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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 distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, guidance to crafting Vienna style icons.


Graphics, which are used in a recently created Windows Vienna are very like Windows Vista graphics. They are created using the same structure and schemes.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Major changes in icons' design can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna interface at a glance. A distinctive detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, created in a more rigorous rigorous and more beautiful way. Glass glares and defined colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in constant work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons design. Description of style.
  • Items used as metaphors are crafted in hi- tech style and appear more current.
  • Angle of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Objects' angles and edges are soft and smoothly round.
  • All objects face a spotlight now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Falling shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish look.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not illustrations of specific items, in interface they look even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what applications the object is assigned to.
  • Toolbar icons have fewer details and appear more flat for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high dimension screens. To display icons on those screens in proportional size, keeping the quality, big images are required.
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 small symbols only, largest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to create GUI icons for applications operating exclusively in 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 unneeded for Windows Vienna or Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons is scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, automatic change of resolution deliver the image of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is required. Programs of resolution changes however are not perfect and its recommended to put 48x48 size into your icons to avoid distortion.

If you want the icon to be fully compliant with not only Windows 7 but older Windows releases also, you will have to make the icon containing respective images (all - with three types of colour depth).

Completely compatible (with Windows XP and former releases) icon must contain following resolutions: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not recommend to put 24 x 24 size into your graphics (except toolbar), as this size is not necessary. Furthermore, the icon containing this size, is difficult to be compatible with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you want icons for your toolbar, their size is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour options of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna support 32-bits icons where 24 bits are occupied by picture and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This allows icons to present semitransparent elements and sleek edges, regardless the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna graphics 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 look good all the time, in situation of video driver failure for instance, you will need 8-bit and 4-bit images (with 256 or even 16 colours only).
An icon in various colour depth

If there are 16 colours shown by your monitor (this may occur in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit option is not included in the pictogram, the colour pallet will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, here you can see the way it may 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 icons 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 previous versions, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated images are recommended for a software icon or to display the volume objects.

Some objects look nicer if pictured non- rotated (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 rotated overlaying of additional image in the icon is determined on what both the image and the icon represent. Its hard to give more concrete suggestion in this situation, you just need to be guided by the trial and analyze the way the image is comprehended, also when it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna graphics.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is used to improve recognition and to intensify the volume. In volume and plain icons the shadow looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons usually have a border. Its not so clearly expressed as in XP-type and is not always used. Border is required to make possible understanding of an icon, regardless the background it is placed at. Outline may take only a part of an icon always following the design of a picture securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons have two main distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain an extra large image 256x256
  • In original icons this large picture has PNG compression
Use of PNG file is a key point as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier versions (only compact resolution pictures will be displayed).
PNG-algorithm is applied in icons for images 256x256 px only. The compression does not affect the quality and file is reduced in about 4 times while transparency channel is supported and picture 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 should be saved uncompressed. You can always include or discharge the compression, this will not change the quality. Size of the icon with uncompressed images including all common formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Quality Vienna style icons have the following benefits:
  • visual recognition of program's interface is appealing
  • program's abilities are more clearly presented
  • usage is more convenient , simple navigation and identification of programs, items and tasks
  • your program's interface is advanced , stylish and individual

To get a professional appearance of an application, Microsoft suggests you to modify the design of your commonly viewed icons, with aero style. It is also suggested to make a modern design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons representing 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 intuitive interface, in Vienna style, with unique icons that completely present program's features and tasks thanks to proper metaphors, they make you to work with the application just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Graphics created in a style that will certainly be a new world classic.
You may ask: "Where can I purchase these perfect 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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