Best iPhone app icons

What makes a good iPhone app icon?

Your icon can go a long way in helping your app to get noticed! For the majority of the App Store customers the app icon is likely to be the first stage in the decision-making process before clicking to download. Making an icon that stands out from the never-ending list of new apps could mean the difference between getting new users or getting lost in giant rapidly expanding pool of App Store competition.

There is a lot you can do to make your icon stand out, including some clever stuff with frames and compositions.

Here are a few guides which we use at Kwalee when designing icons for games like Gobang Social and PUSSY FLIP – Purrfect Reversi.

If you read through these guides you can see that they emphasize a few key things that make a winning icon. Having one large character that is “jumping” or “reaching” out of the icon, primary colours, clever border and a simple design – these are all things that make an icon pop on the screen and attract the consumer’s eye.

If you look at all the best selling games on the App Store you can clearly see that they use these few essential practices in their icon to help recognition of their games. Game icons play an even bigger role in the case of freemium games. When players can freely choose from hundreds of free titles, the app icon becomes the most important first step in attracting player’s attention.

When users scan through the myriad of free games to pick a select few to download and try, a clever name and a great icon are the two things that will make these players click on your game! They don’t have time to read reviews or visit your company’s website. They might not know anything about your company or your game. Game description, screenshots and star rating come into play after the user clicks on your game, but that is another discussion altogether.

You can find some inspiration at these two great websites, which are frequently updated with a gallery of the best icons:


iOS Icon Gallery

You can be astonishly creative when designing an app icon. Here are a few examples of my personal favourite designs:

Best iPhone app icons

In particular, I like Lightopus (top left) with an amazing use of light and an inner transparent border to give the icon a glass-like effect. Boxing Timer (top right) makes great use of the icon’s shape to turn it into a boxing glove. Edge EX (second from bottom left) uses gloss very cleverly to create a 3D effect. Finally, The End App (bottom right) makes great use of a broken glass graphic.

iPhone app icons with borders

This next set of examples make terrific use of borders. Pizza vs Skeletons turns the icon into a pizza while Whale Trail mixes the white border with the clouds to create a seamless graphic.

Classic iPhone app icons

These icons are the true classics (above). They use all of the tricks mentioned in the guides, with characters “jumping” out of the border to really stand out on the App Store.

Unique iPhone app icons

Finally, some proof that you don’t always need to follow the guides to make great looking assets. An icon pops up less when no border is used, so in order to get an icon to stand out as equally as their “bordered” counterparts the art used in these icons has to be of a highest quality, as can be seen in the examples above. All of them use bright primary colours and sharp images to attract the user’s eye. Great use of contrast in the background and terrific character art helps to make the graphic pop, even without using a border.

And here are Kwalee’s own icons for Gobang Social and PUSSY FLIP, based on all of things we have learned!

Gobang Social    PUSSY FLIP - Purrfect Reversi

Have you come across any awesome iPhone app icons which aren’t featured here? Do you agree with my choices for the best iPhone app icons? Sound off in the comments below!

  By Alexei Lundgard – Junior Artist

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