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Icon Design

Graphics for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

The most significant design features of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, structural distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP graphics, guidance to creation Vienna type icons.


Graphics, which appear in a newly created Windows Vienna are very similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are designed with the same construction and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon made in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant alterations in icons' appearance can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna interface at a glance. A distinctive detail of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, designed in a more strict rigorous and more beautiful way. Glass glares and defined colours bring icons appealing for eyes, not irritating in constant work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons design. Details of style.
  • Items used for metaphors are made in hi- tech style and appear more advanced.
  • Degree of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Items' angles and edges are soft and rounded.
  • All items face a source of light now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Falling 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?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are intuitive images and not illustrations of certain items, in interface they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what software the file is related to.
  • Buttons icons contain fewer details and appear more flat for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high resolution screens. To show icons on such 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, largest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to make interface icons for software operating exclusively in 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 needed for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons is scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, program's change of size makes the image of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 image is required. Programs of size changes however are not flawless and its recommended to include 48x48 image into your icons to avoid perversion.

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

Completely compliant (with Windows XP and previous versions) icon must contain following sizes: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not recommend to include 24 x 24 size into your icons (except toolbar), as this resolution is not required. Furthermore, the icon including this size, is hard to be compatible with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need images for your toolbar, their resolution is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour depth of Vienna graphics.

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

Standard Windows Vienna icons contain three types 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 need your icons to be good 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 lower) but 4-bit option is not provided in the icon, the colour scheme will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, here 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 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.

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

Following objects are better when pictured flat (like they are down on a table and you look on them)
  • Files icons
  • Flat objects
  • 16 x 16 size icons
Icons for rotated and non -rotated objects

Front or angled overlaying of additional image in the icon depends on what both the image and the graphic represent. Its hard to give more detailed suggestion in this case, you just have to be lead by the trial and analyze the way the image is comprehended, also if it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna icons.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is applied to increase recognition and to potentiate the volume. In volume and plain icons the shadow looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons often have a border. Its not so clearly visible as in XP-type and is not constantly used. Border is required to ensure recognition of an image, no matter the background it is placed at. Outline may take only a part of an icon constantly matching the design of an image securing its reality.

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 image 256x256
  • In typicall icons this grand image has PNG extension
Use of PNG file is a key point as it brings 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and previous versions (only smaller size images will be shown).
PNG-algorithm is applied in icons for images 256x256 px only. The compression does not affect the quality and file size is reduced in almost 4 times while transparency channel is supported and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon completely compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You can always add or discharge the compression, this will not change the quality. Size of the icon with non-compressed images including all standard formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Professionally made Vienna style icons have the following advantages:
  • visual recognition of program's interface is appealing
  • program's abilities are more clearly presented
  • usage is more convenient , easy navigation and identification of programs, items and actions
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , stylish and unique

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

Making of individual Vienna-icons.

Imaging your program with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna appearance, with unique icons that completely show application's functions and tools due to proper metaphors, they make you to work with the software just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Graphics made in a style that will certainly be a new world standard.
You could ask: "Where do I purchase these flawless graphics, at a competitive price and not just like 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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