The Breakroom

It’s New Freeware, Charlie Brown!

October 23, 2013

By Webmaster

This week’s freeware takes the form of three new desktop wallpapers perfect for the Halloween season. Mindy brings us two offerings in the form of Pig Pen and Pumpkin Patch, wallpapers featuring iconic characters and settings from the classic, ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.’ In addition to these, Dave Brasgalla invites the undead hordes to shamble across your desktop in Heartland. All of these wallpapers are available in sizes perfect for your iPhone, iPad and Mac, so head on over to the freeware page to grab them today!

Semiotic Standard – The Icongraphy of ‘Alien’

October 17, 2013

By Webmaster

Working as a set designer and concept artist on the classic 1979 space horror film “Alien”, visionary illustrator Ron Cobb created a set of industrial icons that presaged the look of iOS 7 by over 30 years. Intrigued by the similarities between the two, Iconfactory artist Dave Brasgalla adapted Cobb’s signage to the iOS 7 layout “grid” as a design exercise. Get the in-depth story on our design blog and download the icon set!

iOS 7 and the Iconography of ‘Alien’

October 17, 2013

By David Brasgalla

Icon design comparisonIn the early days of home computers with graphical user interfaces, icons were simply black and white, constrained within a 32×32 or 16×16 pixel square. Pioneer designer Susan Kare created icons for the Macintosh and Windows that were masterpieces of visual communication, and yet also somehow imbued with their own charm. These early icons set the standard for well over a decade, and continue to be relevant today. As the colour palette grew from 256 colours to millions, and alpha channels gave us even more flexibility, detail and surface effects began to overtake the clarity born of those original design constraints.

When OS X and Aqua arrived along with the new millennium, icon design eventually shifted into full-fledged illustration. Growing ever larger in size, icons had transformed into elaborate depictions of three-dimensional objects, often stunning in their polish and detail – and a single icon could now perhaps take weeks to complete. As mobile phone interfaces increased in sophistication, the trend spilled over to those devices as their makers strove to offer the same richness of graphical experience.

All of this changed when Apple revealed iOS 7 – a serious shift in design intent that shocked many users, designers and developers. Gone are the elaborate surface treatments and 3D effects. In their place, we find a carefully pared-down palette and design construction method. The simplicity and lack of ornament combined with the bold colour schemes struck many as almost child-like – which is understandable given the levels of detail and gloss that we’ve come to expect over the last decade.

For my part, I have a very positive feeling towards iOS 7, for one main reason: it brings computer iconography firmly back around to concentrating on communication rather than illustration – function over form. This is the realm of the graphic designer, where informed decisions about composition and colour create successful, strong symbology that will outlast trends, and is applicable over multiple uses.

So, where exactly does Alien come into all this? I’ll explain: when I first saw the iOS 7 designs, it immediately put me in mind of a system of symbols developed by artist Ron Cobb for the 1979 film Alien. Amongst the many designs and concepts Cobb contributed to the film, we find a set of icons intended for use as industrial signage onboard the film’s space-going tug “Nostromo”. The “Nostromo” spaceship sets constructed for the film are famed for their immersive and thoughtful design, and were characterized by an absolutely amazing attention to detail. Cobb’s “Semiotic Standard” iconography is visible throughout the film, a subtle touch of world-building that bolsters the perceived reality of the setting.

Alien AirlockQuite a few Cobb icons are visible as part of the airlock set in this scene from the 1979 film. How many can you find?

The symbols themselves are wonderful examples of simple, strong icon design – Cobb’s innate feel for logical, sensible design shows in everything he turns his hand to, from giant spacecraft and their control decks down to beer cans and clothing labels*. The icons are clean and direct, colour-coded and adhering to a grid-based construction method. They are essentially the same design intent as Apple’s iOS 7 system iconography. Here are some of Ron Cobb’s original sketches for the icon designs (from the book “Colorvision”):

Ron Cobb Semiotics sketch

Several people have vectorised these designs in the past, but I became interested in the idea of trying to fits Cobb’s Standard to the iOS 7 construction grid and colour palette. I was curious to see how much or how little effort would be needed to adapt them. Not surprisingly, things went rather smoothly.

Aside from a few adjustments in proportion, the icons adapted quite readily to the new grid. I made use of Apple’s so-called “super ellipse” in several places. I made one major change, which was to slim the glyph inside the “Maintenance” icon, as well as losing the two diagonals involved. I don’t necessarily think it’s “better” this way, but it felt like the right treatment within the terms of the experiment – apologies to Mr. Cobb.

The iOS 7 versions of the symbols keep both their strength and their characteristic flavour. It makes me smile to think that 35-year-old designs can suddenly feel current and even trendy again. It’s tempting to say that Cobb was ahead of his time with his Semiotic Standard, but I think the larger point here is simply that good design is timeless.

(*it could be argued that this actually worked against him when it came to designing the alien creature itself)

View other iOS 7 designs by the Iconfactory
Visit Dave’s blog

“An army of nightmares? Let’s get this party started.”

October 15, 2013

By Webmaster


As we approach our favorite holiday, the time has come once again for us to rise from the dead and rearrange our pixels into something a little more appropriate for the season.

This month, as you gather supplies to fight off the zombie hordes and vampire covens, keep a lookout for our new insidious icon sets and diabolical desktop wallpapers. Be sure to visit our Dribbble page for some perilous previews of these Hallowe’en favors, and don’t forget to also check out our haunted staff page, where our employees have undergone their yearly transformation into denizens of the night.

Today we’re releasing three new desktop wallpapers to start off our celebration of the supernatural and macabre. Kate England’s Halloween Glow is full of festive colors for the fall season, and Mindy Weaver brings us Kou and Moka, featuring characters from the popular anime series, Rosario+Vampire. All three of these offerings are available in sizes perfect for adorning your Mac, iPad or iPhone. Head on over to the freeware page to get into the holiday spirit today!

Our mad scientists are hard at work, cranking out more tricks and treats to keep the season festive, so keep checking back with us to see our latest spooky, scary additions. In the meantime, enjoy a few creatures from our past, and have a Happy Halloween!

Twitterrific 5.5.2 Adds Twitter Profile Editing

October 14, 2013

By Webmaster

Twitterrific 5.5.2 is now available in the App Store and brings with it support for editing user profiles.

The new profile editing view (accessed from your user profile or by tapping and holding on your avatar in the timeline) allows you to change your name, location, website, and bio information on the fly. You’ll also be able to pick new avatar and banner images and crop them to your liking from within the application. The view displays your avatar and banner overtop one another, so you can easily tell how the final changes will look in your profile and on Twitter’s website.

Other notable improvements in 5.5.2 include:

  • Performance enhancements when scrolling and loading the timeline
  • Improved application launch time
  • Bug fixes and more

Twitterrific 5 has been hailed by critics and users alike as one of the most beautiful and fun to use applications in the App Store. The app is currently on sale directly from the App Store for just $2.99. Existing users can update to version 5.5.2 via the App Store’s software update. Enjoy!

SuperStacked Mac Bundle featuring xScope

October 10, 2013

By Webmaster

We’re pleased to announce that xScope is participating in the newly released SuperStacked Mac Bundle. Along with xScope, the bundle offers access to 23 additional useful development tools and resources at a highly discounted price.

xScope is our Mac utility, featuring eight tools in one that combine to help you measure, inspect, and test your work. It’s a UI Swiss Army Knife that no designer or developer should be without. Check out xScope 3’s new features and user guide to find out more about how it can help you improve your daily work flow.

Starting at $35, the bundle’s price will be increasing by $1 a day, so we urge you not to wait to grab the SuperStacked Mac Bundle today.

Twitterrific 5.5 for iOS 7 Arrives

September 18, 2013

By Webmaster


Today, Apple launches the seventh generation of its mobile operating system and we’re pleased to report that our popular Twitter client, Twitterrific, is ready for the new OS. Twitterrific 5.5 is now available in the App Store and brings with it an updated interface as well as performance improvements, a host of new features & more.

Twitterrific 5 already sported a clean, easy to use interface prior to iOS 7, but now more than ever the app’s focus is squarely on your Twitter content. Minimal menus and navigation controls lets your timeline shine, the redesigned sidebar flows seamlessly into the feel of iOS 7 and the new in-app browser offers standard controls for ease of use. iOS 7 has also allowed us to add the ability to fetch tweets when Twitterrific is placed in the background so new content will be there waiting for you when you return.

Other notable improvements in 5.5 include:

  • Support for Safari Reading List bookmarking
  • Ability to turn on in-app browser’s mobilizer mode by default
  • Swiping from the left edge of the screen to open the sidebar
  • Support for opening links in Chrome
  • Bug fixes and more

Twitterrific 5 has already been hailed by critics and users alike as one of the most beautiful and fun to use applications in the App Store. Today’s update embraces and extends that design philosophy to iOS 7, something we’re very excited about. The app is currently on sale directly from the App Store for just $2.99. Version 5.5 is available starting today for users running Apple’s new iOS 7 operating system via the App Store’s software update. Enjoy!

Flat is the New Black

August 9, 2013

By Cheryl Cicha

Apple’s recent introduction of iOS 7 is understandably a shock to many people, especially after years of the textures, chrome and dimension of Aqua-style design. iOS 7’s flat approach presents a new challenge for iOS developers and designers; how do you make your app stand out in a crowded field of similarly styled icons with even less opportunity for differentiation?

As icon designers that means we need to be more creative, particularly at the concept stage and then craft the icon with an experienced eye for the ever-so-subtle adjustments that elevate it to beautiful, effective design. For those of us at the Iconfactory, designing for iOS 7 builds on over fifteen years of experience. Apple has created the foundation for flat but it’s up to the design and development community to push those boundaries in innovative ways. The ability to distill a concept down to its core ideals and remove everything that isn’t absolutely necessary to communicate effectively is both humbling and crucial as we move forward into this new era of mobile design.

Anyone who hones a craft makes it look easy when it’s not. Too quickly we perceive unqualified successes without considering the journey that it took to get there. That simple apple with the bite out of it took more than a few iterations. What we often take for granted is the exploration needed to reduce an idea to its essence, yet create something that resonates. We just know when it does. When looking at the final design we need to ask ourselves, is it beautiful in its simplicity and more importantly, does it create a connection?

If you assume that Apple’s flat style makes it easier and faster to create a great app icon, think different. Those tiny illustrations have a tall order to fill. At a basic level app icons are a tool for getting us to pay attention but we also want them to be beautiful images that make us say, “Wow, I want that.” Just because flat looks simple doesn’t mean it is. It’s not about the style. Fundamentally it’s about problem solving; crafting a small, unique image that creates connection with an app at a glance and makes us engage on a visceral level.

Get a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to transform an iOS 6 icon to iOS 7 styling.

Twitterrific 5.2.3 Adds New Today View

July 23, 2013

By Webmaster

Twitterrific 5.2.3 is now available in the App Store and brings with it an updated visual appearance and a new sidebar section we’re calling the Today View.

The new view (accessed from the sidebar after turning on push) shows the very latest retweets, favorites and new followers based on your push notification activity over the last 24 hours. It’s a great way to keep tabs on popular things you’ve recently tweeted as well as who’s new to following you. If you have Favstar enabled you can even tap on any tweet in the Today view to browse the total stats on it for all time.

Other notable improvements in 5.2.3 include:

  • Images in the photo viewer are maximized for your screen size
  • In-app browser now plays audio for videos even if device is muted
  • Secondary usernames are auto-selected when replying for quick deletion
  • Bug fixes and more

Twitterrific 5 has been hailed by critics and users alike as one of the most beautiful and fun to use applications in the App Store. The app is currently on sale directly from the App Store for just $2.99. Existing users can update to version 5.2.3 via the App Store’s software update. Enjoy!

xScope 3.6.1

July 15, 2013

By Webmaster

An update for xScope is now available in the Mac App Store and through the in-app update. xScope 3.6.1 features more efficient processor usage which translates into less drain on your MacBook battery.

This update also includes more responsive tools, enhancements to Spaces and Retina Display support and various other improvements and bug fixes. Check out the complete list at the xScope version history page. If you are a developer and are using the current beta of OS X Mavericks you will definitely want to take a look at this latest version.

This is a free update for current users and is available now. Check your updates at the Mac App Store or, if you purchased from the website, check for updates under the xScope menu item.