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Graphics for Windows Vienna. Appearance and construction.

The most significant design detail of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, structural distinctions of Vienna, Vista and XP graphics, recommendations to making Vienna style icons.


Graphics, that are used in a recently created Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are designed using the same structure and guidelines.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Major alterations in icons' appearance can be noticed in Windows Vista and Vienna interface even at first sight. A distinctive detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, created in a more rigorous but still and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and defined colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in continuous work and multiple viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Items used as metaphors are crafted in hi- tech style and look more advanced.
  • Angle of turn and volume bring life into images.
  • Objects' angles and borders are neat and smoothly round.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Falling shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are better distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and provide stylish appearance.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not images of certain items, in GUI they look even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what applications 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 suitable for high resolution screens. To show icons on such screens in proportional size, saving the quality, big images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Standard icons in Windows Vienna consist of 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 needed.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to create GUI icons for software 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 more compact sizes, automatic alterations of size makes the picture of bad quality, so a separate 16 x 16 picture is needed. Algorithms of size changes however are not flawless 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 Vienna but other Windows versions as well, you will need to create the icon including corresponding images (all - with three types of colour depth).

Fully compliant (with Windows XP and former versions) icon should have following sizes: 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), because this size is not necessary. Furthermore, the icon including 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 options of Vienna icons.

Windows Vienna understands 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are reserved for picture and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This enables icons to present semitransparent details and sleek edges, regardless the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna graphics contain three levels of color depth 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 images need 32-bit colour depth.

If you need your icons to be fine all the time, in situation of video driver failure for example, 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 displayed by your monitor (this may happen in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit option is not included in the pictogram, the colour scheme will be automatically reduced 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 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 grouping.

Not like former releases, objects in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are suggested for a software icon or to present the volume objects.

Some objects are better when displayed flat (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

Front or angled overlaying of additional item 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 have to be lead by the trial and analyze the way the icon is comprehended, also if it is in a group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna icons.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is applied to increase recognition and to intensify the 3D effect. In 3D and flat icons the shade is different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons often have a border. Its not so vividly expressed as in XP-style and is not always used. Outline is nesessery to make possible understanding of an image, no matter the background it is placed at. Outline may take only a part of an icon always matching the design of a picture securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

Overview of Vienna-icon architecture
Main distinctions of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons have two main distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain a grand picture 256x256
  • In original icons this grand image has PNG compression
Use of PNG file is a critical point as it brings 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and earlier versions (only compact resolution pictures will be shown).
PNG-compression is applied in icons for size 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not change the quality and file size is reduced in about 4 times when transparency channel is included and picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon fully compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You may always add or discharge the compression, this will not affect the quality. Size of the icon with non-compressed images including all standard formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Professionally made Vienna style icons have the following benefits:
  • visual recognition of application's interface is pleasant
  • program's features are better displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , simple navigation and identification of software, items and tasks
  • your aoolication's interface is advanced , stylish and unique

To get an advanced appearance of a program, Microsoft recommends you to change the design of your commonly viewed icons, using aero style. It is also suggested to make a modern design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (including icons representing type of a file). It is suggested not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and earlier release style, in programs operating under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your application with the most convenient interface, in Vienna style, with unique icons that completely present application's functions and tasks thanks to proper metaphors, they get you to work with the application just because it's a joy to see it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be another world classic.
You could ask: "Where can I purchase these perfect graphics, 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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