Client: Aer Lingus
Role: UX/UI/Product Designer
As an international airline, Aer Lingus naturally deal with international customers who do not speak English as a first language and may struggle to understand basic English phrases or common travel terms.
Icons help comprehension and scanability. They act as important visual cues which assist communication and help to provide an easier user experience.
So the use of icons in travel communications – where appropriate, is recommended.
Framing the problem
A number of issues were identified the old Aer Lingus icon set;
• The old icons were originally designed in 2014 primarily for use on web, not mobile
• They were designed at 128px X 128px and were too detailed for use at smaller sizes (16 X 16px/ 24 X 24px)
• The 1px line weight was too light, becoming illegible at smaller sizes
• They were quite sharp and angular in appearance (as children we are trained to avoid sharp objects)
• The old icon-set was not compatible with new brand guidelines, which aim to soften the appearance of the brand.
To improve our brand iconography, a new icon-set was commissioned in 2023 to respond to known issues. We needed icons that functioned better at smaller sizes, that were simpler and softer in appearance. Following competitive analysis and research into best-practices, we drafted a set of principles for icon design.
To create a modern, cohesive and flexible icon set, we adopted the following icon-design principles;
Icons should be simple and easily recognisable at small sizes. Avoid unnecessary details and strive for clarity. Trying to include too many ideas in a single icon can make your work look congested and overly complicated.
Maintain a consistent style – especially in terms of icon dimensions, line weight and corner radius. Use a grid template to keep within guidelines and apply a consistent design language to all icons within the design system.
Icons should be instantly understandable and convey their intended meaning clearly. Ambiguous icons increase cognitive load so stick to simple, easily-recognisable and obvious concepts.
Icons can communicate information faster than words can. Therefore, icons should be relevant to the actions or functions they represent. Consider the context and use metaphors that align with the user’s mental models.
Application of new brand styles
New brand styling guidelines in June 2023 aim to soften the visual language of the brand to appear more human and empathetic. ‘Soften the edges’ is one of the main design principles in the new brand creative ethos.
Design icons that can be scaled to different sizes without losing their visual integrity or meaning. Test the icons at various sizes to ensure they remain clear and legible. New icons are specifically designed at their most commonly used mobile sizes, so they can scale up without any loss of readability.
Icons should work together as a set and create a unified visual language. As well as following the same design rules, icons should have the same character & personality. Icons should work well together as a suite of icons and sit comfortably with the rest of the brand design system.
Consider accessibility needs when designing and displaying icons. Ensure they are distinguishable for users with visual impairments or colour blindness. Provide alt-text and aria-label descriptions where necessary for compatibility with screen-readers.
By following these principles, designers can create consistent icons that effectively communicate their intended meaning, enhance usability, and contribute to a cohesive and easier user experience.