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Graphics for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

The most important design features of icons appearing in operating system Windows Vienna, construction distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP graphics, guidance to creation Vienna type icons.


Icons, which are used in a recently released Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista icons. They are created using the same construction and schemes.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major alterations in icons' design can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI even at first sight. A typical feature of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, created in a more rigorous but still and more fine way. Glass highlights and defined colours bring icons appealing for eyes, not irritating in constant work and repeated viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Objects used for metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Angle of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and borders are soft and rounded.
  • All items face a source of light now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish look.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Since icons are intuitive images and not illustrations of specific items, in GUI they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what applications the file is related to.
  • Buttons icons contain fewer details and appear more plain 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 those screens in proportional size, saving the quality, big images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard icons in Windows Vienna consist of five resolutions - 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 needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make interface icons for programs operating exclusively in 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 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, program's change of resolution deliver the picture of poor quality, so a separate 16 x 16 image is needed. Algorithms of resolution changes unfortunately are not perfect and its recommended to put 48x48 image into your icons to avoid distortion.

If you need the pictogram to be completely compatible with not only Windows 7 but other Windows releases as well, you will need to make the icon containing corresponding images (all - with three levels of colour depth).

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

We do not suggest to put 24 x 24 size into your graphics (except toolbar), as this size is not required. Moreover, the icon including this size, is hard to be compatible with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need icons for your toolbar, their resolution is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour depth of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna support 32-bits icons where 24 bits are reserved for image and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This lets icons to present semitransparent elements and smooth edges, no matter of the background they are at.

Standard Windows Vienna graphics contain three types of color depth for backward 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 be good all the time, in situation 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 occur in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit option is not included in the icon, the colour scheme will be automatically reduced 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 shown in 16 colours.

Vienna icons colour pallet.

Colours in Vienna graphics display material of an object 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

Rotation angle and objects grouping.

Unlike former releases, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise images are suggested for an application icon or to present the 3D objects.

Some items look nicer if displayed flat (like they are laying 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 placement of a second image in the icon depends on what both the image and the icon represent. Its hard to give more concrete recommendation in this situation, you just need to be guided by the trial and analyze the way the image is understood, also when it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna icons.

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

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons often have a border. Its not so clearly visible as in XP-type and is not constantly used. Outline is required to make possible understanding of an image, regardless the background it is located at. Border may take only a part of an icon always matching the design of an image securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain 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 file is a critical moment as it makes 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and earlier releases (only smaller 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 almost 4 times when transparency channel is enabled and image is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon fully compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 image in the icon must be saved non-compressed. You may always add or discharge the compression, this will not change the quality. Resolution of the icon with uncompressed images containing all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna type icons have the following benefits:
  • visual comprehension of program's interface is pleasant
  • program's abilities are more clearly presented
  • usage is more intuitive , easy search and identification of software, items and actions
  • your aoolication's interface is advanced , stylish and unique

To get a quality appearance of a program, Microsoft suggests you to modify the look of your commonly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (including icons representing type of a file). It is suggested not to use any icons in Windows 9x and older release style, in programs operating under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your software with the most convenient interface, in Vienna style, with individual icons that completely show program's features and tasks due to appropriate metaphors, they get you to use the software just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Icons created in a style that will definitely be a new world standard.
You could ask: "Where can I order these perfect graphics, 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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