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To begin with, I'm a programmer -- not a graphic designer, so I'm not very good at making pleasing looking images. But I want some that at least look decent enough for version 1 of my video app, and I came up with a bunch of logos for it. I have one here:

example 1

Here is another:
example 2

I've been bugging my friends for feedback, and they seem to think the images are too cartoony looking. I don't really know how to fix this, so I welcome suggestions from the professionals!

EDIT

I followed some of your all's recommendations. The new image is:

example 3

I redid the star from scratch entirely. My friends really like the new look of it. I'm still not sure about the blue border though. I've been messing around with it for 3 hours and can't get something that "clicks" for me.

Oh, and I remember where my idea for the icon came from. I originally had just a star, but that seemed too generic, so my buddy suggested making it like a Hollywood star, and those stars have a little camera in them.

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have you considered removing the second limelight and moving put yourself in the above, possibly force-justified so the p and the e align with the L and the t? –  horatio May 1 '12 at 14:57
    
I like that suggestion. –  Nick May 3 '12 at 7:50

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Your current icon is bordering upon iMovie infringement. :) If Apple approved it, then I guess they feel it's okay. But knowing Apple, things could change.

A Few psychological notations:

  • Curved paths always feel less serious and more friendly. Using straight paths for the star would give it more of a serious impression.
  • High contrast also lends to a more professional feeling, especially where icon design is concerned. You want things to be equally distinguishable at 16px as they are at 256 px.
  • Your shine, or reflection on the center has a couple issues. It's curved the wrong direction for its' size and it covers far too much of the center. You may benefit from looking at real water droplets to see how light plays out on them. There are generally a couple small highlights and a subtle larger highlight, but nothing as dramatic as you currently have.
  • The first thing I saw was "iMovie". That's not a bad thing necessarily, but if you want to distinguish your app as something unrelated to iMovie, you may want to rethink the star with a camera in the center of it.

The more you use curved paths and low contrast the more "cartoony" an icon will seem.

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These are great suggestions! I've been playing around with higher contrast, but didn't realize this was the key factor in professional looking icons. And I like your idea about using real-life reflections to model images off of. I'll remove the "balloon" shape that the star has as well. (And strangely enough, I use Windows and have never used or seen iMovie haha.) –  Nick Apr 30 '12 at 5:59
    
It may have been a subliminal "pick-up" of the iMovie logo. And honestly, Apple's version isn't over-the-top original to begin with. But really, both icons simply look like cartoon versions of iMovie and Aperture icons. Diversifying more may be beneficial to sales. –  Scott Apr 30 '12 at 14:59
    
Some good suggestions. I'd also add that softer (i.e. more towards pastel tones, brighter but less saturated colors) tend to look more childish (reminds me of play-dough or fisher-price products). The same can be said of complementary color schemes (blue + yellow in particular are very pre-school colors). –  Lèse majesté Apr 30 '12 at 16:28

I think getting 'real' lighting/reflection/highlights/whatever you want to call them(!) right is very important. I think cartoon-y looking icons are great, but they still need to look realistic/believable. Try drawing over images of real items for a while, and take note on where light falls and where highlights are prominent etc. - the more you do it, the easier it will become to start from scratch and easily be able to judge where light or shadow needs to rest on the object for it to look real, whilst still maintaining that cartoon-y edge that icons seem to favour. Here is one I did recently:

enter image description here

I think it looks fairly realistic, but still fun and cartoon like. There's a lot of layers on there that you can barely see, which are just subtle colour differences, but without them it looks flat.

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Icon design is really, really difficult, especially if you're aiming for the standard set by other top apps. I think you've done an ok job, but it may be worth considering hiring an icon designer, as the icon is the first and last thing your users will see. It's unfair, but they will likely base their purchase decision, at least in part, based on the icon.

And an icon is something you can potentially keep for several major versions. If you think the app is likely to succeed, it may be a good investment. Dribbble is full of talented icon designers looking for work. That might be a good place to start.

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Thanks. On one hand, there is the notion that you don't want to spend too much time (or money) on any single app idea, since predicting success is difficult, but on the other hand, you don't want such crappy graphics that no one pays attention to the app to begin with. –  Nick Apr 30 '12 at 3:37
    
@Nick: Normally, I'd go with Marc's suggestion all the way. But I think you're in the small minority of programmers that have a good enough eye for design + good enough technical skills with design software where you might not need to go to a professional designer for the initial release of your app. It just depends on how much time you want to invest in design/learning design versus programming for you apps. –  Lèse majesté Apr 30 '12 at 16:32
    
Of course, if you can find a versatile designer-illustrator to partner up with and do your icons + web design + UI design for all of your apps, that would probably be the optimal arrangement. –  Lèse majesté Apr 30 '12 at 16:34

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