Interview with Icon Designer Kyle Adams

In this episode we had the pleasure of interviewing Icon Designer Kyle Adams. We chat about Kyle's journey in becoming an icon designer, as well as the history and process of creating icons. Kyle also gives helpful tips about becoming better at icon design.

Follow Kyle on Social Media!

 Twitter: @itskyleadams 


Here are some notes from the interview:

  • Icons have been around since the genesis of mankind, before human language or oral tradition. We can find early examples as simple drawings on caves and rocks. Many ancient tribes and civilizations used icons heavily to depict religious and cultural identities as well as observations about the world around them.

  • When designing icons, always establish what the icons are needing to convey. Icons are meant to convey communication without language. For example, when at an international airport, people from all over the world are able to recognize the icons on all of the signage and wayfinding materials.

  • Keep in mind the audience for which the icons are being designed. For example if you are designing for a children’s brand, rounded icons and bright fun colors would be an appropriate style to apply to the icon design. Icons with angular edges and dull or dark colors may not convey the correct feeling and thus would affect the success of the icons.

  • Always set goals when designing icons. Get to know your clients needs and assure them that you are there to take care of all of their icon design needs by conveying your expertise. Setting boundaries and communicating really helps with the efficiency and success of the project.

  • When you complete a project, it’s a good idea to create a case study. Having intimate knowledge of the project makes it fairly easy to make one. Building these case studies can help you monitor your progress and refine your process over time. Having case studies on your site can also help clients see how you think and how you might be able to help them as a design professional.

  • It is not always necessary to re-invent commonly used icon forms. While the style can change greatly depending on the target audience, many icons have become very recognizable around the world. For example, an envelope on a website or mobile device usually mean “email” or “mail”. The main goal should always be centered on communicating in the clearest way possible to the target audience.

If you'd like to learn more about Icon Design, take a listen to our interview with Kyle below and check out his awesome blog:

Kyle also has a Youtube channel with tons of great icon tutorials:

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A Conversation with Vy Tat

Vy (Vee) is another friend I met in the social media world. I, on occasion, believe that the flat illustration world is over saturated and sometimes a little redundant (I think I can say this because I am guilty of being part of making this world more saturated and more redundant). Vy however takes a popular style and aesthetic and brings her own spin on it just enough so that it feels familiar and on trend as well as unique to her and how she approaches design and illustration. I had a chance to chat with her a bit about her origin story, why she doesn't consider herself artsy, and why she loves icon design. 


ZH: Tell us a little bit about your origin story, were you always an artsy kid growing up? How did you end working in the design and illustration world?

Would it weird if I tell you that I draw a lot as a kid but I don’t considered myself artsy at all? Art to me, even at a super young age, requires a lot of creativities and emotions and not being afraid to get the blank canvas dirty. Unlike other kids who can just dive right into filling their page with colorful things, I typically start most of my “artwork” by measuring each shapes and lines and making sure that they’re balanced and even. I carried a ruler with me everywhere and love drawing buildings and furnitures. So to answer your question, no I was not an artsy kid growing up. I don’t get the concept of free-flowing art or colors or know how to appreciate it.

I pretty much avoided all art-related classed in high school and the first year of college. My goal was to study architecture and interior design, but after a year of learning only about the historical buildings and furnitures, I realized that it was super boring. I then decided to take the introduction to Graphic Communications class the following year, and fell in love with design and graphics instantly. The very first required material on the class’ list was a ruler. And I knew then that this is what I wanna be and do haha. It took me 3 years to get my degree in Graphic Communications and has been working as a web and graphic designer for an in-house apparel company since. 

I still cannot do artsy stuff but design has made me realized that I can draw and create aesthetic work with basic shapes and colors. There’s always going to be a solution in design and how it all work and that to me is the difference between art and design and why I considered myself a designer and not an artist.

ZH: You have a very specific yet effective illustration style how has did your process and style evolved into what it is today?

As you can see, most of my work are line illustrations. I started in 2013, doodling non-connecting line illustrations as a stress relief therapy type of thing, and it’ll always consist of a character I called Happy Girl and her pet Moo. I did lots and lots of these whenever I feel down or have too much going on in life up until the beginning of this year. And none of these are shared publicly.


I attended a graphic event called the Pixel of Fury in February where I saw one of the contestant creating illustrations using strokes and shapes and I was blown away. Like OMG that’s super dope and I need to learn it. First thing the next day, I started searching for tutorials on how to create line art using Adobe Illustrator and just went from there. Since I never like to follow instructions, I just take notes on basics of how to create icons and flat designs and then incorporate my Happy Girl and Moo line style that I’ve developed over the years into the work.

Throughout the years I learned that consistency is key to successful design. And same goes for illustrations. Have you ever look at an illustration by some of the top players on Dribble versus an illustration from newer designers? The top player’s work are always consistent with every elements, from colors to shapes to the weight of their strokes. And that’s the number one focus for me when I create any illustrations, the first thing I check is whether or not the weight for all of the lines are the same.

ZH: What does your ideal dream project look like? Do you have any bucket list clients?

Ideal dream project for me would be a pure icon design project. I super love to create icons. I like to research on how people interpret different symbols and how that could translate in people’s head. And of course a reasonable timeline for any project is ideal. I’ve had clients that requires a set of illustrations and branding be completed within a week and a half, and I’ve had clients where I get 7-9 days per illustrations. I don’t have any bucket list clients, but if there’s anyone out there who needs icon design work and have a decent time requirements, those are for sure on my bucket list haha.


ZH: Besides the ruler requirement what made you fall in love with graphic design and communications?

I love the fact that there’s a whole set of science behind graphic design. Unlike art where a lot of the time the work is pretty subjective to its aesthetic whereas design and communications is more calculate-able…does that make sense?

For example, the first few weeks of graphic design class, we learned about the principles and elements of design. From balance to alignment, repetition to contrast, line to shape to texture and color, etc. And as long as some of those principles or elements are executed properly, the design will work. It will deliver the message clearly and aesthetically and the idea of being able to create a piece of work that can be measured and calculated and work (most of the time) is very attractive to me.

ZH: You mentioned the consistencies and lack there of in dribbble posts. Does the work and designers on that site and others influence you or kind of provide a road map on the kind of work you want to make?

 Dribbble is a great platform for inspiration. You get introduced to the latest and greatest designers from there and I do use it as part of my research process when starting a new project. I use Dribbble a lot when I’m in need of UI inspirations, this site is filled with amazing UI designers. But I also use Medium a lot because I like to read and learn about how other designers work and their experiences. Reading an article or two is like my daily morning routine when I’m at work sipping my tea and eating a bagel. It’s pretty cool. 

ZH: I am a fellow line and shape lover haha.. but I want to know why you are attracted to the use of shape and line in contemporary illustration and design? 

As I’ve mentioned before about my fear of adding colors to my art canvas when I was kid, same goes for design. I love work that are expressive and fills the page. I love seeing posters and websites and icons that are filled with details, it’s really pretty but I can never get myself to do those type of work. And after taking some design classes, I begin to realized that minimalism is a thing and “less can be more” as long as your the idea behind the design is strong enough to support the minimal visual. So I started to play around with basic shapes and lines for all of my class projects. I quickly realized that people recognize lines and shapes much faster than abstract objects. Combining those two elements plus understanding the principles of design when creating any illustration, icons, or logo is almost always guarantee to work. Haha this is probably what I’d considered as a lazy method to design, but hey at least it doesn’t look bad and people understands it.


ZH: Why icon design? What do you like most about the use of iconography and symbolism? 

Oh my gosh. Icon design is so much fun! It’s challenging compared to just UI design or illustration, but it’s the good kind of challenge. Unlike illustration where you have the entire artboard to design whatever you need with as many details as you want to get the message out there, icons are the exact opposites in my opinion. A lot gets put into the thought process of creating a symbol that is straightforward to the audience and is aesthetically pleasing at the same time.

This thinking process is also a reason why I love icon design so much. “Can you tell that this is the download icon?” or “Does this symbol speaks “upload” to you?” are the type of questions I’d ask myself when doing icon work. Being able to communicate an action without words or too much detail is what iconography is about and I love it