Usually, I use IconExperience icons. They rarely let me down. Often, I will need to combine and manipulate them slightly, but their base set makes this very easy. 2500 icons in 5 different sizes with shadows and without in a neatly organized set of transparent PNG files. However, for Marketo‘s next big product launch, I had to get creative. We needed something more original and stylized.
I tried to hire an iconographer, at first. I literally emailed a dozen different icon illustrators. I got no positive responses. I couldn’t believe it. I had money and a desire for skilled labor and I couldn’t get anyone to respond. (Technically, one guy emailed me back, to tell me he couldn’t do it) Still, that sucked. Deadlines were looming, so I had to produce my own images.
The challenge was simple: Fires and Stars in a 0-3 range, plus one that meant 3 flames/stars. This was to be embedded into a Salesforce.com AppExchange product.
I started with Google and istockphoto to inspire me. What did other designers to with a similar challenge? How can fire look like fire when it’s so small? Should fire cast a drop shadow? How can I make them look professional, consistent, original and fun all at the same time? I made dozens of attempts. I used Photoshop CS4 to make filters, borders, shadows, fades, and more against different original images. I used online tutorials to try and make fire. I felt like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. “I have made FIRE!” (See below) (Or see it in German)
I am very happy with the results. They have all the attributes I was looking for. The combination of the two automatically made a little star guy with his hair on fire. It’s fun and communicates the right message. That is a very good, hot lead.
This was my first real iconography. I wouldn’t want to do it for a living, but I feel proud, like I accomplished a hard task.