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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

The most significant design features of icons appearing in operating system Windows Vienna, structural distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, recommendations to creation Vienna type icons.


Graphics, that appear in a newly released Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are created using identical structure and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Major alterations in icons' design can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI at a glance. A distinctive detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more strict but still and more fine way. Glass highlights and defined colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in constant work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons design. Description of style.
  • Objects used for metaphors are made in hi- tech style and look more advanced.
  • Angle of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and edges are neat and rounded.
  • All objects face a source of light now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Falling shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is updated in Vienna style icons?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not images of certain items, in GUI they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what applications the file is assigned to.
  • Toolbar icons contain fewer details and appear more plain for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high resolution screens. To display icons on such screens in proportional size, saving the quality, big images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard icons in Windows Vienna consist of five sizes - 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 24 x 24, and 16 x 16 px. If icons are applied for buttons, toolbar or compact symbols only, maximal size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to create interface icons for applications operating exclusively under Windows Vienna in the following sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft states that interim sizes between 256 x 256 and 32 x 32 are unneeded for Windows Vienna or Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons can be scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, automatic alterations of resolution deliver the picture of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is needed. Algorithms of size changes however are not perfect and its recommended to put 48x48 image into your icons to avoid perversion.

If you need the pictogram to be completely compliant with not only Windows 7 but other Windows releases also, you will have to make the icon containing respective images (each - with three types of colour depth).

Completely compatible (with Windows XP and previous versions) icon should have following sizes: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not suggest to include 24 x 24 resolution into your icons (except toolbar), because this size is not required. Moreover, the icon including this size, is difficult to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need images for your toolbar, their size is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour options of Vienna icons.

Windows Vienna understands 32-bits icons where 24 bits are occupied by picture and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This allows icons to present semitransparent elements and smooth edges, regardless the background they are on.

Typical Windows Vienna icons contain three types of color options for backward compliance :
  • 32- bit colour (24- bit colour ) plus 8-bit transparency channel
  • 8- bit colour (256 colours ) plus 1-bit transparency channel
  • 4- bit colour (16 colors) plus 1-bit transparency channel
Your images require 32-bit colour depth.

If you want your icons to look fine all the time, in case of video driver insufficiency for instance, you will require 8-bit and 4-bit images (with 256 or even 16 colours only).
An icon in various colour depth

If there are 16 colours displayed by your monitor (this may happen in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit depth is not available in the pictogram, the colour scheme will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, here you can get the way it will look like:
A 32-bit icon displayed in 16 colours
This is a 32-bit icon shown in 16 colours.

Vienna icons colour pallet.

Colours in Vienna graphics display material of an object or a message (if used in symbols)

  • White - paper (documents )
  • Light grey - silvery plastic (computers and peripherals)
  • Dark blue - switched-on screen (displays and other screens)
  • Light ochre - carton (folders)
  • Blue - glass (basket, lens)
  • Emerald- green - transparent plastic (special folders)
Colours showing the material

  • Red - warning
  • Yellow - attention
  • Green - permission
  • Dark blue - information
Signal colours

Turn angle and objects grouping.

Not like former versions, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise graphics are recommended for a software icon or to display the 3D items.

Some items look better when pictured flat (like they are laying on a desk and you look on them)
  • Files icons
  • Flat objects
  • 16 x 16 size icons
Icons for rotated and non -rotated objects

Plain or rotated overlaying of additional item in the icon is determined on what both the item and the graphic mean. Its hard to give more concrete recommendation in this case, you just have to be guided by the trial and analyze the way the image is comprehended, also when it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna graphics.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is used to improve recognition and to potentiate the volume. In volume and plain icons the shade is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons usually have an outline. Its not so clearly expressed as in XP-type and is not constantly used. Outline is nesessery to ensure recognition of an image, no matter the background it is located at. Outline may be used only a part of an icon always matching the design of an icon securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

Overview of Vienna-icon architecture
Functional distinctions of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons contain two functional differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have a grand image 256x256
  • In typicall icons this large picture has PNG extension
Use of PNG compression is a critical moment as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier versions (only compact resolution images will be displayed).
PNG-algorithm is applied in icons for size 256x256 px only. The compression does not change the quality and file is reduced in almost 4 times while transparency channel is enabled and image is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon completely compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You may always include or discharge the compression, this will not affect the quality. Resolution of the icon with uncompressed images containing all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Quality Vienna type icons have the whole list of advantages:
  • visual comprehension of application's interface is pleasant
  • program's abilities are more clearly presented
  • usage is more intuitive , simple search and identification of software, objects and actions
  • your program's GUI is advanced , engaging and individual

To get a quality appearance of a software, Microsoft recommends you to change the design of your mostly displayed icons, using aero style. It is also suggested to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons representing file types). It is suggested not to use any icons in Windows 9x and older version style, in applications operating under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your software with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with individual icons that completely present program's functions and tasks due to appropriate metaphors, they get you to work with the program just because it's a joy to look at it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be another world classic.
You may ask: "Where do I purchase these perfect graphics, at a competitive price and not just like ones but absolute Vienna icons?"

You can do it at: aha-soft.com, perfecticon.com, 777icons.com.

Microsoft, Windows, Windows XP and/or other Microsoft products mentioned above, are either trade marks or registered trade marks of Microsoft.

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