An interview with Martin LeBlanc

By Ed Vinicombe on Sep 7th, 2013

Were you always fond of icon design or was your original path into design slightly different?

I started out doing 3d graphics when I was about 12 years old. I have spend a lot of time in 3D Studio Max and read books on lighting, shadow, refraction etc. I got into web design when I found out that I could earn some money from doing freelance jobs. I still use a lot of the experience I got from doing 3d graphics though.

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Hey Martin, let's kick this off by you explaining a little bit about yourself and your involvement with Iconfinder. How long have you been working on this project and what was the original inspiration on getting this going?

I started working on the project in 2006, so it’s been many years now. I really enjoy working with designers and building a product they can use. When I started the project, I was working as a freelance designer and often needed icons myself. I had a huge collection on my desktop and it was really painful to find a specific icon. So I started building a database where all the icons were indexed. Inspired by Google I created a simple interface. After 6 months I decided to release the product to the public on and it quickly got popular, but it wasn't before I launch version 2 with the robot mascot on that it really started growing.

What does the future hold for icon design & how do you intend on keeping icon finder current with trends & technologies?

Icon design is becoming an interesting niche for designers. It’s incredibly hard to do well and a good icon can have a big impact on the look’n’feel and usability.If we look at the technology for icons, we’re in a limbo. People are using fonts to display icons - a real hack, but a good solution at the moment. SVG is not widely supported by browsers yet. I believe SVG will be the future for icons because the format is open - you can manipulate it with Javascript. It’s just an XML file. So as soon as we have support for SVG in most browsers and a couple of good JS frameworks, I believe they will be the way to go. I believe icons should be hosted to make it really easy to use icons on the web. So our vision for Iconfinder is to build a service that will work a lot how TypeKit works for fonts. We’ll take care of selecting the best technology for; fonts, SVG or PNG based on browser version. All the designer has to do is to insert a piece of Javascript in the header and CSS classes to the elements, where they would want the icon. Then we’ll take care of the rest.

Do you feel that the icon market is saturated? How do you ensure the quality & uniqueness of all the icons on your site?

It’s a bit saturated, but right now it works to our advantage. The more icons there are, the more we need a single place that aggregates all the icons.
To ensure quality we do a lot of curation, so a lot of icons are not posted. Right now we are working hard on a solution where we can deliver vector icons and convert them to wide range of file types: PDF, AI, PNG, ICO and ICNS. So designers just have to upload a single file and we’ll do all the conversions for them.

Aside from your involvement in icon finder what other projects/work keep you busy?

Iconfinder is my full time job now. We got an investment in 2012, so we have some runway to build some new cool stuff. Besides working on Iconfinder I produce music with Logic Pro. I got a nice keyboard and love producing music in the weekends. Hopefully I’ll release something soon.

What kind of legacy do you hope to leave behind for the design community?

I hope that I have saved time for many designers and have helped them create better designs.

Could you show us one piece of art that has inspired you this week?

Sure, one of my friends is in this band and this is the first single from their new album. I love this kind of melancholic music.

Finally, if you weren't a designer what would you be and why?

Batman! (Or a programmer).

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