I came across Iconfu on a comment board I frequent from time to time, Y-Combinator. It’s a somewhat simple online tool for people to build icons for various purposes. By somewhat simple I mean that there are so many options I feel like I just walked into an art store with a bazillion different tools, canvases and paintbrushes. Being a non expert in the art arena, I look for the basic paint brush, color selector, and fill. These work without too much hassle.
The exportable formats include png, gif, and ico. Conspicuously missing from the list is jpg. Many designers feel jpg should be done away, but I wonder about the decision to exclude it. The format option is actually my favorite feature, which at any given time allows you to click the respective link and download your masterpiece.
Regarding my “somewhat simple” comment, a more thorough exploration of the site reveals more options than I would ever dream of using. Truly an impressive offering of tools, were anyone to be sophisticated enough to use them. It begs the question, will someone who’s art illiterate such as myself take the time to learn how to use them? Those who are familiar with graphic design will probably already be experts in Photoshop® or Gimp. What’s their motivation to work with this then?
But I press on, determined to make use of this new tool. It’s clear the developers spared no expense when it came to adding functionality. A brief overview includes 12 different drawing modes, 10 different tools, 17 different actions, embedded comments, a nifty color levels graph, an animator, and a special Give Up button that causes George Costanza to appear on the screen.
My least favorite part of Iconfu is perhaps the most important- the color selector. I have a theory about color selectors and it goes as follows: all color selectors should be banned forthright. Seeing as how there are thousands upon thousands of colors available, how is it that I’ll be able to pick the one I want with a little tool such as this one. Iconfu’s color tool is no better or worse than anyone else’s, but what I’m really looking for a a nice little box where I can enter a 6 digit hex code. (Yes I noticed a way to enter the RGB values but it’s less than obvious.) When I’m designing a website I usually spend hours trying to select colors. I use an arsenal including a color picker and various websites that tell me which colors are supposed to match the base one I start with. This effort invariably fails and I resort to using a prefabricated theme, but I digress. My plea to Iconfu, give me a box to enter the hex code and we’ll call it even.
The default size is a 16 x 16 pixel frame which happens to be the same as one needs to create the favicon.ico for a website. In the spirit of Iconfu, I attempted my own. See my current favicon which is posted here for posterity.
All in all I found this tool a bit too complex for the entry level user, such as myself. I’ll give them credit for having helpful menus and even tutorials. I have to admit, for my next favicon I’m a bit more likely to use a simple man’s tool, such as favicon.cc. I’ll note that Iconfu does have the option to upgrade to attain a 48 x48 pixel frame as well as other options. The fee is as little as $2, which can only be reminiscent of my favorite line from a cult film. Reenacted and remixed here. (movie clip starts around the 1:30 mark…)
< Video removed since poster was cited for copyright violation. Drat! Go rent Better off Dead then. >
SlapBack: Thanks for the review! I agree there are perhaps too many options on the editor page, but I’m not sure if I want to factor out a “simple” mode for beginners, but it might be the way forward if I need to avoid intimidating new visitors. You’re right that colour selection is a tricky UI issue, and something I’d like to add in the future is a kind of palette thingy that prevents you from picking discordant colours. But if you want a hex field, I can give you a hex field.
Iconfu went by the wayside. A note from its founder is all that remains- “Iconfu, the world’s most popular and advanced online icon editor, has been shut down. There is nothing left but the code and a big database of free icons. The community, the spirit, the laughter around the campfire – all gone, and with them, dreams of a bigger, more iconic, Web. Others may yet succeed where I have failed. Good luck to you.”
Update per someone in the comments- Iconfu.com was sold and built from the ground up by a new team. Go check it out!