hen one icon is needed, an art director will begin by distilling the content down to its simplest form in a rough sketch. Then have it rendered in the existing brand's illustrative or photographic style. Simple as that, unless there is an earthshaking reason to introduce an entirely new style into the brand's look.
For a group of icons, a test will be performed in thumbnail form to determine if all members can perform as true icons. That is without the help of words. If so, and their are no anticipated additions that would need written help, an ideal family of icons has been created. The beauty of such a successful group is that each member can communicate faster than the word it represents.
When all members can't speak on their own, for the sake of consistency, each will require an accompanying written description. In this case, an art director will endeavor to simplify the details of each image while preserving the integrity of an established style.
Combine icons for a unique meaning and look.
While this "targeted fax" icon is a striking visual, it still required word support. The Web page on which it appeared also carried "faxed marketing ideas" as the headline. A headline was obviously necessary because no images exist for the words "marketing" and "ideas".