add or remove an item. In contrast, a combination of a search and magnifying glass icon can show the ability to search for an item.

When combining icons, ensure the resulting icon is still easy to recognize and understand. In addition, the icons should be combined in a visually appealing way so that the user’s eye is drawn to the icon and it stands out from the other elements on the page.

Other ways to use icons more creatively

Icons play a crucial role in mobile app design, providing users with visual cues for navigation and interaction. While standard icons can make an app easy to use, incorporating creative and unique iconography can make the app stand out and enhance the user experience.

1. Animated icons

Animated icons can add an element of fun and interactivity to your app. For example, use animation to show the user when an action is being performed or to give feedback on a completed action.

2. Duotone icons

Duotone icons use two colors to create a unique and eye-catching visual effect. Consider using duotone icons to make your app’s icons stand out and add a pop of color.

3. Interactive icons

Interactive icons allow users to engage with the icon itself rather than just using it for navigation. For example, a weather app could use an interactive icon that lets users swipe to change the weather conditions.

4. 3D icons

Using 3D icons can add depth and dimension to your app’s design. Consider using 3D icons for necessary actions or features in your app to make them stand out and give them more prominence.

5. Iconography

Using iconography or a set of related icons can make your app’s design more cohesive and intuitive. For example, a shopping app could use a set of icons for different categories of products.

6. Icon size

Varying the size of your icons can create visual interest and hierarchy. Consider using larger icons for more important actions or features and smaller ones for secondary actions or activities.

A note on using emojis in mobile apps

Emojis are becoming increasingly popular in mobile apps, as they can be used to communicate emotions or feelings in a fun and playful way. When using emojis in mobile apps, ensure they are easily recognizable and understandable. The emojis should be used sparingly, as too many can be distracting and take away from the overall user experience.

When selecting emojis, ensure that they match the tone and style of the app. In addition, the emojis should be used meaningfully, so they’re not just used for decoration. For example, a smiley face emoji indicates a task has been completed successfully. In contrast, a heart emoji means an item has been added to a user’s wishlist.

Optimind has an in-house team of mobile app developers who scrutinize requirements and specifications before embarking on the actual mobile app development. Call us now so we can best assist you in assessing your mobile app needs!

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