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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

The most important design detail of icons appearing in operating system Windows Vienna, construction differences of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, guidance to crafting Vienna type icons.


Icons, which are used in a newly released Windows Vienna are very similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are created with identical structure and schemes.

So, 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 GUI even at first sight. A distinctive detail of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, designed in a more rigorous but still and more fine way. Glass highlights and reserved colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in constant work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Items used for metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Angle of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and edges are neat and smoothly round.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and provide stylish look.
What is updated in Vienna style icons?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are intuitive images and not images of specific items, in interface they fit even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what software the file is assigned to.
  • Toolbar icons have less details and appear more flat for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high resolution screens. To display icons on those screens in scaled size, keeping the quality, big images are needed.
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 buttons, toolbar or compact pictograms only, largest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to make GUI icons for software running exclusively in Windows Vienna in the following 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 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, program's change of resolution makes the image of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 image is required. Algorithms of size changes unfortunately are not perfect and its better to put 48x48 size into your icons to have less distortion.

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

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

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

Colour options 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 have semitransparent details and sleek edges, regardless the background they are on.

Standard Windows Vienna icons contain three levels of color depth for backward 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 need your icons to be good all the time, in case of video driver insufficiency 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 will appear 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 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.

Not like previous versions, items in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise graphics are recommended for an application icon or to present the 3D objects.

Following objects are better if displayed non- rotated (like they are down 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 angled placement of a second image in the icon depends on what both the item and the icon mean. Its difficult to give more concrete recommendation in this case, you just have to be lead by the trial and analyze the way the icon is comprehended, also when it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna graphics.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is applied to increase recognition and to potentiate the volume. In volume and flat icons the shade is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons often have an outline. Its not so vividly expressed as in XP-type and is not always used. Border is required to ensure understanding of an icon, no matter the background it is placed at. Border may take only a part of an image always matching the design of an image securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons have two functional differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have a grand picture 256x256
  • In original icons this large image has PNG extension
Use of PNG compression is a critical point as it makes 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and earlier versions (only smaller size pictures will be shown).
PNG-algorithm is applied in icons for images 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not affect the quality and file size is smaller in almost 4 times while transparency channel is included and image is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon fully compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon must be saved non-compressed. You can always add or cancel the compression, this will not affect the quality. Size of the icon with non-compressed images containing all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Quality Vienna type icons have the whole list of advantages:
  • visual comprehension of program's interface is appealing
  • program's features are more clearly presented
  • usage is more convenient , simple search and identification of software, objects and actions
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , stylish and unique

To get a professional appearance of a software, Microsoft suggests you to edit the look of your commonly displayed icons, using aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons showing type of a file). It is suggested not to use any icons in Windows 9x and earlier version style, in applications running under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Picture your software with the most intuitive interface, in Vienna style, with individual icons that clearly show application's functions and tasks thanks to proper metaphors, they make you to use the software just because it's a pleasure to see it. Icons created in a style that will certainly be another world standard.
You could ask: "Where do I order these flawless graphics, 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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