A truly amazing app needs to have it’s own personality.  It can’t just be an amalgamation of the default iOS buttons and random graphics you made in iPhoto – it needs to be cohesive, attractive, and the sort of app your target market would want.

To figure out what you want out of your app’s personality, answer the following questions:

  • What feeling you want to give your target market (Do you want them to feel entertained, focused, hardworking, e.t.c.)
  • What colors you have in mind, if any.
  • What are some other apps you want yours to look and feel like?  (They don’t need to do the same thing).
  • The size of your app’s personality.  Do you want it to be part of their normal workflow, or for it to be big, distinctive, and entertaining?
    • An app with a small personality would have blue and white, plain, with Helvetica Neue font – this would be a small personality.  But it could also have Comic Sans, torn-paper-effects, and pastel bright colors – this would be a big personality.
    • You should consider what your app is when considering its’ personality size.  Is yours an app which requires all or only some of the users’ attention?

Determine your apps personality, and dress accordingly.


Below, we’re going to discuss examples of apps that are designed well both graphically and in user experience.

Drafts 4

Drafts is an app designed to quickly and easily capture text.  This text is then saved and shared wherever you’d like it to be.

It is the perfect app to have a muted personality.  In an app where the user is generating or recording content, the focus should generally be on the content, not on the app itself.  Draft’s clean interface and simple controls allows the user to focus entirely on the content that they’re generating.  It’s the perfect app to have a simple interface.



One app with a big personality is PocketBooth, a cute app that is a photo booth in your pocket.  It does nothing but take photos and share them with people.  A simple app, but it does something entertaining with personality that a lot of people may consider even hipster – which is what their primary user base identifies as.

You can see that they definitely considered this when doing the graphic design for the app.  They knew their primary user base was young people with big personalities (and egos) and so they made their app bright, bold, and exciting to go along.



The type of app determines the strength of it’s personality, but every app has one.  Even Apple’s standard mail app has a personality of business and productivity, even if it is a personality of standing entirely out of your way.  Your app’s personality is a big part of your success, and you should choose it early and remember to make it as obvious as a neon sign in your design (but not as gaudy as one).

Your app’s personality should mirror what the users perceive their own personality to be – or more accurately, what they want it to be.  If your users want to be seen as edgy tech-gurus, a flat design will work best for them.  If your users want to be seen as cute or fun, bright pastels will work the best.  If your app is a visual content-sharing platform, neutral colors like cream or white let the content do the work for you.


Seek Critique and Feedback

There are communities out there dedicated to critiquing and developing the visual appearance of an app, starting with the first draft of wireframes and working all the way to the final mockups.  Their input can be invaluable when assessing your design or a contractor’s design for an app.  They can be found in the same corners of the internet you’ve been scouring, with the addition of Behance.


Be Creative

While being taught to drive, my father always said that the lines on the road were really only suggestions.  If I was stuck in traffic or couldn’t proceed without going across a line I wasn’t supposed to, I could just go over that line.  Because, really, it wasn’t as if the paint minded.

This is what are the app design rules we’ve discussed are: lines on a road.  If you need to do something different or better and know you’re making the right decision, drive over the lines.  If you’re ever feeling nervous about driving over the lines:  Good or even great user experience is achieved by following the rules and making it as predictable as possible for your users; excellent, famous user experience is achieved by breaking rules and remaking them from your ideas.

Design is art, and art is a free and creative expression of yourself.  Everything your design is a piece of you, as art is to the artist.  Don’t apologize for it, don’t make excuses for yourself, and believe in it as much as you believe in yourself.  The App Store doesn’t want to crush you, and neither does Apple.

All the design rules in this book aren’t meant to crush your creative spirit.  They’re meant to keep you from making beginner mistakes due to thoughtlessness and lack of knowledge.  Now that you know about these guidelines, if you go against them, it will be because you thought about it and have a better solution in mind.

Consciously going against the rules is much different than slack design due to laziness.  You shouldn’t ignore it if you have an instinct to go against the rules.  If you need any more convincing, pull out your phone and look at the top 10 paid apps – they don’t look anything like iOS’s default UI.  Has a top app ever looked like Apple’s default UI or design guidelines?