What makes an effective icon or logo? Is it the shape, color, and the uniqueness of its design? Or could it be the funny, intriguing, and insightful message implied?

Many articles have been written about what makes an eye-catching and successful icon, but this article focuses on just three major elements of design; i.e. form, unity, and recognizability.

1. Form
In essence, form refers to the primary framework of an icon or logo. It typically comes in three basic shapes – circular, square, and triangular – all of which are considered to be “established” foundations in designing an icon. If you look closely at popular logos or icons, each of them is based on one or more of these three fundamental shapes. The artist begins with one major shape, and then continues to add more shapes as more details are added. The image of a dog, for instance, may start with a large circle (face), two smaller triangles (ears), and so on until the final image is conceptualized.

2. Unity
As the word suggests, unity refers to the consistency of elements within an icon or a logo. For instance, the line weight for outer shapes should be consistent at, say, four pixels; whereas the line weight for inner shapes should be consistent at two pixels. In the same way, the combination of colors should project a sense of unity as well, with careful consideration of complementing shades based on the color palette. The principle of unity may also be applied to not just a single logo, but a set of logos, if one is planning to make not only one but a series of related designs.

3. Recognizability
What makes an icon or a logo unique? The answer to this question refers to its recognizability. This may require a thorough study of the target audience’s background and preferences. What visual elements or words are they most familiar with? Based on their cultural environment, what colors are most likely to represent a positive message to them? The key here is to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience, and to visualize your design from their perspective.

In sum, designing an icon or logo entails coming up with a primary framework (form), creating a sense of consistency through the use of shapes or colors (unity), and all the while making sure that it is catchy, familiar, and memorable (recognizability). Beginning with these three basic elements is a great way to come up with an effective design!