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Graphics for Windows Vienna. Design and structure.

The most significant design features of icons appearing in operating system Windows Vienna, construction differences of Vienna, Vista and XP graphics, recommendations to creation Vienna type icons.


Graphics, that appear in a recently created Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are created with the same structure and schemes.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major alterations in icons' appearance can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI at a glance. A typical feature of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, created in a more rigorous but still and more fine way. Glass glares and reserved colours make icons appealing for eyes, not irritating in continuous work and repeated viewing.

Key points of icons design. Details of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are made in hi- tech style and appear more advanced.
  • Degree of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Objects' angles and edges are soft and rounded.
  • All objects face a spotlight now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Falling shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and provide stylish look.
What is new in Vienna graphics?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not illustrations of specific items, in GUI they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what applications the file is related to.
  • Toolbar icons contain fewer details and look more plain for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have maximal size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high dimension screens. To show icons on those screens in scaled size, saving the quality, big images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Typical 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 used for buttons, toolbar or small symbols only, maximal size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make GUI icons for software operating only 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 and Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons is scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, automatic change of size deliver the image of poor quality, so a separate 16 x 16 picture is needed. Algorithms of resolution changes however are not perfect and its better to include 48x48 image into your icons to have less distortion.

If you need the icon to be completely compliant with not only Windows 7 but former Windows releases as well, you will have to make the icon including corresponding images (all - with three types of colour depth).

Completely compatible (with Windows XP and older releases) icon must contain following sizes: 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), because this resolution is not required. Furthermore, 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 graphics.

Windows Vienna uses 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are dedicatedto picture and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This enables icons to present semitransparent details and smooth edges, no matter of the background they are on.

Standard Windows Vienna icons consist of three types of color options 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 need your icons to look good all the time, in situation of video driver insufficiency for instance, you will require 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 monitor (this may happen in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit option is not provided in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, below 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 graphics show material of a subject 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 older versions, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are suggested for an application icon or to present the 3D objects.

Following items are nicer if displayed non- rotated (like they are down on a table and you look over them)
  • Files icons
  • Flat objects
  • 16 x 16 size icons
Icons for rotated and non -rotated objects

Plain or rotated placement of a second image in the icon is determined on what both the item and the graphic represent. Its difficult to give more detailed recommendation in this situation, you just have to be guided by the experience and analyze the way the image is understood, also if it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna graphics.

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

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons usually have an outline. Its not so clearly expressed as in XP-style and is not always used. Outline is nesessery to ensure understanding of an image, no matter the background it is located at. Outline may take only a part of an image always matching the design of an image securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two main distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand image 256x256
  • In typicall 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 smaller resolution images will be displayed).
PNG-algorithm is used in icons for images 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not affect the quality and file size is reduced in about 4 times when transparency channel is supported and image is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon fully compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 seize in the icon must be saved non-compressed. You may always include or discharge the compression, this will not affect the quality. Resolution of the icon with non-compressed images containing 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 software, items and actions
  • your program's interface is advanced , engaging and unique

To get a quality appearance of a program, Microsoft suggests you to change the design of your commonly displayed icons, using aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (considering icons showing file types). It is recommended not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and earlier version style, in applications operating under Windows Vienna.

Making of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your software with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna appearance, with individual icons that completely present program's features and tasks due to appropriate metaphors, they get you to work with the software just because it's a joy to look at it. Icons made in a style that will definitely be another world standard.
You may ask: "Where can I order these perfect graphics, at a reasonable 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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