Pixel Implosion.

A few months ago, when I was playing with a nice little Mac application called Notae, I started to set about trying to find the designer of the icon itself. It’s gorgeous. Spare, dark, simple, rounded, lovely. The application itself is okay but the developer hired one of the very best icon designers, Pixel Implosion’s Bobby Anderson, 19.
Taking a good look at some of the best of his work, I can more fully recognize the sheer beauty of contemporary icon design. These little images need to look good both small and large while also representing the inherent qualities of an application. They need to look “realistic” without having feeling photographic and “smooth” without being cheesily rendered with too much shading and fat gradients. (There only icon designer/illustrator that comes up to this level of skill is Jasper Hauser.)
Importantly, for many years, I’ve thought that illustration (whether via the medium of pixels, paper, or popcorn) will be the real refuge of great Web designers. A strong photograph, a nice new font, and a bright color can make for a pretty nice website these days. Almost anyone can do it. But illustration, the fine art of crafting something from scratch and melding various visual components together into a meaningful whole, is harder to come by, anywhere. And especially on the Web.