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Artist Tips | Earn Royalties On Your Icons As a Graphic Designer With The NOUN PROJECT

A huge trend right now in data visualization is the use of icons and millions of users are searching for all types of icons

Cash Tips & Tricks - The Noun Project purpose

Whenever they purchase any of yours via the Noun Project platform, you earn royalties.

From icons for Artificial Intelligence, to UI elements and Beyoncé, the Noun Project offers the opportunity to be part of a community of designers from 120+ countries to build the most diverse and extensive collection of iconography ever created

1. Factsheet

Company typeFor profit
HQ locationLos Angeles, USA
Founded date2011


The Noun Project offers an online platform to display visual icons from a global network of designers.

Over the last decade, Noun Project’s community has built the most diverse and extensive collection ever created, used by nearly 7 million people around the world.

Noun Project was launched on Kickstarter in December 2010.

In 2011, the Noun Project hosts Iconathons (hackathons for icons) across the U.S. to create civic icons for topics like human rights and disaster preparedness.

In 2014, Noun Project is funded by mission-driven investors like Collaborative Fund, Lowercase, Designer Fund, & Scott Belsky.

In 2016, the team behind Noun Project founded Lingo, a modern digital asset manager used by some of today’s best-known brands including Target, Headspace, LinkedIn and Salesforce.

In 2020, Noun Project launched a collection of Art-quality photos that celebrate diversity and set a new precedent for visual representation.

Cash Tips & Tricks - Noun - Timeline

Top competitors

Besides The Noun Project, there are several other platforms based on the same model.

2. How to make cash

How The Noun Project is turning icons into profit

Noun Project’s business model and means of generating revenue have evolved significantly over time.

Initial plan: was to sell T-shirts with the icons on it (refer to the initial project submitted on Kickstarter).

First model: The platform first adopted a model whereby using an icon without giving attribution would cost some dollars per icon.

Second model: The model’s second iteration added a subscription component, where there would be a periodic fee to access a certain number of icons.

Current model: The platform then moved to an unlimited model, whereby users have unlimited access to the whole library for a flat periodic fee.

This service is called NounPro

How do YOU make cash

Offer: The Noun project offers a wide catalogue of free icons.

Process: Theses icons are submitted by Designers and downloaded by users in return for a subscription.

Cash: A percentage of the subscription goes to the Designers as royalities for the resources downloaded by users.


Cash Tips & Tricks - How to make money with Noun Project

Become a contributor:

How to become a contributor?

The process to become a contributor has been made rather simple:

Cash Tips & Tricks - The Noun Project - Process

Note: Once uploaded, icons are put through Noun’s moderation and curation process.

If they meet the Noun’s standards, they will be accepted as part of their visual language.

3. Admission process

The admission process is pretty simple.

Follow the steps:

Cash Tips & Tricks - The Noun Project Sign up as Contributor

4. Expected income

How much money will I get for my resources? 

Millions of users search for all types of icons

When they purchase any of yours, you earn royalties.

These Royalties come from three different sources:

Cash Tips & Tricks - Revenue model

Note: API stands for “Application-Programming Interface“.

CASE 1 – Someone pays for your icon through a single purchase

When a Noun Project user purchases your icon, you earn 60% of that payment.

Example: Each time someone purchases your icon for $2.99, you earn $1.80. And the platforms pays all transaction fees.

CASE 2 – Someone uses your icon through pre–paid, subscription

When a Noun Project user pays for a subscription, pre-pays for future icons, 40% of their payment is added to each royalty pool.

Example: Subscribers get unlimited access to all of the icons, including yours.

So the platform adds up all the fees from subscriptions and prepaid purchases and divide it by all the icons that got downloaded through subscriptions, including yours.

All that crazy math gives them a rate-per-icon downloaded. The number will change every month, but they always give 40% of it back to the creators.

And they still pay all transaction fees.

Note: The platform’s share is higher this time as it is providing more service to the user.

CASE 3 –  Someone uses your icon through API

When a Noun Project user purchases icons through API, 40% of their payment is added to each royalty pool. 

Example: For API usage the model is based on the use of your icons.

The platform divides the entire month’s API fees by the total number of API icon uses.

That gives them a rate-per-icon used.

You still get 40% of it for every one of your icons used through the API.

And they still pay all transaction fees.

For futher details, I would recommend to go check here.

How do I get paid:

If you have earned money from your uploads, you will be able to see a monthly royalty statement on your dashboard. 

It will show how much you have earned and the complete breakdown of how many downloads your icons received.

In order to receive royalties on your icons you need to link your current PayPal email in account settings. 

When do I get paid:

The platform calculates royalties at the beginning of each month, and if you earn $10 or more then they get transferred to your PayPal account by the 10th of the month. 

5. Feedback

Icons are some of the most universal communication tools available, crossing language and cultural boundaries.

A huge trend right now in data visualization is the use of icons.

–> Simplifying text within a powerpoint slide or a one-pager can be done with the use of icons.

If you are a graphic designer you might want to work with the Noun Project.

6. Site preview


Dan is contributing to cashtipsandtricks by providing his expertise as an investor and entrepreneur.

Cash Tips and Tricks 2020 - 2021