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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

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


Graphics, that are used in a recently created Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista icons. They are designed with the same structure and schemes.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major changes in icons' appearance can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI at a glance. A typical detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, created in a more strict rigorous and more fine way. Glass highlights and reserved colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Objects used for metaphors are made in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Degree of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Objects' angles and borders are soft and rounded.
  • All items face a source of light now (with additional lightning spread all around)
  • Drop shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are better distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and gives stylish look.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not images of certain items, in interface they fit even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what software the object is related to.
  • Toolbar icons have 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 display icons on such screens in proportional size, saving the quality, big images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard 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, largest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to create GUI icons for software operating exclusively under Windows Vienna in the following 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 and Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons is scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, automatic change of size deliver the image of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is required. Algorithms of resolution changes however are not perfect and its recommended 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 former Windows versions as well, you will need to create the icon containing respective images (each - with three types of colour depth).

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

We do not suggest to include 24 x 24 resolution into your graphics (except toolbar), because this resolution is not required. Moreover, the icon containing this size, is difficult 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 uses 32-bits icons where 24 bits are reserved for picture and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This allows icons to have semitransparent details and smooth edges, regardless the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna icons 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 need your icons to look 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 monitor (this may happen in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit option is not provided in the pictogram, 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 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

Rotation angle and objects combination.

Not like older releases, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are recommended for a software icon or to show the 3D items.

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

Flat or angled overlaying of a second item in the icon is determined on what both the item and the graphic represent. Its hard to give more concrete suggestion in this situation, you just need to be guided by the trial and study the way the image is understood, also when it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna icons.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is applied to increase recognition and to intensify the 3D effect. In volume and flat icons the shadow looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons usually have a border. Its not so vividly visible as in XP-style and is not always used. Outline is required to make possible recognition of an icon, no matter the background it is located at. Border may be used only a part of an image always following the design of a picture securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

Review of Vienna-icon structure
Functional differences of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons contain two main differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain an extra large image 256x256
  • In original icons this grand image has PNG extension
Use of PNG file is a critical moment as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and previous versions (only smaller size pictures will be shown).
PNG-compression is applied in icons for images 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not change the quality and file size is reduced in almost 4 times when transparency channel is included and image is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

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

Why Vienna icons are better?

Quality Vienna type icons have the following advantages:
  • visual comprehension of application's interface is pleasant
  • program's features are better displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , simple search and identification of software, items and tasks
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , stylish and individual

To get a quality appearance of a software, Microsoft suggests you to modify the design of your mostly displayed icons, using aero style. It is also suggested to make a new design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons showing type of a file). 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.

Picture your application with the most intuitive interface, in Vienna style, with individual icons that completely show application's features and tasks due to appropriate metaphors, they get you to use the program just because it's a pleasure to see it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be a new world classic.
You may ask: "Where can I order these flawless graphics, at a reasonable 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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