Presentation Design

PowerPoint Icon Design Trends to Watch For in 2017

By Kristy Shangpliang
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PowerPoint Icon Design Trends

Icons, you see them everywhere these days.

On your phone, on the billboards that you pass by this morning, on your desktop, traffic signals, signage used in retail stores, airports, traffic signals, in a presentation. Just about everywhere! When it comes to presentation decks, PowerPoint icons are used to visualize slides in a more interactive way. They are effective shortcuts to lengthy text descriptions.

A picture says more than a thousand words.

Imagine you are in a mall and you need to rush to the restroom.

What is your first instinct?

Yup! You look for a signage that gives direction.


The signs don’t go in depth explaining what it means. We just know.

I like the way people get creative on signage with icons. They do not stray from the main message but design around the concept.

PowerPoint icon design trends have come a long way.

A brief history of Icons

The use of icons can be dated back to the early 70’s when Xerox developed a graphic user interphase to be used within the company.

They were the engineers behind the folder, trash bins and most icons that are still around, to be later adopted and popularized by Apple.

During the early 80s heavily influenced by Xerox, the Apple Macintosh graphic user interphase made it possible to design icons that were within a square grid with simple looks and consistent style.

The icon design choice was limited, but the amazing Susan Kare created history.

Classic icons

Ever since, icons have evolved. It’s a wonder that some of the icons stayed true to their form.

You might have noticed that in your PowerPoint presentations as well.

The 80’s and 90’s was a trial and error period.

Let us see how PowerPoint icons design have evolved over the year and which icon style should you follow.

ClipArt Icons

Fun Fact: ClipArt were the first form of icons used for presentation in the 80’s.

When IBM and Apple made computers available to the masses, creative agencies started designing their variations of clip arts and sold to users.

Clip art icons were used for business presentations. These icons were in bitmap images.

Created in Isometric design,tthey looked cartoonish but were made to appear realistic.

Clip Art Icons

They were considered fancy and exciting.

These icons had multiple colors which make the slide look messy and overwhelming.

Clip art icons had the problem of getting distorted when stretched too wide.

PNG Icons

Along came the PNG Icons. As the name itself implies, these are icons created in the form of images.

They are an upgraded version of clip art icons.

They were more realistic with glossy patterns, realistic shapes that were very accurate and detailed compared to clip art icons.

PNG icons

There were all types of icons used for different industries. Brands would have their own batch of customized PNG icons to be used for corporate presentations.

However, since these PowerPoint icons are in the PNG form, they had to be used as they are.

BUT with tools like Photoshop and Illustrator now in the picture, it is possible to edit and recreate PNG icons for other uses.

PNG icons look a lot cleaner than clip art.

However, there is still the problem of distortion when stretched. And being in the image form, they tend to increase file size.

Flat Icons

Starting the decade, PowerPoint Icons donned a whole new look.

Icons lost their layers of colors and the realistic look and feel.

Flat icon made its debut and there was no looking back from there.

These icons are simpler and pleasing to the eyes, and they make use of one solid color at a time.

Solid fill Icons

Flat icons are made up of vectors which are geometric shapes. No matter how much you stretch and pull them, they will never get distorted.

Finally, we have a solution to icon problems.

And even better, they do not affect your file size as much as PNG icons do.

Apart from flat icon, graphic art became more prominent.

Flat icons have been around for some time now.

Line Icons

Besides the flat icons what is trending right now is the line icons.

Like icons is applying an outline to the once solid filled icons.

Line icon design
Icons have been stripped to the bones… Literally.

Just the way flat icon took over the icon world; line icons will soon find its place in every PowerPoint.


Icons have come a long way through a healthy competition between Apple and Microsoft from the time the graphic user interface was invented.

Call out icon trends
Microsoft has taken over the scene of the PowerPoint icon world. This could be because Office PowerPoint is more used than Apple Keynote.

Brands may have their icon designs, but the basis has always been from design developed by Microsoft.

Icons used in PowerPoint presentation adopts the design and style of Windows. And every time Microsoft updates the OS so does the icons.

It’s uses have increased over time, and new icons are designed every day to fill these needs.

Read more about PowerPoint design trends.

Don’t confuse icons with logos. Logo’s represents a brand whereas icons are used to present a statement, a word, or anything that can be identified by an icon.

There is no saying what will PowerPoint icons look like in the next few years.

What do you think of the present icons trending in PowerPoint presentaions?

Leave a comment below.

Business PowerPoint Icons

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