I originally wrote this on http://200words.co
This is the first in a series on designing symbols. Hopefully it’s good. 😀
I’m starting with form because it is the most important aspect of designing effective symbols. My school instructors would probably kill me for not starting with concepts, but with symbol design, if you are bad at graphic form, there is no concept that will save a poorly drawn form.
When designing forms, start with hand drawing. Your body knows proportion and spacing better than your brain can reason it out via computer. Logos and icons designed by hand first have a natural balance built into them.
Use only black and white first and see what it your symbol looks like reduced down to a quarter inch. You’ll probably need to open the white space at that point. Pay attention to the balance of positive and negative space. It’ll keep your icon from becoming an amorphous splotch.
Efficiency is critical. A good symbol is recognizable in a split second. Complexity creates unneeded tension and wastes visual space on things unimportant to the viewer. Overuse of color adds to the complexity of a symbol.
There are no recipes to follow (sorry), but hopefully these principles help!