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Writers' Talk With Corey Marion of the Iconfactory

by Derrick Story

Mac OS X is not only changing our approach to writing application code, it's also forcing us to rethink every aspect of application design ... including our approach to branding and icons.

As part of this change, Apple has come out with some rather strict guidelines for icon design for Mac OS X applications. Based on some of the feedback forums at WWDC, many developers seem to feel that the design ante is a bit too stiff for new applications, and that they are being asked to devote resources to creating designs without reaping the branding benefits that should come with those investments.

Apple is pushing back saying that the success of the Mac OS X UI depends on users being able to figure out what type of application is showing in the dock, or anywhere else, at a mere glance. Developers push back saying that sounds great in theory, but that product branding for their programs is more important.

In this week's Writers' Talk, we're in search of a middle ground. We've invited Corey Marion of the Iconfactory to chat with Alan Graham. I'm Derrick Story, and I'll be moderating the session.

Corey is a North Carolina native and a graduate of the School of Fine Arts at Appalachian State University. He has over 12 years of experience in the graphic design industry and is the founder of the Iconfactory, the best source for cool freeware icons for the Mac for more than 5 years. He's also a partner and senior designer at The Iconfactory Corporation, a design group specializing in icon, user interface and interactive design.

Alan writes the ongoing Aqua column for the Mac DevCenter and is keenly interested in this subject. All three of us recently attended the WWDC in San Jose, CA.

So, let's chat about Apple's guidelines, branding, designing icons, and what ever else comes to mind ...

OReillyMac: Welcome Corey. Tell us a little bit about the iconfactory.

iconfactorycorey: The freeware/shareware web site has been around since 1995

iconfactorycorey: As of January 2000 we were incorporated

iconfactorycorey: And now we maintain the sites (which includes, and a windows icon site at

iconfactorycorey: We have well over 100 free downloadable Mac icon sets, 3 shareware apps, and we provide daily updated industry news

Comment on this articleLet's talk about icons. This is such a big part of Mac OS X, yet a real challenge for most of us. What are your thoughts?
Post your comments

Also in Writers' Talk:

A Chat on the Wonders of iTools

A Chat with "The Joy of Tech" Creators

Writers' Talk With Guest Wil Shipley

Talking About Life With Mac OS X

iconfactorycorey: To keep everything running, we provide professional icon and UI design services for software companies all over the world

alanosx: Mostly Win or Mac?

iconfactorycorey: probably about 50/50

iconfactorycorey: mostly tool bar style icons for windows apps, more desktop icon design for the Mac OS

alanosx: I see.

alanosx: I suppose there are a lot of cross platform apps?

iconfactorycorey: Yes, sometimes that can be a real challenge

iconfactorycorey: Smooth 32 bit icons for the Mac and clunky Windows palette 8 bit icons for the PC equivalent

alanosx: That would be quite a challenge.

alanosx: Any improvement with XP?

iconfactorycorey: Yes, Windows has now caught up with Mac OS 8.5

alanosx: Ha.

iconfactorycorey: 32 bit icons, 8 bit masks, 48x48s too

OReillyMac: Let's talk about how Aqua is impacting your work Corey.

alanosx: At WWDC, Apple stressed the importance of building high quality icons for OS X...

alanosx: They recommend that engineers hire graphic designers to handle their UI and icon design...

alanosx: Why all of a sudden the concern with design?

iconfactorycorey: Apple (Steve) has spent so much time on the details that they want to control the look of the OS as much as possible

iconfactorycorey: They keep user customization to a bare minimum and propose guidelines for UI design to keep the entire User Experience as "Apple" as possible

alanosx: Will we see Apple bend or break on this?

alanosx: A lot of people at WWDC were upset by this.

iconfactorycorey: yes I know, i was in the Aqua feedback forum

alanosx: The "blood bath?" Me too.

iconfactorycorey: Yep, I remember you proposed O'Reilly doing a book on Aqua

iconfactorycorey: Good idea

alanosx: Shameless plug.

OReillyMac: Sounding like a better idea each passing day ...

iconfactorycorey: something that goes beyond Apple guidelines and uses some real examples of how people pushed the guidelines successfully

alanosx: Yeah...AHIG is a desert of info...sparse.

alanosx: Example, I thought 128x128 was I find it isn't enough in some instances.

alanosx: With more room to work, I have found many more limits when working in photo-realism.

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