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Graphics for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

The most significant design features of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, construction distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, recommendations to making Vienna type icons.


Graphics, which appear in a recently released Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista icons. They are designed with identical structure and schemes.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Significant changes in icons' appearance can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna interface at a glance. A typical feature of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more rigorous but still and more fine way. Glass highlights and defined colours make icons appealing for eyes, not irritating in constant work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and appear more advanced.
  • Degree of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and borders are neat and smoothly round.
  • All items face a source of light now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish look.
What is new in Vienna style icons?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not images of specific items, in GUI they fit even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what software the object is related to.
  • Buttons icons contain less details and look more flat 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 those screens in scaled size, keeping the quality, large images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Typical icons in Windows Vienna consist of 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, biggest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to make interface icons for programs running only under Windows Vienna in the listed sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft states that intermediate sizes between 256 x 256 and 32 x 32 are not necessary for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons can be scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, program's change of resolution deliver the picture of poor quality, so a separate 16 x 16 image is required. Algorithms of size changes however are not flawless and its recommended to put 48x48 image into your icons to have less perversion.

If you need the pictogram to be fully compatible with not only Windows Vienna but other Windows releases also, you will need to create the icon containing corresponding images (all - with three levels of colour depth).

Completely compliant (with Windows XP and older versions) icon should have following sizes: 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), as this size is not required. Furthermore, the icon including this size, is difficult to be compatible with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need icons for your toolbar, their size 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 occupied by picture and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This lets icons to have semitransparent elements and sleek edges, regardless the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna graphics consist of three types 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 situation of video driver insufficiency 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 monitor (this may happen in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit option is not included in the icon, the colour scheme will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, below you can see the way it will appear 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 a subject 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 previous releases, items in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise images are recommended for a software icon or to display the 3D items.

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

Plain or rotated overlaying of additional item in the icon is determined on what both the item and the graphic mean. Its difficult to give more concrete suggestion in this case, you just have to be guided by the experience and analyze the way the image is comprehended, also when it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna icons.

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 usually have a border. Its not so clearly visible as in XP-type and is not constantly used. Outline is required to ensure understanding of an icon, no matter the background it is located at. Outline may be used only a part of an icon constantly following the design of a picture securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

Review of Vienna-icon architecture
Main distinctions of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons have two main distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have a grand picture 256x256
  • In typicall icons this grand picture has PNG extension
Use of PNG compression is a key point as it makes 256x256 image non-useable 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 while transparency channel is included and picture is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon completely compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 seize in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You can always include or cancel the compression, this will not affect the quality. Resolution of the icon with uncompressed images including all common formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Professionally made Vienna type icons have the whole list of advantages:
  • visual recognition of program's interface is pleasant
  • program's abilities are more clearly presented
  • usage is more convenient , easy search and identification of software, items and tasks
  • your program's interface is advanced , engaging and individual

To get a professional appearance of an application, Microsoft suggests you to change the design of your mostly viewed icons, with aero style. It is also suggested to make a new 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 earlier version style, in applications running under Windows Vienna.

Creation of individual Vienna-icons.

Imaging your application with the most convenient interface, in Vienna style, with individual icons that clearly show program's features and tasks due to appropriate metaphors, they get you to use the application just because it's a pleasure to see it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be another world standard.
You may ask: "Where do I purchase these perfect 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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