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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and structure.

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


Graphics, which appear in a recently created Windows Vienna are very like Windows Vista graphics. They are designed using the same construction and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Significant changes in icons' appearance can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna interface at a glance. A distinctive detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, designed in a more rigorous but still and more fine way. Glass glares and reserved colours make icons appealing for eyes, not irritating in constant work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and look more advanced.
  • Angle of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Objects' angles and borders are neat and smoothly round.
  • All items face a source of light now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Drop shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and provide stylish appearance.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are intuitive images and not pictures of specific items, in interface they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what software the object is related to.
  • Toolbar icons contain less 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 resolution screens. To show icons on such screens in proportional size, saving the quality, large images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard icons in Windows Vienna contain five sizes - 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 24 x 24, and 16 x 16 px. If icons are used for menu, toolbar or small symbols only, largest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to create GUI icons for programs operating only under 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 unneeded for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons can be scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, automatic change of resolution deliver the picture of poor quality, so a separate 16 x 16 picture is needed. Programs of size changes unfortunately are not perfect and its better to put 48x48 image into your icons to avoid perversion.

If you want the icon to be fully compatible with not only Windows Vienna but other Windows versions as well, you will need to make the icon containing corresponding images (each - with three types of colour depth).

Completely compliant (with Windows XP and former 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 resolution into your graphics (except toolbar), because this resolution is not necessary. Furthermore, the icon including this size, is hard to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you want icons 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 where 24 bits are occupied by image and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This lets icons to have semitransparent details and sleek edges, regardless the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna icons consist of three levels of color options 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 need your icons to look good all the time, in case 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 shown by your screen (this may occur in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit depth is not provided in the pictogram, the colour pallet will be automatically shifted 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 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.

Unlike previous releases, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise graphics are suggested for a software icon or to display the volume items.

Some objects are better when pictured 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

Flat or angled overlaying of a second image in the icon depends on what both the image and the graphic mean. Its difficult 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 combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna icons.

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

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons usually have an outline. Its not so vividly expressed as in XP-type and is not always used. Outline is nesessery to make possible recognition of an image, regardless the background it is located at. Outline 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 distinctions of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons contain two functional distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand image 256x256
  • In typicall icons this large image has PNG compression
Use of PNG file is a key moment as it brings 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and previous versions (only smaller resolution pictures 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 while transparency channel is supported and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon completely compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You may always include or discharge the compression, this will not change the quality. Size of the icon with non-compressed images containing all common formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna style icons have the whole list of benefits:
  • visual comprehension of application's interface is appealing
  • program's features are more clearly displayed
  • usage is more convenient , easy navigation and identification of programs, items and actions
  • your program's GUI is advanced , stylish and individual

To get a quality appearance of a software, Microsoft recommends you to modify the look of your mostly displayed icons, with aero style. It is also suggested to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (including icons showing file types). It is recommended not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and earlier version style, in programs operating under Windows Vienna.

Making of individual Vienna-icons.

Picture your program with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with unique icons that completely show program's functions and tools thanks to appropriate metaphors, they get you to work with the program just because it's a joy to look at it. Graphics made in a style that will definitely be a new world standard.
You could ask: "Where can I order these perfect icons, at a reasonable price and not just like 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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