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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

The most important design detail of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, structural distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP graphics, guidance to creation Vienna type icons.


Icons, that appear in a newly created Windows Vienna are very like Windows Vista icons. They are designed with the same structure and schemes.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon made in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant alterations in icons' design can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI even at first sight. A distinctive detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more rigorous rigorous and more fine way. Glass highlights and reserved colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and repeated viewing.

Key points of icons design. Details of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and appear more advanced.
  • Degree of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Items' angles and edges are soft and rounded.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Falling shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and gives stylish look.
What is new in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not pictures of specific items, in interface they look even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what program the object is related to.
  • Buttons icons contain fewer details and look more plain for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high dimension screens. To show icons on such screens in scaled size, keeping the quality, big images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard icons in Windows Vienna consist of five resolutions - 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 small pictograms only, maximal size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to create interface icons for software running only in Windows Vienna in the listed sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft affirm 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 is scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, automatic change of resolution deliver the picture of poor quality, so a separate 16 x 16 image is required. Programs of resolution changes unfortunately are not perfect and its recommended to put 48x48 image into your icons to have less perversion.

If you need the pictogram to be fully compliant with not only Windows 7 but other Windows versions as well, you will need to make the icon containing corresponding images (each - with three types of colour depth).

Fully compatible (with Windows XP and previous releases) icon must have following sizes: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not recommend to put 24 x 24 resolution into your graphics (except toolbar), because this resolution is not necessary. Moreover, the icon containing this size, is hard to be compatible with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need icons for your toolbar, their resolution is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour depth of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna uses 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are occupied by image and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This allows icons to present semitransparent details and sleek edges, regardless the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna graphics contain three levels of color depth 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 icons need 32-bit colour depth.

If you need your icons to be fine all the time, in case of video driver failure for instance, you will need 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 occur in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit option is not included in the icon, the colour scheme will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, below you can see the way it will appear 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 icons 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

Rotation angle and objects combination.

Unlike previous releases, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise images are recommended for an application icon or to display the 3D items.

Some items are nicer if displayed flat (like they are down on a table and you look over them)
  • Files icons
  • Flat objects
  • 16 x 16 size icons
Icons for rotated and non -rotated objects

Plain or angled placement of additional image in the icon depends on what both the item and the icon mean. Its hard to give more concrete suggestion in this situation, you just have to be lead by the experience and analyze the way the icon is comprehended, also if it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna icons.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is used to increase recognition and to intensify the 3D effect. In volume and plain icons the shadow looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons usually have an outline. Its not so clearly expressed as in XP-style and is not always used. Outline is nesessery to make possible understanding of an image, regardless the background it is located at. Outline may be used only a part of an image constantly following the design of an icon securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons have two functional differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain an extra large picture 256x256
  • In typicall icons this large picture has PNG extension
Use of PNG compression is a key point as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier versions (only smaller resolution pictures will be shown).
PNG-algorithm is used in icons for images 256x256 px only. The compression does not affect the quality and file size is smaller in almost 4 times while transparency channel is enabled and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon completely compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon should be saved uncompressed. You can always include or discharge the compression, this will not affect the quality. Size of the icon with uncompressed images including all common formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Quality Vienna type icons have the whole list of advantages:
  • visual comprehension of program's interface is appealing
  • program's abilities are more clearly presented
  • usage is more convenient , easy navigation and identification of programs, objects and actions
  • your program's interface is advanced , engaging and individual

To get a quality appearance of an application, Microsoft recommends you to modify the design of your mostly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also suggested to make a modern design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (including 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 application with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with individual icons that completely show program's features and tools due to appropriate metaphors, they make you to use the software just because it's a pleasure to see it. Graphics created in a style that will certainly be another world classic.
You may ask: "Where do I purchase these flawless icons, at a reasonable price and not just similar ones but real 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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