icons

Style

Header artwork features a face-like composition on a table top. The face is formed of a protractor, pencil, graph paper, and assorted material swatches such as wood and stone to form eyes, a mouth and nose.

Icons are brand attributes. Our icons embody the Volvo Cars brand identity along with our typography, copy, colour, imagery, motion and (of course) our logo marks. Here's the guiding principles to create well-designed icons that elevate and express our brand personality.

Icon principles

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We evaluate all icons and sets of icons based on these principles for Volvo Cars iconography:

  1. Effectiveness
  2. Personality
  3. Simplicity
  4. Composition
  5. Perspective
  6. Consistency
4 icons displayed in a row. From left to right, headlights, charging station, road, and spanner. All appear consistent in style and simplicity. Black icons on a light grey background.The Volvo Cars icon suite must remain useful and consistent in both form and function.

Effectiveness

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Every icon must be effective and add value. How can we evaluate whether an icon is effective and adds value to people's experiences?

Effective icons are:

  • Immediate (understood rapidly)
  • Clear (recognisable, readable)
  • Minimal (forms, metaphors)
  • Matching (in style, size, weight, motion)
  • Measured (designed to size/context)

Personality

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Blend key ideas with playful creativity. Icons take cues from real-world objects, but use geometric shapes to capture the essence. Unique details transform them into a system of branded icons with personality.

Image of a generic clear lightbulb on its own.Icons take cues from real-world objects but use line art and geometric shapes to capture the essence.
Lightbulb icon uses simple line art and 3 horizontal lines to convey the screw attachment of a real lightbulb. This icon also contains an exclamation mark where the filament would otherwise be.Unique details are what transform icons into something more distinctive and on-brand.

Techniques for adding brand personality to iconography:

  • Combine straight and rounded corners elegantly
  • Create a style for metaphors
  • Balance the overall size, shape, and impact of the icon in context of the design
  • Explore making icons more playful and/or memorable

Simplicity

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Clear and immediate. Keep metaphors clean and simple. Aim to capture the essence of an idea rather than a life-like representation. Continue to "drop" all non-essential details as you refine.

Microphone icon shown alone.Push simplification as far as possible, without loss of meaning.
Car speed icon shown alone.When crafting an icon, strive for economy of line.

Composition

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Clarity is a gift of good planning. Ensure icon compositions are influenced by the grid whenever possible. Sticking to the grid isn't mandatory, but referencing it will result in more cohesive iconography for our brand.

Assess the surrounding negative spaces in addition to the strokes and fills of each icon. Some icons may appear cramped or a little sparse in composition. Pay close attention to the visual density to improve overall clarity and "fit."

Information icon shown alone. In this example it is sized neatly inside a circle, representing good practice.Maintain adequate clear space to allow for faster visual scanning and recognition of icons.
Information icon oversized within a circle. This example represents a poor awareness of icon composition.Without adequate clear space, the elements within an icon may begin to merge, compromising the overall meaning.

Perspective

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Create from the same viewpoint. Avoid 3D perspectives when designing icons for Volvo Cars. Opt for a flat, 2D appearance consistent with our other icons.

Battery icon shown alone and appearing as a flat, 2D graphic. This 2D perspective represents good practice during the creation of icons.Consistent perspective is just as important as the details within the icon itself. Design icons in a flat, 2D appearance.
Battery icon shown alone and appearing as a cylindrical, 3D graphic. This 3D perspective represents bad practice during the creation of icons for Volvo Cars.Avoid the temptation to depict icons as 3D objects.

Consistency

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Consistency creates trust. Before creating new icons, evaluate the characteristics of existing ones. Consistent icons borrow ideas from one another to heighten the sense of unity. This approach helps express the brand across all platforms and touch points–building trust.

3 icons presented in a single row. Each icon features a diagonal 45 degree angle as part of its design. All angles and stroke thicknesses match perfectly, to demonstrate icon consistency.Align on details: such as corners, angles, and counter strokes. Gaps work best in natural spots.
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