IBD Project 1: Icon Iteration

0 Commentsby   |  01.19.11  |  ART 353, Assignments


Computer interfaces, which use iconic images, have brought the word icon into commonplace. From this we have grasped the idea that the icon bears an immediate likeness to the thing it represents: the closer the likeness, the better the icon.

The need for icons to resemble what they represent imposes on them a certain ordinary quality, making them almost inherently predictable. The element of common recognition is precisely what is useful.


  • Determine a useful context from which to work
  • Explore the use of figure/ground to distill information
  • Develop design process
  • Synthesize information visually
  • Refine drawing skills
  • Manipulate physical work digitally


Design three icon “iterations” (or options) based on a single photograph/image. A photograph (no clip art, cartoons, illustrations, etc.) must be used throughout the process as a reference.

Design Process:

  1. Select three photographs/images that have potential. We will make the final selection together in class.
  2. Begin by drawing (do not trace) the reference photograph experimenting with positive and negative space. It is okay to start sketching with a pencil, but you should quickly move to a black felt tip pen or something similar.
  3. Each icon iteration should have progressively less detail. Begin work on a highly detailed version, then create a version with less detail and another distilled to only the essential elements. All should exhibit a strong figure/ground relationship.
  4. Once satisfied with the drawing for each icon iteration, scan the drawings and import into Illustrator.
  5. Transform the bitmap image into vectors by using the appropriate pen tools in illustrator. Do not use Live Trace.

Process Requirements:

  • Sketches: 25 minimum
  • Rough Comps: 3 final drawings of icons (these are the drawings that are scanned)

Final Icon Requirements:

  • Black & White (no midtones or gradients)
  • Incorporate Figure/Ground
  • Fit within a 5″ square with 1″ margin on each side (icons should be 3″ maximum in height and/or width)

Final Deliverables

Final Composition:

  • Arrange all three icon iterations on a single black matboard
  • Matboard size: 21″ x 9″ (landscape orientation)
  • 2″ margin around entire piece, 1″ between icons
  • Put your name on the back

Process Documentation:

Neatly organize the following process documents in a report binder with your name on it.

  • Photocopies of sketches (25 min.)
  • Photocopies of rough comps (1 for each icon)

Digital Files:

Upload the following items to the class dropbox in the myACU files system:

  • PDF that contains the final icons*

*prefix each file with your ACU username followed by an underscore (ex: bly95s_icon 1.pdf)

Schedule & Deadline

  • Fri., Jan. 20: Three images selected, begin sketching
  • Mon., Jan. 24: Continue sketching
  • Wed, Jan. 26: Begin working with vectors
  • Fri., Jan 27: Continue work with vectors
  • Wed., Feb 1: Project complete – Final Presentation/Critique

Grading Criteria

Project = 15% of final course grade

Link to grading criteria

Student Examples (link)

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