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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and structure.

The most important design features of icons appearing in operating system Windows Vienna, construction distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, recommendations to making Vienna style icons.


Graphics, which appear in a recently released Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista icons. They are created using the same construction and guidelines.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Significant 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, created in a more strict rigorous and more beautiful way. Glass glares and reserved colours make icons appealing for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are made in hi- tech style and look more advanced.
  • Degree of rotation and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and borders are soft and smoothly round.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with additional lightning spread all around)
  • Falling shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are better distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and provide stylish appearance.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not illustrations of certain items, in GUI they look even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what program the file is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons contain less details and look more flat for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high resolution screens. To display icons on such screens in scaled size, saving the quality, big images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard icons in Windows Vienna contain five sizes - 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 24 x 24, and 16 x 16 px. If icons are applied for menu, toolbar or compact symbols only, maximal size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to create interface icons for software running exclusively under 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 not needed for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons is scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, automatic change of resolution deliver the image of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 image is needed. Algorithms of resolution changes unfortunately are not flawless and its recommended to include 48x48 size into your icons to have less perversion.

If you want the pictogram to be completely compatible with not only Windows 7 but older Windows versions also, you will have to create the icon containing corresponding images (all - with three types of colour depth).

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

We do not suggest to include 24 x 24 size into your graphics (except toolbar), as this resolution is not required. Furthermore, the icon including this size, is difficult 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 icons.

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

Standard Windows Vienna graphics 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 need your icons to be fine all the time, in situation of video driver insufficiency 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 screen (this may occur in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit depth is not provided in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, below you can see the way it will look like:
A 32-bit icon displayed in 16 colours
This is a 32-bit icon displayed in 16 colours.

Vienna icons colour pallet.

Colours in Vienna graphics display material of a subject or a signal (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 combination.

Not like older releases, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise images are recommended for a software icon or to show the 3D objects.

Following objects look nicer when pictured 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 rotated placement of additional image in the icon is determined on what both the image and the icon mean. Its difficult to give more detailed suggestion in this situation, you just need to be lead by the experience and analyze the way the icon is comprehended, also when it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna graphics.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is applied to increase recognition and to potentiate the 3D effect. In volume and flat icons the shade is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons usually have a border. Its not so vividly visible as in XP-style and is not always used. Border is required to make possible recognition of an icon, regardless the background it is placed at. Outline may be used only a part of an image always following the design of a picture securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

Review of Vienna-icon structure
Main distinctions of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons contain two main differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have a grand picture 256x256
  • In original icons this grand image has PNG compression
Use of PNG file is a critical point as it brings 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and earlier releases (only smaller size pictures will be shown).
PNG-compression is applied in icons for images 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not change the quality and file size is reduced in almost 4 times when transparency channel is enabled and image is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon completely compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 seize in the icon must be saved non-compressed. You can always include or cancel the compression, this will not affect the quality. Size of the icon with non-compressed images containing all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Professionally made Vienna style icons have the whole list of benefits:
  • visual recognition of program's interface is appealing
  • program's features are better displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , easy search and identification of software, items and tasks
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , engaging and unique

To get a professional appearance of an application, Microsoft suggests you to change the design of your mostly viewed icons, with aero style. It is also suggested to make a new design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons representing file types). It is recommended not to use any icons in Windows 9x and older release style, in programs operating under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Picture your program with the most intuitive interface, in Vienna appearance, with unique icons that clearly present application's features and tasks thanks to proper metaphors, they make you to work with the program just because it's a joy to see it. Icons made in a style that will definitely be a new world standard.
You could ask: "Where can I order these flawless graphics, at a competitive price and not just similar 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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