I was recently asked about designing a mobile app icon. As I worked on my proposal, it occurred to me that most aren't aware of everything they'll need to launch an app. I suspect that often an idea gets built, a placeholder image gets dropped into the required areas as they realize they can’t submit without it. This icon may or may not represent their brand or UI direction, and could get stuck as their icon for quite some time without some planning. If you’re developing an app but don’t yet have graphic resources, here’s what to take into consideration when hiring someone.
It’s not just an icon
I’m not going to detail the importance of the design of an icon. If you’re making an app, you likely already understand that. If you’re hiring someone to design your icon, you already understand why you need to hire someone that specializes in mobile user experience and user interface design. What I mean is that you literally need more than one graphic to launch your app.
While I hope everyone building an app is working with a visual/interaction designer for their user interface, I know that's not the case. Many developers or entrepreneurs are getting an app into the wild faster than ever. And some who are UI specialists may not know a terrible amount about branding an app or promotion. I'd prefer not to detail that topic for the moment and just focus on those who are building an app without a resource for graphics. Just allow me to mention there are huge user experience drawbacks to that approach and ideally you want to have a same designer (or design team) create a holistic experience as part of your process.
Even if you already have a general idea of what you want, it’s really helpful to understand exactly what you’re hiring someone for. Know what they will be doing for you and what they should be delivering. While the icon design itself is very important to your overall user experience, it’s easy to feel like once the design is done you’re ready to go. But there is actually a lot to consider, and a bit of production work involved in preparing your app for the store. Make sure you hire someone who isn’t going to just make you a pretty icon, send you a graphic of it, and leave you to your own devices (no pun intended).
Service and Deliverables
Say you’re building a version of your app for the Apple iOS Store and the Google Play market place. Here is a basic list of the process and graphics I suggest for launch.
This is the first part of the process. When you launch, you should take advantage of the opportunity to not only stand out, but connect with your audience through your brand. This is where an experienced mobile designer will help you understand the context in which your icon will be used, and help guide you.
Store Icon: This can be the same design as your icon, but it needs to be created at a different size when you load your app into the store. It shows on the web version of the store.
iOS App Icon: The icon a user will tap to open your app after they download it.
iOS App Store Graphics: 2 screenshots with notations. These are the screen shots that users rely on to know what your app looks like and can do. Typically you provide these and a designer will add graphics to point out features and save properly for the store.
- App Icon: the icon a user will tap to open your app after they download it. This is displayed a few places in the store.
- Feature Graphics These are the images that serve as a promo tool and are required in order to be featured anywhere within Google Play. Sometimes they are notated screenshots and other times they are fun graphics showing off features in your app.
- Screenshots: actual views of your app for a preview of the experience.
- Optional: Promo Video
App Icon displayed on a device for accessing the app.
An experienced designer will also be able to guide you on:
- Current guidelines/requirements for the device and store landscape.
- Smart color considerations for varying device backgrounds/wallpapers
- Screen resolution considerations
- Scalability; promotion, recognition, and uniqueness.
- Differences in each store format and file dimensions required
- Use of imagery vs. words or letters
- User Testing
- Consistent UX with your app
Whether you are hiring someone to create graphics for your app or you are a designer yourself, knowing what your expectations are will make the process go smoothly. Designers, make sure you outline your process in detail for the client. Potential clients, get the most from your efforts by paying attention to these details.