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Custom icons process

January 31, 2021By Jan KovaříkHow to

Custom icons process

Over the years, I had the privilege to create custom icons for various companies, organizations and individuals. I learned very quickly, that each client has slightly different requirements, as each project is unique and has its own specifics. Nevertheless, there is a certain pattern for custom icon design process, routine even, made of the steps that repeat in each project.

Also there is a number of things to be considered before you actually place your order for custom icons. This article should throw some light on my own process and help you to understand not just how all the work behind looks like, but also how to prepare a perfect custom icon assignment – that’s something that will appreciate any icon designer.

My process in a nutshell

First of all, let’s sum up all the necessary steps as individual points, so you’ll know what to expect in general and I’ll cover each point in more detail in the next part of this article.

  1. Contact me through the custom icon form.
  2. I get back to you with a price quote and estimated delivery date.
  3. I send you an advance invoice for 60 % of total price.
  4. I start to work on your custom icons, once the payment is complete.
  5. I deliver the first version of custom icons and make adjustments, based on your feedback.
  6. I'm sending you an invoice for the rest of the total price.
  7. I'm sending you link for all source data with your custom icons, once the payment is complete.

List above is kind of stripped to the bone and may seem too raw, but it should help you get a better idea of how the chain of events looks like. Now, let’s break down each step in more detail.

1. Contact me through the custom icon form

Actually there are few things you should consider and have ready even before you try to request the price for your custom icons. Chances are, that you may have them thought out already, but just to be sure:

  1. Total number of icons you need
    It doesn't have to be an exact number, but the more accurate the number, the more accurate my quote will be. The best way is to get organized from the start and have filled a spreadsheet file, with simple list of all icons and their basic description – I made a template you can download and use. It's something that we'll need before point 4. (before I start to work on icons), but it's better to be ready from the day one, so take your time and don't try skip this, this will help you and me as well.

  2. Your timeline/deadline
    How quickly do you need your custom icons? I can work pretty fast, but never overnight or in a matter of days. It's almost always 2 weeks at least, so if you expect to have results tomorrow in your inbox, it's maybe better to look for another designer.

  3. Size and style of your custom icons
    Do you want to have all icons in the same style and size as regular GLYPHICONS, in Halflings size or completely different size or style? If you're not sure, you may find more info on differences between GLYPHICONS icons sizes in Handbook on page #6 and #7. If you need to test icon files beforehand, you may download GLYPHICONS Contagion set anytime for free. It contains all files as any other regular GLYPHICONS set and your custom icon set would have the very same file structure and file types.

  4. A desktop font
    Chances are that you don't, but some of my customers are used to work with icons as inline text elements/glyphs, in the text fields, so if you'd want to have your custom icons also as standalone font file, it's a possibility. Web fonts are no longer part of any regular GLYPHICONS set and it is an abandoned method of embedding icons.

  5. Anything else I should know about you or your project
    For the first contact and purpose of the price quote, you can be very brief, but be ready to give me more, once we start to work on your icons. I'll be most curious about the exact environment where you want to place icons (web app, mobile app, desktop app, printed, etc.) and as well about people/users who will be interacting with them.

I know it might seem like a lot for the first step, but trust me, if we have all this thought out in advance, we will avoid any chance of failure along the way.

2. I get back to you with a price quote and estimated delivery date

I’ve got all basic information from you, ideally you’ve used custom icon form and now I can set a price and offer you a time I’d need to create your custom icons. If you agree, we can continue with the next step.

There are many factors affecting the price for custom icons. Total number of icons and deadline might seem like the only two things that matter, but it can’t be further from the truth.

3. I send you an advance invoice for 60 % of total price

This payment serves also as a design sketch fee and it’s non-refundable. Now I know that you’re serious about your order and this payment will cover at least a part of the work I’ll have with creating the first version of your custom icons. Also, it allows you to discard what we did so far and leave the project, if you’d be really dissatisfied with the first version. Frankly, this has never happened to me, but you should know it’s an option, in case something goes wrong.

4. I start to work on your custom icons, once the payment is complete

This part will take most of the total time needed. At this point, I have all I need to work alone for a while.

I’ll go again through all the materials you sent me and I’m always doing a research on the area/platform where icons will be placed, on people/users that will interact with them – in a short: the context of the icons and their surroundings are equally important, are truly fundamental and has to be always considered. That’s one of the many factors making good icon or symbol.

Sometimes I have the opportunity to test icons in a live app, sometimes they are just screenshots or no such resources at all. It’s not necessary to have an access to these things, but any such thing that helps me empathize with the role of the user of your product, can have a huge impact on the outcome.

5. I deliver the first version of custom icons and make adjustments, based on your feedback.

On a date we agreed before, I send you the preview of the first version of your custom icons as a raster image. Now it’s a good time for you to take some time to digest the first impression. The best thing you can do, is to gain some distance and let them at least day or two out of your sight and attention. This will help you get rid of any expectations you may had and be more objective.

After that, we can discuss (usually via email) any changes or improvements you might want. I usually do from 0 to 5 rounds of changes, if necessary. Sometimes, it happens that all icons are ok at the first attempt, but most of the time it’s necessary to make some adjustments or at least try to create an alternative version for some of them.

6. I'm sending you an invoice for the second half of the total price.

In a moment we manage to finish the look of all your custom icons, I can finish and clean vector files, export and create all other file formats and prepare the ZIP file with your new custom icon set.

I’m making custom icons always as a custom icon set, no matter how many icons. There are multiple reasons for it, but the most important is that this way, you can still use your custom icons in combination with any current or new GLYPHICONS sets and above all, you can update and maintain your custom set separately.

7. I'm sending you a link for all source data with your custom icon set, once the payment is complete.

As soon as your payment is complete, you get a download link to your custom icon set and final invoice.

As you may have probably noticed, in the whole text above I’ve been intentionally avoiding pitching or selling the idea of custom icon design itself, because that’s not the purpose of this article. If you’re reading these lines, I presume that you’re a smart person who already know all the benefits of custom icons or symbols and also know how they can elevate your product and help your users. This article should be rather strictly informative and about custom icon design process only.

FAQ related to custom icons

As I’m getting some questions over and over again, I’ve decided to add some of them here and make a permanent list of “the most popular” questions linked to custom icons.

Can you make just one custom icon? Why is to so expensive, it's just one icon!

Because as you can see above, the process of making custom icons is not just a single task or action and to create one custom icon or a whole set requires (almost always) to go through all steps described above. Of course, the more icons, the lower the price, but you can't oversimplify it and use a direct ratio to calculate the total price.

Can you convert our logo to icon?

The logo and icon are different things, each serves different purpose. If you want a serious re-design for your logo or a brand new logo, please contact me through my personal website. If you only need to vectorize your logo or convert it to SVG format, you may use Adobe Illustrator, Sketch or even some advanced free online tools.

Can you add our logo to your Social tool?

All logos in Social tool are hand picked, based simply on general awareness about brands they represent. You can of course suggest one. Social tool exists as a tool, helper, for all designers who want to quickly use vector logo of a well known brand while respecting their guidelines or at least without damaging them, and if so as little as possible.

"Social icons" or "Social sets", is something that shouldn't exist at all. Yes, I know, I made this mistake too, with former Social set – but now, years later, when we're all wiser, we don't have to repeat our mistakes, right? ;)

The price for custom icons is too much for us, can you do it cheaper, or for free?

If you're not in rush and don't mind waiting till next update of the set, there is always a possibility that I make at least some of icons you need for free, as a part of the next update. But, there is never ETA for such work and I pick only icons I'll know that will come in handy for other GLYPHICONS customers.

Custom icons will be made exclusively just for us?

Yes, by default, all custom icons are made as a standalone custom icon set, that comes with a GLYPHICONS regular license and are made only for you, unless we agree otherwise.

If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach me at: glyphicons@gmail.com.


Jan Kovařík

Jan Kovařík

Hi, I'm Jan, an independent graphic designer and author of GLYPHICONS icons. I spent most of my free time with icons and symbols you can see on glyphicons.com. The rest of my time I divide between my family, my cat, my dog and Aikido.