ImageThink Tips For Drawing Icons


Written By: Derrick Dent, graphic recorder at ImageThink (@imagethink)

My creative background is one that is heavily influenced by comics and cartooning. The way that I draw fits perfectly into my role as graphic recorder for ImageThink, where we create simplified visuals to communicate complex ideas. Here are some tips for drawing icons.

Being economic with your lines is something that allows for speed and lends itself to a signature style, not dissimilar from handwriting. There’s a reason that you can tell a Bill Watterson drawing from a mile away. Also, as Scott McCloud mentions in Understanding Comics, simplicity is a key drawing tip component to getting the viewer involved in the image presented to them.

One could argue that a realistic drawing could be the quickest way to connect someone with an image. The problem is when the details get in the way of the idea that you’re trying to communicate. Take this drawing of a delivery man:


We know what he does from the uniform, BUT we’re caught up in the details of him looking like Danny Devito. This is a distraction, now we’re thinking about “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”… Wait, what were we talking about?

The challenge is that we’re trying to immerse a viewer in the role of the delivery man for our story, but there’s only one Danny Devito. Let’s see what happens when we simplify things a bit:


And even further:


We still have our delivery person (note that we lost a bit of gender info in the process). Who is this person? Is it your neighbor? Your ex? Your best friend on Twitter? It could be a number of people, and that’s where the “magic” happens. The likeness is so simple that it becomes a mask for the viewer to wear, increasing engagement and retention.

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