There are thousands of designers and developers who use Icons8, free or paid. However, some people blame us for not giving away every format, or don’t want to link to us. We admit it’s a tough question for us so let’s explain how we see it, and you’re welcome to give your opinion in the comments below. Sound fair?

First, we’d like to talk about the costs, and then how to cover them.

Drawing 11,000 Icons Is a Lot of Work

There are many icon websites that publish freebies created by a bunch of different artists whereas we produce all our icons in-house.

And we draw a lot: creating a few dozen icons might not be a big deal but thousands of icons took us 3 years of daily work.

Icons8 is 80% Coding, and Only 20% Drawing

Unlike many other websites that are merely a collection of icons for download, Icons8 is a lot more than just a collection of icons, it provides additional software features:

  • Web app generates icons in any color, size and format
  • Windows and Mac Apps perform about the same functions on your desktop
  • There’s a huge backend behind the scenes

Backend: A Day in the Life of an Icon

Publishing an icon pack is not a problem for many icon designers: you compress the files and that’s it.

Here’s what happens to every icon on Icons8:

  1. After our designer Alexander saves an icon in SVG, this icon get synced with our Linux server via Dropbox
  2. The server sends the icons to an iMac with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator that generates previews, PSD shapes, and some PNGs automatically
  3. The server sends the icons out for crowdsourced tagging. After humans tag the icons, we get the results. We hire someone on oDesk to check them manually from time to time; one of our goals is to also crowdsource the process of checking tags
  4. The server generates some missing file formats such as simplified SVG — an SVG file with all objects merged. It’s useful for fonts, better for rasterizing, and pretty much everything besides editing
  5. Updates the downloadable ZIP files
  6. After that, server finishes publishing the icon and begins to wait for requests (for search, generating fonts, etc.)

Free for Poor

One of us started as a banner ad designer for $100/month. We know how it feels when Photoshop costs you half your annual salary.

Therefore we like to give away our products and services for free to those who can’t afford to pay with money. We’re freemium.

The community appreciates it and helps us, too — not only with the links we require, but also with shares, warm comments, and icon ideas.

Free to Prototype

A lot of things require a prototype: a demo for investor, the first version of the website or application, etc.

Unless you work for IBM, we believe it’s unethical to charge at this stage. Instead, we should share the risks with you:

  • If the design is accepted or your startup takes off, you can pay the license and share some money with us
  • If not, we share the loss and both receive nothing

Free for Open Source

That’s how it is, period.

Whom Do We Charge?

We charge corporations and governments.

However, the vast majority of our clients are neither rich nor big. They are people like us, people who

  • Receive a lot of benefits from Icons8
  • Like to get paid and like to pay for work by others
  • People who believe it’s worth the money

How Much Do We Charge?

This is a big topic. We admit we don’t put enough effort into marketing; we didn’t do enough A/B testing and other forms of experiments.

So far our findings are:

  • Lowering the price doesn’t affect the number of licenses sold
  • Neither does increasing the prices . We did it twice
  • We did some A/B testing for price breaks: setting a $999 VIP package to make other plans cheap. It had no effect

We don’t like discounts and find them unethical.

  • Price should not depend on an individual’s skill at googling coupon codes
  • Sales should not make people regret buying a product the day before it goes on sale

As a rule, we should never make people sad they bought our product.

So, What Would You Do in Our Place?

Now that you’ve gotten a peek behind the scenes, how would you do it? We welcome you to voice your opinions in the comment section.