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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

The most significant design detail of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, structural differences of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, guidance to making Vienna type icons.


Graphics, that appear in a newly created Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista graphics. They are designed with the same structure and schemes.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major alterations in icons' design can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI at a glance. A distinctive feature of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, created in a more rigorous rigorous and more beautiful way. Glass glares and reserved colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in continuous work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are made in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Degree of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Items' angles and edges are soft and rounded.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Drop shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives 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 more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what software the object is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons contain less details and look more flat for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high resolution screens. To show icons on such screens in scaled 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 used for buttons, toolbar or small symbols only, largest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make GUI icons for programs operating exclusively under Windows Vienna in the listed 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 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 smaller sizes, automatic change of size deliver the image of bad quality, so a separate 16 x 16 image is required. Programs of size changes however are not flawless and its recommended to put 48x48 image into your icons to avoid distortion.

If you need the pictogram to be fully compatible with not only Windows 7 but older Windows versions also, you will need to create the icon containing corresponding images (all - with three types of colour depth).

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

We do not recommend to include 24 x 24 resolution into your graphics (except toolbar), as this size is not necessary. 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 support 32-bits icons where 24 bits are occupied by image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This lets icons to present semitransparent details and smooth edges, regardless the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna graphics consist of three types of color options 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 icons need 32-bit colour depth.

If you want your icons to look fine all the time, in situation of video driver insufficiency for example, 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 displayed by your screen (this may occur in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit depth is not provided in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, here you can get 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 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

Turn angle and objects combination.

Unlike previous versions, objects in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are recommended for an application icon or to show the 3D items.

Some objects look better when 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 rotated overlaying of a second image in the icon depends on what both the image and the graphic mean. Its hard to give more concrete suggestion in this situation, you just need to be lead by the trial and study the way the image is comprehended, also if it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna graphics.

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

Outline of Vienna-icons.

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

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two functional differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand image 256x256
  • In typicall icons this grand image has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a critical moment as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier releases (only smaller size pictures will be displayed).
PNG-algorithm is used in icons for size 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not affect the quality and file size is reduced in about 4 times while transparency channel is enabled and image 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 should be saved non-compressed. You can always add or discharge the compression, this will not affect the quality. Resolution of the icon with non-compressed images containing all standard formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna type icons have the following advantages:
  • visual comprehension of application's interface is appealing
  • program's abilities are better presented
  • usage is more intuitive , easy search and identification of software, objects and actions
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , engaging and individual

To get an advanced appearance of an application, Microsoft recommends you to change 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 (including icons showing type of a file). It is suggested not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and older version style, in programs running under Windows Vienna.

Making of individual Vienna-icons.

Imaging your application with the most convenient GUI, in Vienna appearance, with unique icons that clearly present application's functions and tools thanks to appropriate metaphors, they make you to work with the application just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Icons made in a style that will certainly be another world standard.
You could ask: "Where can I purchase these perfect icons, at a competitive 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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