2012 was a fantastic year for pixels. We saw plenty of beautiful apps being released on all the popular platforms as well as some stunning examples of meticulous pixel craftsmanship all throughout the year. 2012 was also a great year for Beautiful Pixels. Not only did we cross 100,000 RSS subscribers in September (Currently over 160k), we also completed three whole years of writing about our Unhealthy lust for UI Design this December. It has been been a great ride for us and we couldn’t be happier with the support we’ve been receiving from you, our readers. Thank you!
Having come across such great examples of works by a variety of designers and “pixel pushers”, we decided to do something different as we end this year. Thanks to The Great Annual iTunes Connect Shutdown of 2012, there won’t be much activity on the iOS or Mac App Stores. So all this week, we’ll be publishing a ‘Best of 2012′ series of posts. We’ll be highlighting and featuring our picks of what we think are the best examples of exceptional icon design, UI design etc.
We begin the series with our picks of some of the Best App Icons that came out in 2012. Now, quite literally, there are thousands of apps out there, on all popular platforms, with icons that are truly works of art. However, we’re only looking at icons that came out in 2012. Moreover, this is a list of the icons that we (that’s Preshit & Mikhail) think stood out from the rest. If you think that we missed one, or if some app deserved to be on the list here, let us know on Twitter or App.net. Here’s our list, in no particular order.
One of our favorite apps on the Mac, Fantastical finally made its way to iOS with its release last month for iPhone. The Mac app has had a stunning icon for a while now and the iPhone version of does not disappoint one bit. The icon is styled like a calendar itself (duh) with a slight page curl at the bottom. There’s “something magical” happening under the first page, which is probably a nod to all the natural language parsing magic that happens in the app. The icon looks gorgeous on the homescreen and has a very ‘love at first sight’ feel to it. Fantastical is still available on the App Store for $3.99.
Diet Coda & Coda 2
The folks the at Panic, one of our favorite developer shops out there, surprised everyone earlier this year by not only releasing Coda 2 — the much anticipated update to their phenomenally great code editor for Mac, but also an iPad version of Coda aptly named Diet Coda. With these releases, Panic also put out two stunning app icons for each of the platforms. The Mac icon for Coda 2 still resembles the old ‘leaf’ icon, but gains a substantial amount of detail in it. The iPad app icon picks up from this by having the leaf texture as the background and a dew drop on the background in the shape of a leaf. The final result is breathtaking to say the least and there have been several instances where Preshit has attempted to lick his screen. Coda 2 and Diet Coda are available on their respective App Stores for $74.99 and $19.99.
1Password 4 is a visual overhaul and everything about it is more beautiful. One wouldn’t expect an app like this to have such a beautiful icon. The keyhole is gorgeous just like the metal around it. The patterns are all subtle and it makes you want to put something inside it. Everything from the blue ring to the detailing for the keyhole is perfect. 1Password 4 has an icon that looks as good as the app functions. Definitely homescreen-worthy. 1Password 4 is available on the App Store at over 50% off (only for a few days more) for $7.99.
The guys at Evernote have really upped their game with apps in the last 12 months. We’ve seen major updates to the core Evernote apps and also a brilliant update to Evernote Food last week. Now we know this list is supposed to have the best icons of 2012 but Evernote Food released early December in 2011 and we decided to let it in this list because the icon is that damn good. The detailing on the Evernote Food icon is insane. One would think it is a high resolution photograph of a sushi roll on a plate. Every grain of rice and the pattern of the plate below the roll is just plain stunning. The app itself is an absolute joy to use. It is an understatement to say it makes you hungry. Lickable pixels gets a whole new meaning here with this icon. Evernote Food is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.
Preshit first stumbled upon the SyncSpace icon when he was casually browsing through Dribbble. The sheer amount of detail on the icon blew him away and the simple yet interesting concept behind the app definitely left him intrigued. SyncSpace is an app that gives you a large, zoomable area to draw and scribble on and lets users visually explore their ideas together and the icon having a pencil and a paintbrush arranged in the shape of a sync icon & placed on a stack of scribble paper made perfect sense. The icon has been so wonderfully drawn that it ends up being on top of his list of favorite icons of apps that he never actually bought. It’s $7.99 on the App Store with a Free version available as well.
Day One is, by far, one of our most favorite apps of 2012. There are quite a few journaling apps out there, but nothing matches Day One’s perfect blend of core features, elegance in design and a well-thought user experience in the end. The app’s icon was updated early this year and we instantly fell in love with the new icon. The blue texture on the icon is simply stunning. The slightly embossed ‘Day One’ onto the icon is a very nice touch and this all adds up to one terrific icon. Its simplicity is what makes it and perfectly compliments the app’s UI. It shouldn’t surprise you the Mac app was chosen as the 2012 Mac App of the Year by Apple. Day One is a Universal app on iOS costing $4.99 while the Mac App costs $9.99.
Episodes is another app that got a major update this year. The update makes the app universal and brings us to why it is mentioned in this list. The icon is by far one of the greatest icons we have ever seen. It looks like an old blue CRT television set with detailed controls on the front and a grill on the back. It even has pixellated noise on the screen behind the checkmark you use to mark shows watched inside the app. The icon screams pure class and we deem it as one of the best icons on the App Store today. Episodes is available for free as a universal app on the App Store. It is Mikhail’s current favourite icon as well.
We can’t really talk about gorgeous app icons without mentioning the work of Ryan Ford and Konstantin Datz. These guys have put up impeccable examples of icon design on their Dribbble profiles, so make sure you check them out here and here respectively. It’s a shame we don’t get to see these icons for actual apps on the App Store.