icon-designer-report-q4-2019


Let’s first take a look at what are the most popular keywords that customers have been using when searching for icons on Iconfinder. The table below lists these keywords in order of popularity, from most searched to least.

The column called Supply-Demand ratio shows how competitive the Iconfinder market for that keyword is:

  • A ratio lower than 1 means that there is space for more icons.
  • A ratio higher than 1 means that the market is very competitive — there are more icons than searches for that keyword, so sales are not guaranteed.

The last column shows whether the searches for that keyword have been increasing or decreasing as compared to the same period last year.

Keywords ordered by the number of searches, from most searches to least (Dates: Jan 1, 2019 to Sep 15, 2019). Data can be accessed here.

It is not surprising to see keywords such as “arrow”, “phone”, “download”, “search” or “user” ranking as the most searched in 2019 so far. These are the basis of UIs and websites and most customers will be looking for these. They are a good place to start if you are new at icon design.

As an icon designer, you are probably asking what are the icons that customers buy together. This is useful information when deciding what icons to include in the same set or the same icon family. To answer this question, we looked at what keywords customers search for successively.

For example, a typical case is to search for “facebook” and then right afterward search for “twitter”. Depending on how many times this exact combination of searches happened, we can intuit how likely it is for a customer to buy the two icons together. Another example of this kind could be a search for “arrow up”, followed by a new search for “arrow down”.

The table below lists the keyword combinations used to search on Iconfinder, from most to least popular. The first keyword is the one that the customer used in the first search. The second keyword is the one the customer used in the second search, immediately after the first one. Most cases are complementary keywords.

Subsequent keywords used in searches on Iconfinder (Dates: Jan 1, 2019 to Sep 15, 2019). Full data can be accessed here.

This list should be taken with caution, however, as some examples could be interpreted differently. Sometimes, the customer might make a typo and then search for the correct word in the second search. For example, a typo such as “cofee” in the first search would be followed by a second search with the correct spelling of the word: “coffee”.

Synonym keywords — a hint for better tagging

Another very important scenario is when customers cannot find what they are looking for with the first keyword and then try with a second one. This corresponds to words that are synonyms. For example, if you cannot find the right icon using the keyword “remove”, you might try using the word “delete” instead. These are important clues for tagging — they should help you come up with better tags.

Knowing that there were 791 times when people searched for “remove” and then, immediately after, searched for “delete” tells you that those are two very important tags to add to your relevant icons. This way, you help the customers find your icons more easily.

If you need help finding synonyms when tagging, a good idea is to use an external tool such as this one: https://www.powerthesaurus.org/. When uploading icons to Iconfinder, our tagging tool also suggests other tags based on what you enter. Note that the recommended number of tags is between 4 and 7 per icon. Read Iconfinder’s guidelines for tagging.

The process of tagging

Tagging icons is the most important thing that you as a designer can do for your business. It should be an integral part of your design process. It is equally important to get the tags right as it is to create good quality icons.

After you have decided on what the right tags are — hopefully also with the help of our tips above — you need to do tagging in a systematic manner. Read about this in our tutorial How to use artboards export to auto-tag icons.

We looked at what keywords gain popularity in Q4 by looking at the searches in October, November, and December last year. We compared those to the previous 3 months and selected only the keywords that had a large increase in searches.

We noticed mostly searches related to the main festivities during fall and winter: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and Diwali. The chart below shows at which time of the year the searches for each type of keyword reach a peak. For a complete list of keywords and their increase in popularity, check the Seasonal trends for keywords in Q4.

Searches per week and month for different keywords in Q4 2018.

Searches per week and month for different keywords in Q4 2018.

Searches per week and month for different keywords in Q4 2018.

Here are some of the seasonal sets that we consider as high quality, which can hopefully inspire you.

Left: Halloween set in Outline style / Right: Halloween set in Glyph style

Autumn set in Flat style

Left: Autumn set in Filled Outline style / Right: Halloween set in Flat style

Winter set in Filled Outline style

For more ideas on what icons to create and when keep an eye on Google Trends. It is a good source of popular topics that people are presently searching for online and a good indicator of what customers are searching for on Iconfinder too.

Here are the campaigns we plan to run in Q4, for which we often promote icons that match the theme of the campaign. We recommend designers to upload the themed icons before the campaign begins, in order to have a chance to be featured.

Marketing campaigns planned for Q4 2019

Here is an example of the Halloween campaign (which is running until the end of October) where we offer discounts on the Iconfider Pro plans. For this campaign, we featured beautifully-drawn Halloween icon sets.

Example of our Halloween campaign running in October 2019

The list below shows the category-style combinations in order of sales, from most sales to least. The best-sellers are Business & Finance in outline, glyph, and flat styles, followed by Avatars & Smileys in flat style, and UI in outline style.

You should pay attention to the last column (Supply-Demand ratio), which shows how saturated the market is in each category-style pair.

  • A ratio lower than 1 means that there is space for more icons.
  • A ratio higher than 1 means that the market is very competitive — there are more icons than searches for that keyword, so sales are not guaranteed.

Note that these category-style pairs are very competitive, so it is important to try to stand out from the crowd and differentiate yourself.

Category-style pairs ordered by sales, from most sales to least (Dates for demand: Jan 1, 2019 to Sep 15, 2019; Date for supply: Sep 15, 2019). Full data can be accessed here.

To make this list easier to grasp, we’ve added a few examples of sets that correspond to the category-style pairs from the top of the list.

Example of Business & finance sets in Outline style (left) and in Glyph style (right)

Example of a Business & finance set in Flat style (left) / Avatar set in Flat style (right)

Example of a UI set in Outline style (left) / Business & finance set in Filled Outline style (right)

From the list above, we have selected only those category-style combinations that offer opportunities to add more icons. These are the ones with a supply-demand ratio lower than 1, which means that they sell more icons than the total number of icons available on Iconfinder.

Pay attention, however, to the number of icons sold in each category-style pair. These are not among the top seller ones, which means that you cannot expect that many sales. Yet, creating icons for these is a good idea because there is less competition.

Category-style pairs with a Supply-Demand ratio lower than 1. (Dates for demand: Jan 1, 2019 to Sep 15, 2019; Date for supply: Sep 15, 2019). Full data can be accessed here.

To illustrate what the list means, we are adding a few examples of good sets for the first few category-style pairs.

Example of a Network & Communications set in Smooth style (left) / Avatars & smileys set in Smooth style (right)

Example of a Transportation set in Smooth style (left) / Computer & Hardware set in Smooth style (right)

Here we are listing a few examples of what we consider as bad practices when it comes to designing icons. We take the point of view of the customer by thinking in terms of the usability of the icon.

Directly-converted glyphs

Over the last few months, we have noticed an increase in the popularity of a certain style of glyph icons. It is the practice of creating an outline icon and then inverting it so that it looks like a glyph.

This is an example of what we mean by glyph icons that have been directly converted from their outline versions:

Icon set in directly-converted glyph style

As you can see in the example above, the icons become very difficult to recognize, especially in small sizes. Icons are meant to be used in small sizes, so simply creating a style conversion, without reinterpreting the icons, makes them lose their entire functionality.

Let’s look at a few examples together.

Bad glyph icons (directly-converted)

In all these examples, the designer made a direct style conversion, mostly because it only takes a second to do. However, the icons do not look good and Iconfinder does not accept them anymore.

When designing a glyph icon, the icon needs to be rethought based on the style limitations, making sure that they are easy to understand. Glyph icons are characterized by the use of negative space.

Good glyph icons

In the examples below, the icons are not simply converted directly to glyph. Instead, the designer has paid attention that the concept that the icon represents is still very clear.

Gradients in outline icons

We also noticed a trend of gradients in outline icons. In general, using colors in outline icons needs to be very well thought out. Colors need to play a role in the icon, like highlighting the important parts of the icon itself.

You might think that adding a gradient to an outline icon makes it cool and appealing. In reality, customers will have more trouble if they want to change the color of the icon, as gradients are not so easy to manage, especially for customers with no graphic design knowledge.

Outline icons with gradient effect — not recommended

In the example below, using a 3-color gradient is definitely not going to make the icons more appealing. Instead, the icons lose their usability, as very few or no customers will want to buy them. Usually, customers look for icons that fit a certain color scheme (their brand’s colors, for instance) and these icons would bring more work for the customers when trying to change the colors.

Outline icons with gradient effect — not recommended

Remember to always keep the customer in mind when designing icons. We recommend staying away from bad practices — such as directly-converted glyphs and gradients in outline icons — that can ultimately hurt sales.

We hope this report will help you identify the opportunities in the icon market and will inspire you to create beautiful icons.


This report is part of a series that are released every quarter. It crunches data on supply and demand on the Iconfinder marketplace, hoping to lead designers to create the right icons.

Drop us a message at support@iconfinder.com if you have any questions or feedback.

Are you interested in becoming a contributor on Iconfinder? This is the place to start: How to sell icons on Iconfinder

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