iOS 9’s Icons

September 18, 2015

Something about iOS 7’s annoyed me. Despite the redesign, all of Apple’s icons still looked noticeably different when sat beside one another.

Previous versions of iOS had this same issue, but I hoped iOS 7 would tie everything together. It didn’t.

With the release of iOS 9, I’ve organized Apple’s icons into the categories you see below.

Icons organized by type
Convex, concave, flat, or somewhere in between…

It’s as if some icons push out while others pull in. Some lay flat, but then some of those have internal elements with noticeable depth.

The concave icons are the most off-putting. We’ve lived countless millenia with the sun, and now artificial lighting, above our heads. Something lit from below can be intimate, like a campfire or candlelight, but it can also be uneasy, especially if everything else is lit from above.

A couple of the ‘undecided’ icons could be grouped into other categories, but they didn’t truly feel at home in any of them:

I understand this is a difficult and perhaps futile problem. Third-party developers have little incentive to make icons that fit. But I think a greater coherency would put more pressure on third-party developers to make something that looks at home on iOS.

OS X has this same ‘problem.’

Application icon

In fact, one of my favorite third-party icons doesn’t pay too much attention to Apple.

You can see it to the right. It’d look better if it didn’t have the text on it, or even if the text was offset to the right instead of dead center. But it’s the most visually striking icon on my home screen.

I like it. It’s unique.

I think Apple’s convex icons are the most visually pleasant and congruent with the icons of old, but the concave ones are weird. And while flat icons are neutral, both the convex and concave icons are at odds with them.

And maybe it doesn’t need to be said at this point, but Game Center’s icon is nonsense. How do bubbles evoke game scores?