Editor’s note: For a newer, updated version of this post, check it out here.
The icon is on one of the first thing a user sees of a new mobile app. There isn’t much space to play around so this tiny picture has to do all the work, giving an intuitive representation of what users are going to get with the app. Different operating systems impose different specifications. As a result, icon shape, size and even the illustrative artwork may differ. Some operating systems demand that the icon be as simple as possible while others, on the contrary, prefer stretching the limits of creativity.
The iOS platform, for one, is known for placing a higher premium on aesthetics and a zealous attention to detail, keeping designers on their toes with the icon design process. On the other hand, this creates another platform for them to showcase their creativity and talent, which brings about many extraordinary and uncommon designs.
The collection below lists some of the amazing iOS icon designs that were sketched and modeled after mundane, ordinary stuff. Several examples are made so realistic that it is really difficult to believe that these shots aren’t just simple manipulated photos.
Hamburger App. A well-executed icon with enormous attention to detail. There are even sesame seeds on the bun and grease on the paper! (Image Source: Erfan Nuriyev)
Jelly Cake icon. It looks really fresh and finger-licking good. The meticulous approach in creating the layer of jelly and the top of the cake encourages one to just grab it and eat it. (Image Source: Erfan Nuriyev)
Sandwich iOS icon. Sandwich is an awesome example of how to properly make food into an app icon. If you do not have any skills on 3D rendering, one way out is to create unforgettable photomanipulation, and adding some special effects that makes the photo look a bit imaginary. (Image Source: Ryan Ford)
Oreo. Julian has transformed a yummy cookie into an easily recognizable brand icon, using both specific print on the top and little signature crumbs at the bottom to complete the whole look. (Image Source: Julian Burford)
Pizza App iOS Icon. This deisgn shows an excellent combo of cardboard texture, shadows and perspective. (Image Source: Ryan Ford)
Whiskey iPhone Icon. You may not see it but a lot of work goes behind this design. The ice cubes, the rippled glass effect on the base and the shading of the contents make the icon look like a photo of a glass of whiskey. (Image Source: Konstantin Datz)
Cola iOS Icon. The design forces you to look at an ordinary Coke can from a different angle. As usual, there is a lot of focus on tiny details such as water droplets and the metal finish which makes the icon look impressive. (Image Source: Konstantin Datz)
Cheers iOS Icon. A great example of using the non-standard can shape. Check out the detail on the metal surface near the top, and how the designer messed with different gradients and warm coloring to add depth and vividness. (Image Source: Mikael Eidenberg)
Tic-Tac Box Icon. Despite some funky-looking Tic-Tacs, the container and label look incredible. (Image Source: Jackie Tran)
Teapot iPhone/iOS Icon. This icon features truly decorative water effects that are complemented with highlights on the rim as well as flawless reflections. (Image Source: Cuberto)
Drink Carryall iOS Icon. Check out the smart use of textures and perspective that bring this drink carryall alive. (Image Source: Ryan Ford)
Boxing Glove iPhone Icon. A nice representation of flattened boxing gloves with the right leather texture and detailed stitched elements. (Image Source: Konstantin Datz)
Swim Shorts iPhone Icon. This design can make you buy an application just for the icon, which sends out freshness and cheerfulness. (Image Source: Konstantin Datz)
Icon Sneaker. Sneaker has a fantastic combination of different textures. Although some holes do not look the same, but the perfectly inserted laces hide this flaw. (Image Source: Sosoa)
Dribbble App icon. A beautifully illustrated cap with flawless white textile texture and a brilliant and detailed handiwork to the brim of the cap. (Image Source: Ramotion)
Radio iOS Icon. The radio icon carries an appealing retro design with various blue color tones and reflections. (Image Source: Román Jusdado)
Playstation One Icon. A legendary old-school console made with advanced techniques, that, undoubtedly, brings back sweet memories. (Image Source: Raphael Lopes)
Record Player iOS Icon. Here’s another retro device that was recreated with meticulous attention to perspective and lights, ins and outs. Warm colors and wood texture are definitely the winning features here. (Image Source: Román Jusdado)
Radio App Icon. Featuring another vintage device, that unlike others is made not so much realistic, as it is cartoon-like. The strange gradients, odd speakers and a bunch of shine elements make it look a bit hypnotic. (Image Source: Aditya Nugraha Putra)
Accordion iOS Icon. The icon has a sleek look that works perfectly for the accordion: check out the harmonious combination of color schemes and lightings on the buttons and metallic surface. (Image Source: Konstantin Datz)
Nikon Camera iOS Icon. Check out the mesmerizing reflections on the lens which creates an amazing illusion of depth. (Image Source: Gianluca Divisi)
Minox iPhone Icon – 3d. Starting with a 3D model and ending with effects and textures, this designer puts in a lot of effort to create, at first glance, a simple miniature camera. (Image Source: Konstantin Datz)
Plastic Camera Icon. A clean and easy to remember design with bright yellow color and superb work with the lens. (Image Source: David Im)
Medicine Icon. This is a really complicated masterpiece that was collected from pure layers in photoshop. A slight attrition effect on the front side of the box, glittering gradients and subtle lights make the whole design look like a toy. (Image Source: Sanadas Young)
Cigar Box iOS Icon. It’s an icon but it sure bears a great resemblance to the real object itself, due to intense detailing. (Image Source: Konstantin Datz)
Football Table iPhone Icon. Using the rounded square to create a perfect field for the foosball. The wood framing, figures and metal rods fully comply with real ones. (Image Source: Saturized)
Folder Box Icon. This design makes an impression of an unrealistic box with a rather bright graphic surface, and well-crafted metal inserts. (Image Source: Anton Kartashov)
Tea Light iPhone Icon. This is another great work from the master. Just take a look at the wax texture, crusty wick and realistic flame; they are just incredible. (Image Source: Konstantin Datz)
Wood and Steel. Despite the use of popular textures such as wood and metal, icon does not evoke neither distracting nor overwhelming feelings, but looks, as intended, crispy, smoothly and elegantly. (Image Source: Düne)
Castrol Oilit Icon. The design perfectly implements brand colors and rounded square container as a base for the oil can, and check out the oil can cover. (Image Source: Simen Myklebust)
Cardboard Box Icon. The icon uses a lot of gloss and gold color palette to make the box more than just shiny. Nevertheless, the artwork immediately catches the users’ attention. (Image Source: James Cipriano)
Wrappit iOS Icon. This gift box draws on the sweet pleasantness of a yummy color scheme and the use of glare on the corners and ribbons. (Image Source: Saturized)
Wallet icon 3. Here’s an original concept that ingeniously uses the constraints of the app icon shape. The purple leather installation looks really great as well. (Image Source: spovv)
Quicket Icon Test. This awesome icon charms with impeccable depth perception and transparent cutouts of the basket. (Image Source: zaewan Suh)
Golf Spain HD Icon. Konstantin continues to amaze with accurate use of textures and shapes. The whole design is made with exquisite detail. (Image Source: Konstantin Datz)
Libra Icon. This Libra icon has a classy look that is supplemented with a nicely polished leather cover and dirty yet believable paper texture. (Image Source: delmonto)
Yunait DealHunter Icon. A pleasantly colorful and vivid icon with blurred grass texture and a very detailed and obvious hunting hat illustration. (Image Source: David Im)
iSmoke Icon. This cigarette box looks pretty nice due to smooth edges, the skilful foil touch and perfectly illustrated rows of cigarettes. (Image Source: Alexa Grafera)
The Winning Move
As the App Store carries more than half a million apps (to-date), it’s getting harder and harder to make a mark and be discovered with your designs. Being involved in the iOS App development, designers have to push themselves beyond boundaries to prove to others that they can create something exceptional. Making up extraordinary things can be tricky and sometimes misleading, but ultimately the simplest visual interpretation is the usual path to a breakthrough. As you can see with the designs above, a realistic approach to icon design can work wonders.
Spotted any marvelous gems we have missed, let us know. Also, tell us which is your favorite in the list.
Editor’s note: This post is written by Dmytro for Hongkiat.com. Dmytro is an SEO-specialist and entrepreneur from Sevastopol (Ukraine).