When designing a navigation app or map plugin, your chosen set of icons should stand out and look good. They should also be─above all else─clear, recognizable, and representative of the features. Don’t make the user encounter any more confusion and frustration when using your software to find their way around or locate a destination. Remember, they may already be lost.
To help you out (and point you in the right direction), take a look at this collection of effective navigation icons you can download as modifiable vectors.
These map icons cover options over a scale of navigation, whether you are denoting national cross-city routes, national landmarks, global directions, and any number of signal markers along the way.
When choosing your icon set, there are 2 main aspects to consider: design and functionality.
These two aspects are intertwined in many ways. The design should help functionality, and the function should dictate the limits and shape of the design.
Keeping this in mind, a good icon has to have these features:
As a good standard, default option, go for a flat icon design. Most of the icon sets here follow this standard. A flat design, as opposed to a realistic (“skeuomorphic”) design, is the go-to option especially for icon sets that involve a lot of abstract concepts.
The most common icons for functions or features you will most likely need include the following map legends:
Satellite symbols and other GPS keys have also become standard, but don’t use anything you have no actual use or feature for.
These sets are readily available in free PSD and vector files, so you can completely customize their shapes and sizes for your purposes.
Note that the key purpose of a navigation app or software is exactly that: navigation. When choosing your icon set, make sure you have the full range of guiding and location icons covered.