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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

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


Icons, that appear in a recently released Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are created using identical construction and schemes.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon made in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major alterations in icons' appearance 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 rigorous rigorous and more fine way. Glass highlights and defined colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in constant work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons design. Description of style.
  • Items used as metaphors are made in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Angle of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Objects' angles and borders are soft and rounded.
  • All objects face a spotlight now (with additional lightning spread all around)
  • Falling shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and provide stylish look.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are intuitive images and not pictures of certain items, in interface they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what software the file is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons contain fewer details and look more plain for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high resolution screens. To show icons on those screens in proportional size, saving 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 compact pictograms only, biggest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to make interface icons for applications running exclusively 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 and Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons is scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, program's alterations of resolution deliver the picture of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 image is needed. Programs of resolution changes however are not perfect and its recommended to include 48x48 size into your icons to have less distortion.

If you want the pictogram to be fully compliant with not only Windows Vienna but former Windows releases also, you will have to create the icon containing respective images (each - with three levels of colour depth).

Completely compatible (with Windows XP and older releases) icon should contain following sizes: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not suggest to put 24 x 24 size into your icons (except toolbar), as this resolution is not necessary. Furthermore, the icon including this size, is difficult to be compliant 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 image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This lets icons to have semitransparent elements and smooth edges, no matter of the background they are on.

Standard Windows Vienna graphics contain three types 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 images need 32-bit colour depth.

If you need your icons to be good all the time, in case 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 monitor (this may occur in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit option is not included in the pictogram, the colour scheme will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, here you can get 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 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

Rotation angle and objects grouping.

Not like older versions, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are recommended for a software icon or to present the volume items.

Some objects are nicer if displayed flat (like they are laying 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 item 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 have to be lead by the trial and analyze the way the icon is understood, also when it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna icons.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is used to increase recognition and to intensify the 3D effect. In volume and plain icons the shade looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons usually have an outline. Its not so vividly expressed as in XP-type and is not constantly used. Outline is required to make possible recognition of an icon, regardless the background it is located at. Border may be used only a part of an image always matching the design of an image securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons have two functional distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand picture 256x256
  • In typicall icons this grand image has PNG extension
Use of PNG compression is a critical point as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier versions (only smaller size pictures will be displayed).
PNG-compression is used in icons for size 256x256 px only. The compression does not change the quality and file is reduced in almost 4 times when transparency channel is enabled and picture is perfectly scale.

Compliance 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 non-compressed. You can always add or discharge the compression, this will not change the quality. Resolution of the icon with non-compressed images including all common formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality 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 GUI is advanced , stylish and individual

To get an advanced appearance of a program, Microsoft suggests you to change the design of your commonly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also suggested to make a new design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (including icons representing type of a file). It is recommended 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 intuitive interface, in Vienna appearance, with individual icons that clearly show program's functions and tools thanks to appropriate metaphors, they make you to use the application just because it's a pleasure to see it. Graphics made in a style that will definitely be another world standard.
You may ask: "Where can I order these flawless graphics, at a reasonable price and not just like 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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