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Creating symbols

From: Illustrator for Web Design

Video: Creating symbols

Over the course of your design career, you will accumulate a countless number of assets that you can repurpose for other projects. The hard part is keeping track of all of them. One method that I have used that has served me really well over the last few years is creating symbol libraries inside of Illustrator. Take these icons for instance. These are just basic social media icons that I created inside of Illustrator, but I want to repurpose them and use them in various designs that I might have. A year from now I don't want have to go find this file somewhere backed up on a different drive or something like that.

Creating symbols

Over the course of your design career, you will accumulate a countless number of assets that you can repurpose for other projects. The hard part is keeping track of all of them. One method that I have used that has served me really well over the last few years is creating symbol libraries inside of Illustrator. Take these icons for instance. These are just basic social media icons that I created inside of Illustrator, but I want to repurpose them and use them in various designs that I might have. A year from now I don't want have to go find this file somewhere backed up on a different drive or something like that.

I want to be able to quickly get a hold of all of these icons so I can drag and drop them into any project that I might be working on. The answer to that is symbols. So in this movie we are going to take these icons and we are going to turn them into a symbol library which we can then use in any project we want going forward. In order to do this, I need to first bring up my Symbols panel, and my Symbols panel is actually located right over here in this little docked area of icons, and it's got a little clover on it that says Symbols when I hover on it. If you can't see your Symbols panel, just go to the Window menu and choose Symbols, and it should pop up wherever it is.

And so basically what we need to do here is we need to create a new symbol for each one of these icons, and that's very easy to do. So what I am going to do is just select something like the Twitter icon here, and I can take this and I can just drag it over into the symbol library and once I see that little plus sign, I can drop it in. And so the name of the symbol in this case is going to be Twitter icon. And in this case I am just going to make it a graphic; I am not going to take this into Flash or anything like that, so I don't have to worry about this. These are all Flash options that we are talking about.

And you can see that down here at the bottom it tells me "'Movie Clip' and 'Graphic' are tags for Flash Import. There is no difference between these two symbols in Illustrator," so you don't have to worry about it. Registration, I am going to keep that right in the center. We want to enable guides for 9-slice scaling. Again this is something that has to do with a lot of motion and things like that, so don't worry about that now. I am going to align it to the Pixel Grid though, and I am going to hit OK. And so that creates a new Twitter icon symbol for me. I am going to do the same thing for Facebook.

Set this to your graphic, Align to Pixel Grid, OK, and I am just going to do this for each one of the icons. I am just dragging them over, setting them to a graphic. Again, it doesn't matter which one you do, but in case I wanted to move these over into Flash, I am just going to use these as graphics, so Align the Pixel Grid. There we go! And I'll just drag this one over. This is for Forrst, another design social network. We'll drag this over. This is for Vimeo, a video sharing platform.

And of course, we all know YouTube. Now we'll drag over just the RSS icon, so if you have a blog or something, you could use this to let people subscribe to your blog. Google+, that's the new kid on the block when it comes to social networks. And you'll notice there that I actually made a mistake with my Google+ icon. I didn't select a part of it, so what I am going to do is undo that and go back and try to select all of it.

There we go, and then I'll drag it over and redefine it. Here we go. Align it to the Pixel Grid. Here we go. LinkedIn, and we'll grab Skype. This one will belong to Flickr, and the last one is another design social network called Behance. Here we go, and hit OK.

And so now I have all of these symbols loaded up over here. Any time I need to use them, I can use them and I can just drag out a new instance of that symbol. So let's say I was working on a project. I could then say, oh, I need a Twitter icon here. That's okay. I have one. I'll just drag it out, boom. There is a Twitter icon. I need Facebook too. Okay. Here we go. There is Facebook. And we can line those up and, you know, move them around. So as of right now, these exist, but they only exist here inside of this document. So what I need to do now is I need to take these and save them out as their own symbol library so that I can then load them up into another document at any given time.

So in order to save them out as a symbol library, I am just going to first come over here and I am going to select the symbols that are in here by default, and I just did that with Shift+Clicking. I am going to remove those, because I only want these to be inside of the symbol library. And then instead of the Symbols panel, I'll undock that, so you can actually see it. I'll go here, I'll down to Save Symbol Library, and then I would just go out to the Desktop, and I'll call this Social Symbols and I'll hit Save.

And so now those have been saved to my Desktop. If I close this document, I am not going to save any changes. I don't have to. I'll create a brand new document. It doesn't matter what size. And when I do that you are going to notice the default symbols come back in. Those aren't the social symbols that I was just working on, so I need to go down to the library icon, I need to go Other Library, go out to my Desktop, and select Social Symbols, and hit Open. Once I hit Open, those will appear, and close this Symbols Library. And now if I need Twitter, drag it out; Facebook, drag it out; Google+; LinkedIn; any one that I want, I can drag it out from the symbols library and use it.

These are still scalable vector artwork, so it does not matter how big or how small I make them; they are always going to be scalable vector arts, so I can use them in any way, shape, or form that I need, but I now have this library saved anytime I need it to go back and use it any project going forward. So I do this for things like client logos. I also have a lot of brand logos that I use when I do sponsorships and things like that on different client web sites, so I bring in some sponsor symbol libraries. I have a social icon set like this; actually, I have several of those.

Anything that you think you can repurpose for further use, try saving it as a symbol library, keep those symbols somewhere in a safe place on your computer, and then load those up quickly and easily each and every time you need them, and you workflow will go so much smoother and so much faster.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Illustrator for Web Design
Illustrator for Web Design

67 video lessons · 25375 viewers

Justin Seeley
Author

 
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  1. 1m 13s
    1. Welcome
      50s
    2. Using the exercise files
      23s
  2. 43m 51s
    1. Designing for screens
      1m 57s
    2. Decoding screen size and resolution
      2m 40s
    3. Exploring the Illustrator to HTML workflow
      3m 42s
    4. Setting up Illustrator for web work
      6m 55s
    5. Creating a new document for web
      6m 25s
    6. Creating a new document for mobile
      3m 31s
    7. Using artboards for responsive layouts
      7m 42s
    8. Creating email newsletter documents
      4m 31s
    9. Working with Pixel Preview and anti-aliasing
      6m 28s
  3. 25m 28s
    1. Adjusting color settings
      6m 47s
    2. Understanding web color
      3m 47s
    3. Creating a color palette
      5m 4s
    4. Creating custom swatches
      4m 50s
    5. Working with fills and strokes
      5m 0s
  4. 13m 15s
    1. Exploring the Layers panel
      5m 21s
    2. Renaming and grouping layers
      7m 54s
  5. 24m 5s
    1. Drawing simple shapes
      4m 16s
    2. Working with Pathfinder
      5m 4s
    3. Using the Shape Builder tool
      4m 33s
    4. Creating symbols
      6m 24s
    5. Editing and replacing symbols
      3m 48s
  6. 20m 22s
    1. Planning your project
      2m 56s
    2. Using guides and rulers
      5m 56s
    3. Developing a layout with shapes
      6m 21s
    4. Using a grid system
      5m 9s
  7. 25m 53s
    1. Exploring the rules of typography
      4m 1s
    2. Using text as text vs. using text as an image
      3m 37s
    3. Understanding web-safe fonts
      1m 46s
    4. Creating and using paragraph styles
      5m 16s
    5. Creating and using character styles
      3m 2s
    6. Simulating the CSS box model
      8m 11s
  8. 21m 17s
    1. Understanding object appearance
      4m 43s
    2. Applying and editing live effects
      3m 34s
    3. Creating and using drop shadows
      3m 13s
    4. Creating more flexible rounded rectangles
      3m 17s
    5. Saving appearance as graphic styles
      6m 30s
  9. 35m 57s
    1. Starting with a wireframe
      5m 23s
    2. Adding master elements
      6m 45s
    3. Creating navigation buttons
      13m 34s
    4. Working with photographs
      5m 50s
    5. Simulating pages with artboards
      4m 25s
  10. 54m 45s
    1. Creating video placeholders
      10m 33s
    2. Creating buttons
      13m 1s
    3. Creating form fields
      8m 15s
    4. Creating radio boxes and checkboxes
      5m 11s
    5. Creating progress bars
      10m 12s
    6. Creating tabbed interfaces
      7m 33s
  11. 35m 28s
    1. Understanding slicing
      3m 26s
    2. Slicing up a mockup
      3m 6s
    3. Understanding web file formats
      5m 33s
    4. Exploring the Save for Web dialog
      3m 50s
    5. Optimizing photographs
      4m 29s
    6. Optimizing transparent graphics
      4m 43s
    7. Saving Retina display graphics
      3m 46s
    8. Exporting SVG graphics
      6m 35s
  12. 9m 29s
    1. Understanding image sprites
      3m 4s
    2. Creating a sprite grid
      4m 36s
    3. Optimizing sprites for the web
      1m 49s
  13. 15m 29s
    1. Placing Illustrator Smart Objects
      3m 22s
    2. Sharing color swatches between apps
      2m 9s
    3. Exporting Illustrator artwork as a PSD
      3m 49s
    4. Importing artwork into Fireworks
      2m 41s
    5. Exporting HTML from Illustrator
      3m 28s
  14. 1m 19s
    1. Taking the next step
      1m 1s
    2. Goodbye
      18s

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