I’m going to freely admit right now that sometimes I judge a book by its cover, and I’m sorry. Especially when it comes to iPad apps I just can’t help but be instantly swayed by the look of the icon.
If it’s garish or tacky I probably won’t even give it a second glance in the App Store, and even if its functionality warrants a place it’ll find itself on some far removed page (or heaven forbid, hidden in a folder…). On the other hand, I have a healthy amount of appreciation for those developers who understand the importance of their icon and succeed in the ever so difficult task of creating a great one!
We’re going to have a look now at a solid collection of excellent apps that have made it here by virtue of their icons. Be warned, however, lovers of good design may find themselves out of pocket…
Garageband is a brilliant new app that debuted with the iPad 2. An ingenious musical tool or simply a wonderful way to pass the time, Garageband allows you to create music anywhere you go.
The icon is consistent with the Mac app and purely effective, giving you a clear idea of what the app is about.
A gorgeous app that turns your iPad into a mobile guitar and bass multi-effects processor. A real design success, AmpliTube beautifully renders the tactile analog feel of effects pedals and amplifiers.
The icon is clean and descriptive and, while I’m not really a fan of text in an icon, the overall design of the app more than makes up for it.
Developer: IK Multimedia
Instapaper is a beautifully minimal app that allows you to save web pages for later offline reading. I love the way it enable you to really dig deeper into long form articles by optimising them for the iPad.
The icon is as clear and minimal as it can be, fitting perfectly on the first screen of any iPad!
Developer: Marco Arment
Appetites is a beautiful take on the future of cooking apps on the iPad, and an app we’ve featured a few times here on AppStorm. I love the concept of cooking along with your favourite food bloggers and the high quality of all the video content.
The Appetites icon is sublime, a gorgeous example of coherent and memorable icon design – I love the way the letter ‘A’ is spelled out!
Developer: Clear Media
iBooks is a prime example of direct and iconic design. It strips the concept back to its very nature and builds upon that foundation with intuitive interface design. It’s also a brilliant way to read books.
The icon is functional yet interesting, encompassing everything it needs to without shoving it down your throat.
Fruit Ninja HD is an excellent, and popular, game for the iPad that encourages you to demolish fruit for recreational purposes. I love its fast pace and addictive gameplay, and the HD version looks just great on the iPad.
While I’m not really a fan of the ‘HD’ scrawled in the corner of the icon, the sheer excitement and impact of the rest of it’s great! Just seeing the icon makes me want to get some serious slicing done…
Wunderlist is an awesome cloud-sync task manager for the iPad. It allows you to easily sync your tasks over the air and even share lists with others – something that can be incredibly useful!
The icon is a great piece of design and showcases a huge amount of attention to detail. I particularly like the raised effect of the icon and the star motif.
Pages is the premier writing and layout app for the iPad that, like most of Apple’s own apps, looks stunning. I love the sheer power behind this complete redesign of the Mac app.
The icon is consistent with the Mac app, it’s focused and gives all the right signals.
Things is a beautifully minimal task manager, and the iPad app is no different. I am a big fan of the stripped back layout and design, it’s so easy to use and effortlessly intuitive.
The icon couldn’t be more direct, it’s perfectly fitting and uses a gorgeous blue colour – something that always looks great on the iPad.
Developer: Cultured Code
Ever wanted to have one central location from which to check your web statistics? Here it is. Ego is the perfect app for keeping an eye on how great you are…
While the icon isn’t to everyone’s taste I do like the attempt at something different, it’s certainly shiny!
Developer: Garrett Murray
A brilliant and supremely intuitive painting app for the iPad that’s simple to pick up, yet powerful enough to be used by true professionals. Some of the art that has been created using Brushes is astounding, check out this article on British artist David Hockney for an insight into the future of technological artistic expression.
I love the simple nature of the icon, encouraging you to pick up your palette.
Developer: Steve Sprang
A brilliant free service that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. This app allows easy access to your Dropbox folders from on your iPad, making your life even easier.
The simple blue icon is almost as descriptive and minimal as you could get, it looks great on any home screen.
A must-have app on any discerning iPad, Remote allows full control of your entire iTunes library and Apple TV from the palm of your hand.
The blue colour is frequently used throughout the App Store, but looks particularly good here. The functionality of Remote is also immediately obvious, even if you can’t read the name.
A photo booth on your iPad 2 from the people that brought us Hipstamatic. These guys have a keen eye for design as this app is no exception – the attention to detail is just great!
I also happen to love the icon, the colours work well to differentiate it from the other apps on your home screen.
Developer: Synthetic Infatuation
A stunning, and award-winning, piece of software that allows you to transform your iPad into a fully fledged DJ system. The attention to detail throughout this app is stunning, and combined with the intuitive controls it makes for an awesome experience.
I love the impact the icon makes, you immediately want to open it up and get mixing!
A powerful and beautifully designed presentation application for the iPad. I love that Apple chose to completely redesign it for the iPad, it truly enhances the user experience!
I’ll admit that there have been several Apple apps in this list, but they do design great icons…
The WordPress iPad app is perfect for anyone who needs to update or amend their WordPress site from anywhere. It’s clean OS X style interface belies the expansive functionality of the app.
I really like icons that are immediately recognisable, and this one is. The icon looks exactly how you would expect it to look, the developers aren’t trying to be too clever.
Nota is a brilliant app for musicians of any level. The indispensable set of tools contained within are an extensive reference library that could be of use to even the most advanced musicians.
I also happen to rather like the icon, making good use of the under-represented bass clef.
Developer: All Forces
Layers is a powerful creative drawing and painting app for your iPad, which offers a balanced set of painting tools perfectly designed for use on the iPad. I really like the stripped back interface, the controls simple get out of the way.
The icon also appeals as it gives the user an immediate idea of the function of the app, and uses a green colour rarely seen in the App Store.
Developer: J. Benjamin Gotow
Possibly the easiest way to find and save recipes on your iPad! It also doubles as a rather useful cooking companion, giving you step-by-step instructions as you cook.
I love the bright yellow of the icon, it really stands out, while the chocolate dripping from the wooden spoon is tantalising…
Developer: Acacia Tree Software
A simple but beautifully functional app that epitomises doing ‘one thing well’. I love the intuitive interface and subtle personality given to it by the developers.
The icon is immediately recognisable, while also giving the app character by furthering the robot concept.
A beautiful app that creates a digital newspaper from sources of your choice, and presents them to you in the style of a real newspaper. We reviewed The Early Edition a few weeks ago and found it to be a fascinating take on how to move the newspaper format into the world of the iPad.
I love the simple snapshot idea behind the icon, just tap to pick up your newspaper.
Developer: Glasshouse Apps
An ingenious app that allows you to accept credit cards on your iPad! I love the minimal design and pure simplicity of the interface – it’s a great idea executed perfectly.
While the icon gives you slim to no idea of what the app might do, I still find myself drawn to its minimal nature and subtle gradients.
Developer: Square Inc.
Omnifocus is a gorgeous app that dominates the more expensive end of the GTD app spectrum. New to the iPad edition of OmniFocus are task forecasting views, a streamlined built-in review mode, and a simplified Map feature for creating and viewing tasks based on current or assigned locations.
Aside from the immense functionality, Omnifocus for the iPad also has a jaw-droppingly beautiful icon – I love the way the embedded tick almost glows.
Developer: The Omni Group
What Did We Miss?
There ends our roundup of some of the best iPad app icons, did we miss something major? Many of these apps are true favourites of mine, and that’s not simply down to the icons. Often a great icon signals an eye for beautiful and intuitive interface design on the part of the developer, something that often marks out those apps we use on a daily basis.
It’d be great to hear your thoughts, feel free to comment below! What is your favourite app from the list?
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