YouTube explains thinking behind outline-style icon redesign

YouTube explains thinking behind outline-style icon redesign
Written by Techbot

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Following the black dark theme and other video player updates in October, YouTube today detailed why and how it redesigned over 450 system UI and topic channel avatar icons.

System icons are used in our navigation and other UI components. They’re designed to be simple, modern and friendly. Each icon is reduced to its minimal form, so that users across different languages and cultures can understand and navigate our products.

The change is already rolled out, with some updates — like to the bottom bar — having started in 2020 on some platforms. In redesigning, YouTube took into consideration how “icons would relate to user-generated content, their environment, accessibility, internationalization, symbology and file size.”

With our redesign, we wanted to indicate state without relying on color, so we made two assets per icon symbol. For most icons, the default is a one-pixel outline. Then, when the icon is active or selected, it either thickens to two pixels or fills the shape in. […] And because we no longer rely on color to indicate state, we were able to dramatically increase the contrast ratio of icons in all states to increase legibility.

The company believes it “landed on a truly unique style that balances both sharp and rounded shapes, reflecting the range of serious to playful content that lives on YouTube” with the outline approach.

YouTube also redesigned the topic channel avatar icons (Shopping, Live, Gaming, Sports, Podcasts, etc.) For consistency, they took inspiration from system icons when possible. One particularly nice change is that they are no longer monochromatic: “…we’re making them more expressive, with bold colors that act as stronger visual identifiers for these popular categories of YouTube content.”

Topic icons leverage colors from our brand palette, featuring bright solid colors paired with vibrant gradients that reflect the spirit and energy of YouTube. This new look sends a clearer signal that these major channels feature exciting content curated by YouTube.

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