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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

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


Graphics, that are used in a newly created Windows Vienna are very similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are created with the same construction and schemes.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon made in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant changes in icons' design can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna interface even at first sight. A typical detail of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, designed in a more strict rigorous and more beautiful way. Glass glares and defined colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not irritating in constant work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons design. Details of style.
  • Objects used for metaphors are made in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Degree of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Objects' angles and borders are soft and smoothly round.
  • All objects face a source of light now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Falling shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance 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 images of certain items, in interface they look even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what software the object is assigned to.
  • Toolbar icons have fewer details and appear more flat for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high resolution screens. To display icons on such screens in proportional size, keeping the quality, large 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 menu, toolbar or small pictograms only, largest size is not needed.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make interface icons for software operating exclusively under Windows Vienna in the listed sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft affirm that intermediate sizes between 256 x 256 and 32 x 32 are not necessary for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons is scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, program's change of size deliver the picture of poor quality, so a separate 16 x 16 image is required. Algorithms of size changes unfortunately are not flawless and its recommended to include 48x48 size into your icons to avoid distortion.

If you want the icon to be fully compliant with not only Windows 7 but former Windows releases as well, you will need to create the icon including respective images (each - with three types of colour depth).

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

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

Colour options of Vienna icons.

Windows Vienna reads 32-bits icons where 24 bits are dedicatedto image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This enables icons to have semitransparent details and smooth edges, no matter of the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna graphics contain 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 images need 32-bit colour depth.

If you need your icons to be fine 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 displayed by your monitor (this may occur in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit option is not included in the pictogram, 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 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

Turn angle and objects grouping.

Unlike previous releases, objects in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are suggested for an application icon or to present the volume items.

Some objects are nicer if pictured non- rotated (like they are laying 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 rotated placement of a second image in the icon depends on what both the item and the icon represent. Its hard to give more detailed suggestion in this case, you just need to be guided by the experience and study the way the icon is comprehended, 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 increase recognition and to intensify the volume. In 3D and plain icons the shade is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons usually have a border. Its not so vividly visible as in XP-type and is not constantly used. Border is required to ensure recognition of an image, regardless the background it is located at. Border may take only a part of an icon always following the design of an icon securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

Overview of Vienna-icon structure
Functional distinctions of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons have two main distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have an extra large picture 256x256
  • In typicall icons this grand image has PNG compression
Use of PNG file is a critical point as it makes 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier versions (only smaller size images will be shown).
PNG-compression is used in icons for images 256x256 px only. The compression does not affect the quality and file size is reduced in almost 4 times when transparency channel is supported and image is perfectly scale.

Compliance of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To get the icon completely compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 seize in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You may always add or cancel the compression, this will not change the quality. Resolution of the icon with non-compressed images containing all standard formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Professionally made Vienna style icons have the following advantages:
  • visual recognition of program's interface is pleasant
  • program's abilities are more clearly presented
  • usage is more convenient , simple navigation and identification of software, items and tasks
  • your program's GUI is advanced , engaging and individual

To get a quality appearance of an application, Microsoft suggests you to change the look of your mostly viewed 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 type of a file). It is recommended not to use any icons in Windows 9x and older release style, in applications running under Windows Vienna.

Making of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your software with the most intuitive interface, in Vienna style, with individual icons that clearly show application's functions and tools due to proper metaphors, they make you to work with the software just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Graphics created in a style that will certainly be a new world standard.
You could ask: "Where do I order 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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