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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

The most important design features of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, construction differences of Vienna, Vista and XP graphics, guidance to crafting Vienna style icons.


Graphics, which appear in a newly created Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista icons. They are created using identical construction and schemes.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant changes in icons' design can be seen 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 rigorous but still and more fine way. Glass glares and reserved colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Items used as metaphors are crafted in hi- tech style and appear more advanced.
  • Angle of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Objects' angles and borders are soft and rounded.
  • All objects face a source of light now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Drop shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish look.
What is new in Vienna style icons?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not pictures of certain items, in interface they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what software the file is related to.
  • Toolbar 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 useable for high resolution screens. To show icons on such screens in scaled size, keeping the quality, large images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Typical 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 used for buttons, toolbar or small symbols only, largest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to create GUI icons for applications running exclusively under Windows Vienna in the listed 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 not needed for Windows Vienna or Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons is scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, automatic alterations of size deliver the picture of bad quality, so a separate 16 x 16 picture is needed. Algorithms of resolution changes unfortunately are not flawless and its better to include 48x48 size into your icons to have less distortion.

If you need the pictogram to be fully compatible with not only Windows Vienna but older Windows versions also, you will have to make the icon containing corresponding images (each - with three types of colour depth).

Fully compliant (with Windows XP and older releases) icon should contain 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), as this size is not necessary. Moreover, the icon including this size, is hard to be compatible 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 depth of Vienna icons.

Windows Vienna reads 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are dedicatedto image and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This enables icons to have semitransparent elements and smooth edges, regardless the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna graphics contain three levels of color depth for increased 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 failure for example, you will need 8-bit and 4-bit depths (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 depth is not provided in the pictogram, the colour pallet will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, here you can see the way it will appear 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 icons show material of an object 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.

Unlike previous releases, objects in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise graphics are suggested for a software icon or to show the volume objects.

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

Front or rotated placement of additional item in the icon depends on what both the item and the graphic represent. Its difficult to give more concrete suggestion in this case, you just have to be lead by the experience and analyze the way the image is understood, also if it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna icons.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is used to improve recognition and to intensify the volume. In 3D and plain icons the shade 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. Border is nesessery to ensure understanding of an image, regardless the background it is placed at. Border may take only a part of an image always following the design of a picture securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

Review of Vienna-icon architecture
Main differences of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

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

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon completely compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 seize in the icon must be saved non-compressed. You can always add or cancel the compression, this will not change the quality. Size of the icon with uncompressed images including all common formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Professionally made Vienna type icons have the whole list of benefits:
  • visual comprehension of program's interface is pleasant
  • program's features are better displayed
  • usage is more convenient , simple navigation and identification of software, objects and tasks
  • your aoolication's interface is advanced , engaging and unique

To get a quality appearance of an application, Microsoft recommends you to edit the design of your commonly displayed icons, with aero style. It is also suggested to make a modern design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons representing file types). It is suggested not to use any icons in Windows 9x and older release style, in programs operating under Windows Vienna.

Making of individual Vienna-icons.

Imaging your application with the most intuitive interface, in Vienna appearance, with unique icons that clearly show program's features and tools due to appropriate metaphors, they make you to work with the software just because it's a joy to look at it. Icons created in a style that will definitely be a new world classic.
You could ask: "Where can I purchase these perfect graphics, at a reasonable 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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