I'm a programmer, I'm facing some problems in time to reframe the icons of an old system.

Analytically,how to pass a vision of serious company using icons?

Example of current icons:

enter image description here

Suggested examples of icons:

enter image description here

Suggested icons were rejected for not "represent serious" and "too much color".

Note: I believe that here is the most suitable place to hold this question, because it focused only on her image and representation, having no interaction with the User to use the User Experience.

  • 2
    Hi Gabriel Rodrigues, welcome to GD.SE! The following thread is not the same question but I think some of the answers are worth a read - How to deal with vague comments about a design from my clients and boss?
    – AndrewH
    Feb 12, 2016 at 18:45
  • Hey Gabriel. Please take a look at our critique guidelines and edit your question to match Feb 12, 2016 at 19:26
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    Style-wise, the top row indeed reeks of Windows 3.1, up to the required 16 color palette (and is that a tape cassette in the 2nd one from the left?). The bottom row is the "flat" style currently in vogue – merely stating they don't look "serious" enough is seriously not enough information. Too much color? Too bright? Too simple shapes?
    – Jongware
    Feb 12, 2016 at 23:36
  • @Jongware the tape cassette in the 2nd from the left represents "backup and restore",if I edit the question by adding what each icon represents would be better? Feb 12, 2016 at 23:51
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    Your boss is a terrible art director and causing more problems than helping. S/he needs to show you exactly what they want (via other examples).
    – DA01
    Feb 13, 2016 at 17:14

6 Answers 6


Those icons are entirely serious. Modern design, consistent enough style and obvious to a passerby. Maybe not the money bag to me, but I'm sure its more obvious in the context of the application.

However in my personal opinion, icons often get bad reputations for being "Clip-art", when they absolutely serve an important purpose. They are easily recognizable and the user is often already familiar with their function.

To answer your question more directly, maybe instead they are asking for just a different style of icons? Stock assets websites like ThinkStock, ShutterStock, and icon specific sites have tons of themed icons that might fit better in your product owner's vision.

Try a single color or simple lined icons instead for a more clean look.


I am not a graphic designer, nor I do play one on TV, but I learn things from the ones who work in my office.

In his answer, Simon White detailed some ways to have the font less colorful. Instead of opacity (which in this gase makes the image more gray given the background) I'd use darker colors: grey or grayed out icons often mean inactive buttons when used in software UIs.

Rounded corners (for the HD, calculator, calendar, mailbox) and flat colors might also be seen as too plain and (thus) reminiscing of child toys.


You can desaturate your icons or convert them to grayscale to take out the color, which many will feel gives them a more business-like appearance.

desaturated icon examples

You can also overlay the icons over gray and reduce the opacity of the icons to gray them somewhat and mute the colors.

enter image description here

  • I agree that colour goes a long way, but this looks too much like a hidden vs. live state. Instead, I would limit the colours used in the actual icons. Perhaps they all start as the same shade of grey, with red as an accent, and then one additional accent colour to emphasise the specific object or function. Feb 14, 2016 at 14:52

these icons aren't representing the company, they are tools used for software that the company produces. You can educate your bosses/decision-makers with examples from your competition's software (or other modern software).

You certainly need additional information before you waste everyone's time with a redesign. Find out what the goal is regarding a re-do of the icons - are they looking to enter a new market segment with the new release? Or are they just trying to make something look like it's intended for the 21st century, instead of the 20th.

Personally, I don't like to limit the color palette for icons - the more distinctive each one is, the easier the users will be able to quickly tell them apart. However, you can offer a limited color palette that can be pre-approved by management before the icons are designed.

I second the suggestion regarding The Noun Project - while monocolor icons do have their place, the icons in that collection are a great reference and inspiration for creating your own.


I agree with the other comments on the seriousness. However if your boss is proving to be a pain, it might be easier to quickly get some new icons.

When I need to get some icons quick, my favourite source is Noun Project. All of their icons are in black and white and can be used free with a credit to the designer or can be purchased for a couple of bucks each.

Hmm, I sound like a sales man... :(

Just download a handful of styles across the whole range of icons need them and present them to your boss and ask for feedback based on them. If your boss likes a set, just go back and purchase them.

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    You can not change your client so easily if its your boss without getting a new job.
    – joojaa
    Feb 13, 2016 at 20:19
  • @joojaa Oops, I meant new icons... Unless he can replace his boss :) Feb 13, 2016 at 23:51

Oh. Dear. God.. the existing icons are - what? - 30 years old!? RUN AWAY FROM THEM. Anything will be an improvement. I see a cassette tape and a box of 3.5inch disks...

Do not agonise over what "serious" may or may not mean: you do NOT want your software to look like it is from the 1980ties. Do not spend loads of time guessing over the word "serious".

Make a mockup of what it will look like in context: your boss seems to be as visually competent as a monkey wrench. Make a mockup with the icons where you can see it as part of the software - in other words: fake a screendump of what the totality will look like.

Consider also: is your boss actually using the software, or is it something you/they sell? in that case, s/he has not the daily confrontation of those awful, awful icons.

As for "too many colours"...jayzz.

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