“Free” does not mean a single thing
from a legal licensing perspective.
I have agonized over this when trying to find icons I could use for my open-source GitHub project, and it wasn’t easy. When I was looking into it, I compiled a short list of great icon sets and their respective licenses to wrap my head around whether I could use them in my project at all: http://pygm.us/QRelV0PW.
As a developer, I know how hard it is to figure out how to license your work, but licensing is one of those things we really, really need to understand and come to grips with.
And don’t get me started on contributor license agreements ...
For example, if you're using Ebay API and want to show an Ebay logo, you can't use the one on the icon set (their corporate logo), but you must use an uglier one that says "right now on Ebay", without modifications. Facebook says "Do not use trademarks, logos, or other content that is confusingly similar to the Brand Assets.". Yelp: "Don't alter our logo, graphics, or any of the other information from the API."
So I guess my point is, when you're using some third party API and want to or need to show attribution, going for something that looks almost like the official logo instead of using the original assets doesn't really work.
I use plenty of custom icons for my Windows 8 shortcut tiles for one. Pretty sure the companies won't mind, if it means I'll visit their site more often from my own computer.
: Speaking of which, it's really annoying that I haven't found one for Hacker News.
OK that's a bit facetious, but simple icons has one for Hacker News. It's unbelievably unsurprising.
edit: well that was silly.
Edit: This is personal site for all development tutorials and resources. Usually 'icon sites' are just spam, this isn't one of those sites. I just happen to have icons as too.
Or is this one of those "HN is going to hell" moments I hear about?
One should always be cautious about simple design rules. As design goes, in one setting the flat, grayscale approach can be dull, in another one, it can be cheerful and captivating.
I have a recent example for the new mantra of removing color and flattening things. Take Sourcetree, which is one of my favorite applications. A few weeks ago they’ve switched to a new icon set for their main icon bar:
I don’t think there is any usability or aesthetic benefit to it, quite the opposite. The original version had something slightly funny and frivolous about it, which made it pleasant to use. And from the usability perspective, one could subconsciously click the yellow icon without examining the picture itself.
There are also many counter examples where grayscale and flat design make things a joy to use. I used to do DTP for a black and white newspaper and we never had the feeling it was dull, quite the opposite, we considered it quite elegant and calm as compared to the flashy tabloids.