A collection of creative beautiful app icons

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By Alex
November 01, 2011

As computers, phones and tablets have improved their designs, and as people have become used to apps being as beautiful and intuitive as they are functional, it’s become more and more important to fit in with the aesthetic. An app may be well built, and can do a job well, but if it’s icon looks anything less than stellar then it can let the user experience down. Beautiful, well designed app icons can help the app to stand out, and can ensure the app get’s a spot on the taskbar, or on the iPhone and iPad screen, where it deserves. We’ve selected a showcase of beautifully designed app icons that look and feel at home on the sleek interface of OS X or iOS.


Sparrow’s icon stands out on the taskbar as it’s so clear and simple, but at the same time it puts across exactly what the app is about — sending emails (or letters, as the icon displays) quickly and easily. 

Things for Mac

Things for Mac has a beautifully designed icon, an impressively detailed rendering of a note tray. Pay attention to the accurate use of lighting, and even the curved shadow at the back of the tray — it’s clearly been designed with a strong attention to detail. 

Github for Mac

Github for Mac’s icon oozes personality with the site’s mascot (the Octocat) opening a box of magic, much like opening up amazing software. 


Cyberduck, a well known and loved FTP client available for Windows & Mac, uses it’s trademark rubber duck mascot as it’s app icon — making it immediately recognizable when quickly scanning through the taskbar. 


Coda is an all-in-one text editor and terminal that marks up code beautifully and is built by the same team that made Transmit. It’s icon, the Coda leaf, is amazingly detailed — it’s not until the icon is blown up to a larger size that you can see the tiny creases in the leaf, and the hairs on the stem of the plant. 

Flipboard for iPad

Flipboard for iPad has an icon which, brilliantly, uses opacity to show the paper that forms the F has been folded out (or flipped out) similar to the way articles and blog posts are flipped over in the app. 

Pomodoro for Mac

Pomodoro for Mac uses a beautifully detailed 3D rendering of the world famous kitchen timer — the attention to detail when it’s so large helps to produce a realistic looking pomodoro timer when shrunk down to the taskbar. 

Apple Time Machine

Apple’s love of design is frequently praised, and with examples like their Time Machine icon it’s easy to see why. The reverse arrow on the clock is a clever nod to the fact that you can retrieve files and folders from the past, and the background appearance of rushing through space reflects how Time Machine appears when you navigate through different dates in OS X Lion. 


Skitch, a screenshot editor, has a beautifully designed icon which really stands out in the taskbar, looking unlike any other icon that’s out there. 


Alfred, a replacement for Apple’s spotlight tool, takes on the role of a butler, searching your files and folders for whatever you ask of it — the bowler hat and magnifying glass are beautifully detailed and the icon itself fits with the app’s personality perfectly. 


There were some complaints when Google changed the Chrome icon from the 3D globe rendering to the much more simplified, 2D image — but with time the complaints have died down somewhat. Personally, I love the simple, colorful icon which looks at home on the taskbar and is easy to spot from a mile away. 


Another icon that’s full of personality, Tweetbot is an iPhone Twitter client built by Tapbots. The icon, a robotic version of the famous Twitter bird, fits in well with the other Tapbots apps as well as having an interesting and unusual style. 


Basecamp’s HTML5 app (which you can add to the homescreen of iOS devices, rather than being a downloadable app) uses their Basecamp icon — it’s instantly recognizable to users of Basecamp, it’s clear and unfussy and because they use Apple’s apple-touch-icon” spec to display the large icon instead of just a favicon or screenshot of the homepage, the icon looks perfectly at home. 


The designed of the icon for Camera+, a camera app for iPhone, had a thorough attention to detail, from the leather effect of the outer side of the icon to the colorful lighting effects on the lens and the shading and lighting of the metal ring, the icon is perfectly designed. 


The Wunderlist app (a task manager similar to Things) has a gorgeously decorative app icon, with an angled view of a tray of notes covered by the Wunderlist ribbon. There’s a lot to love about the icon — from the lighting effects on the chiseled edge of the wood block to the subtle texture of the ribbon, Wunderlist get’s their icon just right — it’s intricately detailed, looks great and it carries their branding beautifully.  Are there any app icons that you think deserve a mention? Let us know in the comments.


Alex writes for printing company Print Express, who specialize in business cards, flyers & postcard printing. In his spare time he practices with Photoshop and coding with Ruby on Rails.

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