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Posts tagged with "apps"

The iOS App Icon Book: The MacStories Review

I’ve eagerly awaited The iOS App Icon Book by Michael Flarup ever since it was first announced in 2018. The book sits dead center among topics that are at the heart of MacStories: apps, app preservation, and design. As a result, my expectations were high, and I’m happy to report that it doesn’t disappoint. If you care about apps, you’ll love The iOS App Icon Book.

The cover of The iOS App Icon Book sets the tone with a large iridescent squircle, the shape that defines every app icon. It’s the canvas on which every app icon is created. The squircle has become iconic in its own right, creating a consistent thread that ties disparate designs together into a coherent whole. The shimmering foil used for the book’s squircle is an excellent touch that hints at the colorful variety of icons between its convers.

The iOS App Icon Book is an art book at its core. The book’s pages are packed with icons of varying sizes, but the book also features essays by Flarup, a foreward by Bjango’s Marc Edwards, a history of iOS iconography by Jim Nielsen, and profiles of a dozen designers and design studios. The focus of the book lies firmly on the icons themselves, but I’m glad the essays and profiles were included. The essays provide an outlet for anyone who happens upon The iOS App Icon Book and wants to know more about the history and design of icons, while the profiles put a face to some of the artwork on its pages.

Of course, the stars of The iOS App Icon Book are the icons themselves. Each high-resolution image is reproduced in vivid colors on high-quality paper that makes browsing through the book’s pages a pleasure. As someone who writes about apps, I enjoyed flipping through the pages, rediscovering the icons of apps from the early days of the App Store alongside the icons of apps I use every day. It’s a careful mix of old and new that blends the context of early app iconography with current design trends.

As you flip through The iOS App Icon Book, you’ll find that the icons are arranged in a number of different ways. Some are grouped by color, while others are organized thematically, like the pages featuring food, games, and photography apps. My favorite part of The iOS App Icon Book, though, is the pages that trace the evolution of specific icons. Each version is dated and connected by horizontal lines to indicate its lineage. It’s fascinating to see the directions that designers have taken app icons over the years.

The one thing that The iOS App Icon Book doesn’t do that I would have liked to have seen is trace the evolution of the icons used for some of Apple’s system apps. That may not have been feasible given the need to get rights to the artwork for printing in a book. However, it would have been interesting to see the extent to which Apple’s design work has influenced third-party designers.


iOS app icons are the first thing that users encounter when they download an app and use it for the first time. Icons set the tone and personality of an app. It’s an important part of the app experience that has a rich history on iOS. The iOS App Icon Book brings that history to life in a way that immediately had me flipping back and forth through its pages, rediscovering old favorites and studying the details of icons I’d never run across before. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in apps and design.

The iOS App Icon Book is still available to pre-order for €60.00 from its website.


Apple Names the 2021 App of the Year Award Winners

Apple has revealed its annual App of the Year winners. This year, the company picked a collection of 15 apps and games from among the millions available on the App Store, naming them the Apps of the Year. In recent years, Apple has also used its App of the Year awards as an opportunity to highlight trends on the App Store. This year, the company’s App Store editorial team picked just one trend, Connection, sharing a collection of 5 apps that span a wide spectrum of genres.

Just like last year, Apple has honored 15 apps and games as the App of the Year winners from a wide variety of categories. According to Apple’s press release:

“The developers who won App Store Awards in 2021 harnessed their own drive and vision to deliver the best apps and games of the year — sparking the creativity and passion of millions of users around the world,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “From self-taught indie coders to inspiring leaders building global businesses, these standout developers innovated with Apple technology, with many helping to foster the profound sense of togetherness we needed this year.”

Mac App of the Year, Craft.

Mac App of the Year, Craft.

This year’s app winners are:

Apple Arcade Game of the Year, Fantasian.

Apple Arcade Game of the Year, Fantasian.

Apple also recognized games on each of its platforms, plus its Arcade service:

Apple Watch App of the Year, CARROT Weather.

Apple Watch App of the Year, CARROT Weather.

The App Store editorial team sees a lot of apps every year, and the trend it saw emerge in 2021 was ‘Connection,’ a theme embodied in the following apps:

Bumble is among five apps selected as embodying the Trend of the Year, Connection.

Bumble is among five apps selected as embodying the Trend of the Year, Connection.

In addition to naming this year’s winners, Apple called out each of the developers of the apps and games in a special ‘Developers make all the difference’ story, which links to profiles of each app and game. You’ll also find features on each app and game in Apple’s App Store apps.

Apple has created a profile story for each App of the Year winner.

Apple has created a profile story for each App of the Year winner.

To commemorate this year’s App of the Year winners, Apple’s designers created physical awards, which made their first appearance last year. The blue awards resemble the App Store’s icon and are made from 100% recycled aluminum with the winner’s name engraved on the back.

Picking the best apps of the year isn’t easy, which makes it easy to quarrel with individual picks. However, I think the choices by Apple’s editorial team this year do an excellent job of capturing a wide range of the best that the App Store has to offer.

Congratulations to this year’s Apple App of the Year award winners. I always enjoy seeing developers’ hard work and contributions to Apple’s platforms recognized.