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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

The most important design features of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, structural differences of Vienna, Vista and XP graphics, recommendations to creation Vienna type icons.


Graphics, which are used in a recently created Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are designed using the same construction and schemes.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant changes in icons' design can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI at a glance. A distinctive feature of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, designed in a more strict but still and more fine way. Glass glares and reserved colours bring icons appealing for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Overview of icons design. Details of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are crafted in hi- tech style and appear more current.
  • Angle of rotation and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and borders are soft and smoothly round.
  • All objects face a source of light now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Falling shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish look.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not illustrations of certain items, in interface they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what applications the object is assigned to.
  • Toolbar icons have less details and appear more flat for neat look 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, keeping the quality, big 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 menu, toolbar or small symbols only, biggest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to create GUI icons for programs 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 unneeded for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons can be scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, automatic change of size makes the picture of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 image is required. Algorithms of resolution changes unfortunately are not perfect and its better to include 48x48 size into your icons to avoid distortion.

If you need the pictogram to be completely compliant with not only Windows 7 but former Windows releases as well, you will have to create the icon including respective images (each - with three types of colour depth).

Fully compatible (with Windows XP and former versions) icon should contain following resolutions: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

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

Colour options of Vienna icons.

Windows Vienna support 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are dedicatedto picture and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This enables icons to present semitransparent elements and smooth edges, regardless the background they are on.

Standard Windows Vienna icons consist of three levels of color depth for increased compatibility :
  • 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 want your icons to look fine all the time, in situation of video driver failure for example, you will require 8-bit and 4-bit depths (with 256 or even 16 colours only).
An icon in various colour depth

If there are 16 colours shown by your screen (this may occur in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit option is not available in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, below you can see the way it may 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 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 older releases, objects in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise graphics are recommended for a software icon or to display the 3D objects.

Some objects are better 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 angled overlaying of additional item in the icon is determined on what both the image and the graphic mean. Its difficult to give more concrete recommendation in this situation, you just have to be lead by the experience and study 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 applied to improve recognition and to potentiate the 3D effect. In 3D and plain icons the shade is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons often have a border. Its not so vividly visible as in XP-type and is not constantly used. Outline is nesessery to ensure understanding of an icon, regardless the background it is placed at. Border may be used only a part of an image constantly matching the design of a picture securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons have two functional distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand picture 256x256
  • In original icons this grand picture has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a critical point as it brings 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and previous versions (only smaller size pictures will be displayed).
PNG-compression is used in icons for size 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not change the quality and file size is reduced in about 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 compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon must be saved non-compressed. You can always add or cancel the compression, this will not affect the quality. Size of the icon with uncompressed images including all common formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Quality Vienna style icons have the whole list of advantages:
  • visual comprehension of application's interface is pleasant
  • program's features are better presented
  • usage is more convenient , easy search and identification of programs, objects and tasks
  • your aoolication's interface is advanced , engaging and unique

To get a professional appearance of a program, Microsoft recommends you to modify the design of your commonly displayed icons, using aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (including icons showing file types). It is suggested not to use any icons in Windows 9x and older release style, in applications running under Windows Vienna.

Creation of individual Vienna-icons.

Picture your software with the most convenient interface, in Vienna appearance, with unique icons that completely present application's features and tools thanks to proper metaphors, they get you to work with the software just because it's a pleasure to see it. Icons created in a style that will certainly be a new world standard.
You may ask: "Where do I order these perfect graphics, at a competitive 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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