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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

The most important design detail of icons appearing in operating system Windows Vienna, construction differences of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, recommendations to creation Vienna style icons.


Icons, which are used in a newly released Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista icons. They are created with identical construction and schemes.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon made in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Significant alterations in icons' design can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI even at first sight. A distinctive feature of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more rigorous but still and more fine way. Glass glares and defined colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in constant work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Items used as metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and appear more current.
  • Degree of rotation and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and edges are soft and rounded.
  • All items face a source of light now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna style icons?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Since icons are intuitive images and not images of certain items, in interface they look even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what applications the file is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons have 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 display icons on those screens in proportional size, keeping the quality, big images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Typical 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 buttons, toolbar or compact symbols only, maximal size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to create interface icons for applications operating 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 or 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, program's change of size makes the image of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 image is needed. Algorithms of size changes however are not flawless and its recommended to put 48x48 size into your icons to avoid distortion.

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

Completely compliant (with Windows XP and older 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 icons (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 options of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna support 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are reserved for picture and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This lets icons to present semitransparent details and sleek edges, no matter of the background they are at.

Standard Windows Vienna graphics consist of three levels of color options for backward 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 require 32-bit colour depth.

If you want your icons to be good all the time, in case of video driver insufficiency for instance, 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 lower) but 4-bit option is not provided in the icon, the colour scheme will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, below you can see the way it may 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 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

Rotation angle and objects grouping.

Not like previous releases, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise images are suggested for an application icon or to present the volume objects.

Following objects look nicer if 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

Front or rotated placement of a second image in the icon is determined on what both the item and the icon represent. Its difficult to give more detailed suggestion in this situation, you just have to be guided by the trial and analyze the way the icon is comprehended, also when it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna graphics.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is used to improve recognition and to potentiate the 3D effect. In volume and plain icons the shade is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons often have an outline. Its not so vividly expressed as in XP-type and is not always used. Outline is nesessery to make possible understanding of an icon, regardless the background it is located at. Outline may be used only a part of an icon always matching the design of a picture securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two functional distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand picture 256x256
  • In original icons this large picture has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a key moment as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and previous versions (only compact size images will be shown).
PNG-compression is used in icons for size 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not affect the quality and file is reduced in about 4 times when transparency channel is supported and image is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon completely compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 image in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You can always add or cancel the compression, this will not change the quality. Resolution of the icon with non-compressed images containing all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna style icons have the following advantages:
  • visual comprehension of program's interface is appealing
  • program's features are more clearly presented
  • usage is more intuitive , simple navigation and identification of programs, items and actions
  • your program's interface is advanced , engaging and unique

To get an advanced appearance of an application, Microsoft recommends you to change the look of your commonly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also suggested to make a modern design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons showing type of a file). It is suggested not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and earlier version style, in applications operating under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your program with the most convenient interface, in Vienna style, with individual icons that clearly present application's functions and tools thanks to appropriate metaphors, they get you to work with the software just because it's a pleasure to see it. Graphics created in a style that will certainly be a new world standard.
You may ask: "Where can I order 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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