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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and structure.

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


Icons, that are used in a recently released Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista icons. They are created with the same construction and guidelines.

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 strict but still and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and reserved colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in constant work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons design. Details of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are crafted in hi- tech style and appear more advanced.
  • Angle of rotation and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and edges are neat and rounded.
  • All objects face a spotlight now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not images of specific items, in GUI they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what software the object is assigned to.
  • Toolbar icons contain less details and look more plain for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high dimension screens. To show icons on such screens in scaled size, saving the quality, big images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Typical icons in Windows Vienna contain five resolutions - 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 pictograms only, biggest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to make GUI icons for software running only under Windows Vienna in the following sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft affirm that intermediate sizes between 256 x 256 and 32 x 32 are not necessary for Windows Vienna or Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons can be scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, automatic alterations of resolution makes the image of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is required. Algorithms of size changes unfortunately are not perfect and its recommended to put 48x48 size into your icons to avoid distortion.

If you want the icon to be completely compliant with not only Windows 7 but other Windows releases as well, you will have to create the icon including corresponding images (all - with three types of colour depth).

Fully compliant (with Windows XP and older releases) icon must contain following sizes: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not suggest to put 24 x 24 resolution into your graphics (except toolbar), because this resolution is not required. Moreover, the icon including 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 icons.

Windows Vienna reads 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are occupied by picture and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This allows icons to present semitransparent elements and smooth edges, no matter of 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 be good all the time, in case of video driver failure 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 displayed by your monitor (this may happen in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit option 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 shown in 16 colours.

Vienna icons colour pallet.

Colours in Vienna icons show material of a subject 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

Turn angle and objects grouping.

Not like former versions, objects in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise graphics are suggested for an application icon or to show the 3D items.

Some items look nicer when pictured flat (like they are down 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 image in the icon is determined on what both the item and the icon mean. Its difficult to give more detailed recommendation in this case, you just need to be guided by the trial and analyze the way the icon is understood, also when it is in a combination 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 volume. In volume and flat icons the shadow is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons often have a border. Its not so clearly expressed as in XP-type and is not constantly used. Border is nesessery to make possible recognition of an image, no matter the background it is placed at. Border may be used only a part of an image always matching the design of an image securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two main distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have a grand picture 256x256
  • In typicall icons this large image has PNG extension
Use of PNG file is a key moment as it brings 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier versions (only compact size pictures will be shown).
PNG-algorithm is applied 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 enabled and image is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

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

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Professionally made Vienna style icons have the following advantages:
  • visual comprehension of program's interface is pleasant
  • program's features are more clearly presented
  • usage is more intuitive , easy search and identification of software, items and actions
  • your program's interface is advanced , engaging and unique

To get a quality appearance of a software, Microsoft suggests you to change the look of your mostly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also suggested to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons showing file types). It is suggested not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and earlier release style, in programs running under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your software with the most convenient interface, in Vienna appearance, with individual icons that clearly show application's features and tasks due to proper metaphors, they make you to use the application just because it's a joy to look at it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be another world standard.
You may ask: "Where can I order these flawless icons, 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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