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Designing My First Icon Set

An image of indie maker themed vector icons.
A small headshot image of Ben Hatch.

Ben Hatch

June 4, 2022

Earlier this year, I completed and launched Indie Maker Icons, a vector icon set consisting of indie maker ideas and concepts visually distilled into simple, fun icons. An indie maker is someone who builds online businesses utilizing a range of their own personal skills such as web development, design, marketing and copywriting.

This was my first ever attempt at creating an icon set and digital design product. It was fun, challenging, and a great learning experience. Here are a few of the takeaway lessons I gained from the process.

Constraints induce creativity

Before diving into the icon designs, I did some research to figure out how to approach an icon set since this was my very first one. One of the most helpful resources I found was a Medium article by Dima Groshev called Design principles for creating the perfect icon set. Dima has created some really crisp icon and UI kits of his own and lays out 12 clear principles in his article to create a cohesive and clean icon set.

Dima’s article as well as a few other resources helped me narrow down my focus, define parameters and create constraints for my icon designs. I decided to use a 96 x 96 pixel grid, a 12 x 12 pixel trim area, and a uniform 2pt stroke for my icons.

Once I finally got into the design work, I found that having clearly defined constraints helped spark more creativity and fun with my designs. Turns out there is quite a lot you can do with just 2pt lines on a 96 x 96 pixel grid. I always knew in theory that constraints were a helpful tool with any kind of creative work, but this was one of the first times I experienced it firsthand.

Start small

My initial goal was to create 50 icons in total, which then got cut in half to 25, and then I ultimately landed on 20 icons. As soon as I started designing the first few icons, I realized it was not nearly as quick and simple as I had initially thought.

It still took me a considerable amount of time to spin up 20 unique icons, especially the ones based on very niche concepts like “Product-Market Fit” and “Ramen Profitability”. And ultimately, I have no clue if there will be any interest or traction with this product. It is very much a small bet, so my initial goal to make a bunch of awesome icons shifted into just making a minimum viable product and getting the icon set finished and launched quickly.

The nice thing is that if there is interest and traction, I can add an unlimited number of additional icons, improve the quality and designs, and increase the price as I go.

Push through uncertainty and doubt

There were a few moments in the middle of this project where I felt like throwing in the towel and moving on to something else. “No one is going to buy this”, “I have no idea what I’m doing” and “These designs suck” were a few of the common thought threads.

Nonetheless, I was able to push past these moments of doubt and uncertainty and am happy that I did. This is my very first icon set and digital product, so ultimately my goal from the start was to just go through the process of creating a digital design product and get something finished and launched. Reminding myself of this was helpful to counter the negative thoughts and focus on having fun with the designs.

I am very satisfied with creating something cool and unique, and if people are interested and I make some sales, that’s icing on the cake (as of this writing, 3 people have purchased the set so far!). In the majority of instances, no one’s first digital product is going to be a homerun, so best to just get something finished and learn from the process for the next one.

If you are considering making any sort of digital product to post and sell online, my advice is to go for it. Do some research, start small, have fun with it and focus on learning from the process.