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Review ‘The iOS App Icon Book’: A Mesmerizing Tribute to Beautiful iPhone Icons


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App icons come, icons go and around the time of iOS 7 app icons were also radically reworked. “The iOS App Icon Book” is an extremely beautiful celebration of the art of the app icon.

It’s hard to accept that details of something as big as the… iPhone may be lost to history. But at least it’s heading that way, and among many other things, this new book is a strong effort to get the best of what we’re losing.

Notably, those app icons you’d swear haven’t changed since the iPhone was introduced in 2007. When we stick with an app for years, and now sometimes a decade or more, we tend not to notice how much their icons change.

And the best thing about this book by designer Michael Flarup is when it lays out some of those changes for us.

The purpose of the book

On sale now, at least until the first press runs out, “The iOS App Icon Book” is half a book meant to be popped in and out, half for a thorough read. It presents numerous app icons in different sizes, and some of them in a series showing their evolution.

So far, it’s been a Kickstarter project, eventually with 1,450 backers tracking its progress. Those advances included details about the design issues surrounding a design book, especially how difficult it is to accurately reproduce the colors of a digital icon in print.

In December 2021, artist and designer Michael Flarup announced the results of the crowdfunding campaign.

“We did it! We funded the iOS App Icon Book by a whopping 1362%,” He wrote† “When the campaign timer ran, 1450 backers had pledged 136,420 (about $155,000 USD or 1,000,000 DKK(S).”

“We are the most crowdfunded publication to ever come out of Denmark,” Flarup continued. “We’ve sold about 1,600 books and are looking at a much larger first edition than I could have ever dreamed.”

“The iOS App Icon Book” is hardback, 164 pages and printed in full color. Those pages contain countless icons, but also a dozen double-page spreads with interviews with designers or design agencies.

Then there are four short chapters on iOS icon history, and also guides on how to draw effective ones.

Read the book

You first look for favorite app icons and are likely to find them – if they are from third-party developers. With the exception of Apple Notes and Xcode, there are no Apple app icons in the book.

In addition to all the icons, there are double page interviews with app icon designers

That’s a shame because it would have been fascinating to track all the stock apps through their different generations. But overall, it’s that set of evolving apps that are the most interesting, so it would have been good to have more of them.

It’s a balance of details though, and if you wish your favorites had gotten this evolution coverage, the ones that do get it are well chosen.

Even after going through the book once, it’s hard not to dwell on the app icon pages themselves. What would originally have been seen on an iPhone as just about the smallest piece of art possible is now shown here in much larger, richer renderings.

The written chapters on icon design and icon history are very short. Rather than somehow being the poorer for that, they’re well-made pieces – always leaving you wanting more.

Should you buy?

Yes. Buy this hardcover especially while the print run lasts, because while there should certainly be future print runs, there will reportedly not be an ebook version.

  • Beautifully designed book
  • Fascinating Designer Profiles
  • Accurate details about app icon design
  • Includes tons of favorite app icons
  • Includes the evolution of some key icons over the years
  • Almost no icons from Apple
  • More evolution series would be good

Rating: 5 out of 5

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