100,000 Icons and Counting! An Interview with Android Icon Designer ‘PHLASH’

portrait of icon designer phlashToday we have the pleasure of talking with “PHLASH”, a Montreal-based urban artist and founder of Tha Icon, one of the Web’s largest catalogs of Android icons.

PHLASH started as an Android icon designer in January 2010 when his search for inspiring HTC Magic icons came up short. A year and a half later, this prolific designer has produced more than 100,000 free and paid Android icon designs, all available for download on his website.

In our interview, PHLASH talks about his design background, his inspirations and offers some valuable tips for designers and Android fans alike. So lets jump right in.

Q: Welcome to AndroGeek, could please introduce yourself and tell us how you got started designing icons?
A: First off, thanks for having me on the virtual seat, I’m very honored. My name is ThaPHLASH…friends call me PHLASH. I’m a urban artist from Montreal Canada and started doing my icon project without really knowing where it would lead. It’s one of those things that when you start, it looks like a harmless hobby and evolves into a full blown career.

Q: Where does the name PHLASH come from?
A: In the nineties I was a very dedicated (Macromedia) Flash developer/designer, so PHLASH became a by-product of that.

Q: What pushes you to produce all of these icons?
A: Baller status.

Q: You have a history of doing street murals. Why the shift to icons and what has your experience been moving from the large to the miniature?
A: Doing giant murals will always be something I enjoy, its very physical and a magical stress reliever. Being in contact with matter and getting your hands dirty provides perfect balance in contrast to creating digital work. I recommend it to everyone.

Q: How would you describe your artistic style? How has this style developed over time?
A: I get inspired by things around me; people, nature. Although, I must admit I’ve had a strong attraction to anime and harmonious, colorful visuals since day one.

Q: What does a typical day at work involve for you?
A: It’s more like a typical night, I’m a night-crawler. When not in front of the screen typing away or scribbling with my tablet, I’m constantly brainstorming for my next design. For example, I have a icon-set called Tha Natural which is basically inspired by leaves from my garden on a rainy afternoon. I finish my shift by teaching arts at a few schools two hours a day.

Q: What is your personal workspace like?
A: Very minimalistic…the simpler the better. I work from my home in a room allocated to creation. I have multiple displays as well as the big Wacom screen tablet.

Q: The level of details in your Tha Shag collection is impressive, can you please tell us a bit about your inspiration for this set?

shag android icon set

A: For Tha shag iconset, it was all about texture. Icons are buttons you touch with your fingers and I wanted something that communicate an emotion to the fingers. Something you actually want to touch. So I went on to make very realistic fur where every strand is dynamic, giving every icon a unique feel. They are also very hard and time consuming to do, so you won’t find anything else like it anywhere – they’re are too hard to copy!

Q: What about copying? What are your thoughts and experiences on illegal downloads of your work?
A: Piracy is rampant in icon design, but the way I think about it is that piracy is simply a competing business. They happen to sell at the price of $0, so you can’t beat them on price, but you CAN beat them on convenience and content (piracy takes awhile to get up to date unless you have a hugely popular pack which gets pirated within HOURS of release). As long as these two points outweigh the price difference, you’ll be ok.

Q: Speaking of collections. We noticed that you’ve released a new Google+ Android icon set. Where can our readers find you on Google+ if they’d like to connect?

google plus android icons

A: I’m Phlash Tha on G+ and this is my new home where I show icon experiments and sometimes offer fun giveaways.

Q: Any advice to those who are looking to design their own Android icons?
A: Persistence means everything in the icon design field. Be ready for the long haul if you wanna leave a trace. Create nice previews of your icons, first impression count a lot. Quality is very important, create with the highest resolution possible. Find the theme you want, go for it, and stick with it consistently throughout the icon set. Start with a vector (I make mine with Adobe Flash, or/and Adobe illustrator) then import that vector in Photoshop. If you do that you’ll be ready if you need to make a bigger size later. Vectors are really crisp and infinite resolution.

Test your icons on a phone, sometimes it looks very different than on your computer screen…often its a brightness contrast issue. And finally, test the icons on black and white backgrounds since users have various wallpapers.

Q: Is it possible to make a living with icon design?
A: If you want to get into icons but are worried that the time put in will not match the amount of money coming out, this may be true. At least in the beginning. There is a preconception in this field that icons should be free, no matter how much work goes into them. If you intend to generate $ from them, be aware that its 1 paid icon pack for every 500 free ones out-there. YOU WILL HAVE TO WORK HARD!

I have seen designers make over $30,000 in 4 months, if you manage it right this could be you!

You need to be original. It’s not easy to come up with something new, yet its not impossible. Do your research before you jump in and study the style you intend to use. Its worth the effort. UPDATES? be ready for them. Listen to user requests, its your ultimate guide to what you need in the icon pack. One requested icon is worth more than 10 nobody cares about.

Q: What Android devices are you currently using?
A: Well this is typical of me…I’m still holding onto an old HTC myTouch. Is it possible to get attached to a device?

Q: Do you have any surprises for the AndroGeek community today?
A: Of course I do! I’d like to offer AndroGeek readers a 50% discount on ALL my work available from my website. Simply enter “androgeek479” in the discount box on my checkout page to receive the discount (for a limited time). Update: Sorry, coupon code has now expired.

Thanks so much to PHLASH for chatting with us today!