Icons – World Communication


For the past two weeks we have been learning to use and working in the Illustrator program from the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. Our assignment was to create a set of 4-6 icons. As I looked around the internet and at some flyers, etc I realized that icons have become a routine part of our day. They are used everywhere, everyday as a means of communication. Even something as vital as where the bathrooms are located is communicated to us through the use of icons.

Icons As a Valuable Selling Tool

Because I have daily interaction with a preschool and right now we are trying find ways to let the community know what we do, it occured to me that icons might me a useful tool. I want to utilize these icons to attract the attention of both preschoolers and their parents and convince them that we have something special to offer them. I decided to create the following icons because I get to use these instruments in the class that I teach for 2-3 months each school year. Here are the icons I created.

I know through personal experience that when it is time to pull out and use the instruments, the excitement of the littlest of children is palpable. When we do our performance for family and friends at the end of our music unit, we get all sorts of acclamation and congratulations on our accomplishments with instrument usage. Because of this experience, I know the instrument icons will be appealing and attract the eyes of preschoolers and their parents.

Playing With Illustrator

We also got to play with the Illustrator program and take these icons and create them in 60×60 pixel size as well as 400×400 pixel size. Here are png copies of my icons. I will start with the 60X60 pixel icons.

I used a 2pt stroke on the originals.  I felt it really helped them jump off the page and catch the viewers attention, but when converted to 40ox400 pixels, the stroke overtook the picture. Here is an example of one of them.

After consulting with my instructor, I discovered that under Preferences there is a box you can check called Scale strokes and effects. Once I checked that box, I was able to recreate the icons and was much happier with that effect.  Here are the final 400×400 pixel icons.

Design Principles Make the Icon

I chose to use primary colors on my icons. The primary colors (red, yellow, blue) are very appealing to young children. Because I had to have more than three colors for the xylophone, I combined these colors. I purposely combined these three basic colors to create the extra blades. On a xylophone, you need seven separate colors so the children recognize that each color creates a unique sound. I needed a seventh color on the xylophone and I chose white. So I also included some white on a couple of the other instruments to create repetition while adding contrast to the primary colors. I included a border around each icon. I experimented with different backgrounds and decided I really liked the plain white background with a simple rounded corner border using the primary color that I had used the least in the icon. Again, that created repetition, yet contrast and interest in the overall design.

I utilized the principle of alignment by centering the instrument inside the border.

Decisions, Decisions

The final decision that I made was to add a shadow to each instrument. I really pondered this. I experimented with it and was just unsure for quite a while. My biggest dilemma was not understanding the principle of shading. Having grown up as a musician and not a visual artist (although I am surrounded with many), I have never understood how you figure out where the shadows go. I can’t even figure it out in nature. Even after taking a drawing class where we worked hard on that concept, I am baffled by it. I came to the conclusion that it might be caused by my eyesight. My eyes play tricks with the light and I have to have prisms in my glasses to help control it. Back to the icons, after playing with shadows and without, I decided that personally I did like them with shadows so I included the shadows.

Looking Forward

The past two weeks have been very enjoyable. After the InDesign program we learned a few weeks ago, the Illustrator seemed very easy to use. I enjoyed the creativity of making these icons and I am excited to continue using Illustrator to build my skills.

I would again like to thank my classmates and my very generous instructor, Jenny VanSistine for their valuable assistance and critiques of my work. I incorporated many of their suggestions and it improved my roughdraft of the icons in many ways.