It’s Customization Month on Android.Appstorm! Throughout March, we plan to share with you all our tips, tricks, apps and resources to help you improve your phone or tablet experience and make them suit your style.
No matter how much you try to customize your Android device with wallpapers, themes, widgets, fonts, and more, there always remains one element very few people change but that can make or break your whole design: icons.
We covered beautiful icons previously on Android.Appstorm, but that was 18 months ago. Nowadays, new designers have come into the picture, new techniques are being used, and design language has morphed tremendously. In this roundup, I will take you through a list of my favorite icon designers and their beautiful creations.
There are two ways you can change the icons on your Android device, and both of them require having a third-party launcher like Apex, Nova, or several others — unless you’re using LG’s Optimus UI which is the only out-of-the-box launcher to let you change icons manually.
The first method uses Themes for launchers. You can search the Play Store for “Nova theme”, “Apex theme”, “Go theme”, “ADW theme” and so on to download these, then you’ll be able to apply them from your launcher’s settings. The benefits of using this method are that themes usually apply the changes to the homescreen and the app drawer, and they let you manually change the homescreen icons by being seen as “icon packs”.
However, a theme is always a trial-and-error gamble since it has to be coded with icons for all of your apps, and so most of the time you’re left with several icons that keep their original look and stick out like a sore thumb amongst the others in your app drawer. Some modern themers have been using an “icon mask” that applies to all icons, which makes the theme more homogenous even when some apps aren’t supported.
Creativity’s Holo Red S uses icon mask.
The second method for changing icons uses simple image files — jpeg or png — transfered to your device. Most launchers allow you to modify the icon by long clicking on an app, clicking the icon, and selecting from your gallery, a file browser, or installed icon packs (ie themes).
While this method doesn’t change your app drawer icons, it remains my favorite, as it gives me freedom to apply any image as an icon and keep these images saved in Dropbox for quick access. Plus, I see the fact that it doesn’t apply the icons to the drawer as an advantage, since it lets me find the app I’m looking for at a glance, instead of having to look for it amongst a sea of similar icons.
Retrofied by Screenlicious, Buttonized by Samantha Conner, and Round White by Creativity used in 3 of my personal layouts.
Samantha Conner has quickly become my favorite icon designer on Android. She offers a multitude of pixel-perfect sets with over 1000 icons each, so the risk of not finding icons for your favorite apps is minimal. She also provides these as paid or free themes on the Play Store, but also as free .zip archives of image files on her DeviantArt page, which is perfect if you’re like me and you prefer to apply icons manually.
Her sets are unique, beautiful, multicolored or unicolored, and she works on different shapes from squares to rounds and even stars and lozenges. There’s no weak link in her sets, you could easily use any of them, and they would fit in so many different ideas of homescreen setups.
Xniikk, as he was known before he chose Screenlicious for his site’s name, is an all-round fantastic Android designer. He not only offers icon sets and themes, but also UCCW skins, weather icons, and he even has full .psd setups on his site along with tutorials and a lot of resources. You can buy some these creations on the Play Store, but I’d recommend you also check his website’s store for complete access to his work.
Xniikk’s style is elegant and minimalist, often opting for uni or bicolored sets, and playing on transparency and shapes to refresh his creations. His icons can be used to add a touch of simplicity to a complex homescreen, or to make an incredibly minimalist layout.
Like Xniikk of Screenlicious, BlackBearBlanc is another icon designer who also provides UCCW skins, several app themes and other customization add-ons. He is the ultimate customizer, and maintains his personal website, along with his personal profile on MyColorScreen. There’s a lot to learn from his work, for the novice and the seasoned Android user alike.
His icon sets span over different styles, from minimalistic to colourful, squares to rounds, transparent to opaque,…
If you consider customization highly on your Android tinkering list, then you must have at least one of Creavity’s icon sets installed. These usually provide over 850 icons, applied to more than 2500 apps.
He seems to be inspired by several of BlackBearBlanc and Screenlicious’ work, and focuses more on minimalism with a few colorful touches. His sets vary around dual tones, using white or black mixed with red, blue or other colors. He often opts for the standard shapes, using either perfect rounds or squares.
Kovdev is probably one of the oldest and most well known icon set designers on Android. His Play Store page lists dozens of icon sets, wallpapers, themes, and various other customization resources. His personal website provides explanations, descriptions, and a visual representation of all of his work.
Kovdev is most famous for picking specific objects or topics and making a homogenous set of them. You’ll find wooden, metal, button-like, sticky, robot, steampunk, and so much more themed sets in his work. Basically, once you open Kovdev’s Play Store page, you’ll kiss your whole day goodbye as there’s so much to discover and so many ideas to try.
StealthyChief is another jack-of-all-trades designer, with icon sets, GO Keyboard, Sms, Locker and Contact themes, and several other creations offered in the Play Store. His personal website offers an online shop where you can bundle 5 or 10 icon packs for a much cheaper price, and trust me, you’ll need to do that, because his work is outstanding.
StealthyChief’s creations are unique, never too minimalist but still amazingly clean and detailed. He follows in Kovdev’s footsteps of using topics for some of his icons, but he also goes for more abstract ideas. His sets are always squares or rounds, with mono or dual tone colors. All in all, he’s definitely one of the most well-rounded designers on this list, and you simply get lost amongst all of his awesome creations.
A Random Package falls in the same category as Screenlicious and BlackBearBlanc, providing icon sets as well as UCCW skin designs. You can get more behind the scenes access to his work and portfolio over on his personal website.
His style is also similar, often opting for minimalism, light colors, transparency and simplicity in his sets. He doesn’t have a lot of sets available on the Play Store, but the ones that he’s done are clean and can easily fit into a lot of homescreen layouts.
At first glance, several of Pooley’s icon sets will look eerily similar to Samantha Conner’s. The reason is that both of these designers play on the same style, playing with different shapes, using transparent strips around the icons, or several shades before getting to the middle of the icon. He also provides several UCCW skins to go with his icon sets.
Contrary to many of the minimalists on this list, like Creativity or Screenlicious, Pooley almost never uses flat designs. His work contains a lot of embossed and embedded elements. That doesn’t make it any less suited for Android’s flat UI language, quite the contrary. It adds personality and a 3D feel that easily transforms a homescreen layout.
Most of iWizard’s work revolves around square shapes and multi-coloured icons. For the fans of this look, there’s a lot to pick amongst his sets, from flat to skeumorphic buttons, perfect squares to squares with rounded corners, with or without an outline, and so on. He also provides a lot of UCCW skins on his page.
It’s hard to put your finger on Samer Zayer’s style in designing icons. He seems to gravitate towards square designs with skeumorphic looks like iWizard, but then whips out something out of the ordinary like a neon theme or a circle theme. Despite this jumpy identity, Samer masters the different styles, providing a uniqueness to each of them, and a great attention to detail. He also offers a few Cyanogenmod and other Theme Chooser-compatible themes on his Play Store page. All in all, he’s definitely a designer we’re keeping our eyes on.
As with everything on Android, this list is a small collection amongst a paraphernalia of icon sets. There’s a lot more to discover and use, so many styles to try and so many shapes and colors to fit. So did I miss any of your favourite icon designers or themes?