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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and structure.

The most significant design detail of icons used in operating system Windows Vienna, structural differences of Vienna, Vista and XP graphics, recommendations to crafting Vienna type icons.


Graphics, that appear in a newly created Windows Vienna are very like Windows Vista graphics. They are designed with identical structure and schemes.

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

Overview of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Objects used as metaphors are made in hi- tech style and look more advanced.
  • Degree of turn and volume make image alive.
  • Objects' angles and borders are soft and smoothly round.
  • All objects face a source of light now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Falling shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients enchance the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Appearance is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are intuitive images and not pictures of certain items, in interface they look even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images indicate what software the file is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons contain fewer details and look more flat for optimizing under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them suitable for high dimension screens. To show icons on such screens in proportional size, keeping the quality, large images are needed.
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 menu, toolbar or small symbols only, biggest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make interface icons for software operating exclusively in Windows Vienna in the following sizes:
  • 256 x 256 px
  • 32 x 32 px
  • 16 x 16 px
Microsoft affirm that interim sizes between 256 x 256 and 32 x 32 are not necessary for Windows Vienna or Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons is scaled with no distortion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, automatic alterations of resolution makes the picture of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is required. Programs of resolution changes however are not flawless and its recommended to include 48x48 size into your icons to have less perversion.

If you need the icon to be fully compatible with not only Windows 7 but older Windows releases also, you will have to make the icon containing respective images (each - with three levels of colour depth).

Completely 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 include 24 x 24 size into your icons (except toolbar), as this resolution is not necessary. Furthermore, the icon containing this size, is hard to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you want icons for your toolbar, their resolution is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour depth of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna support 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are occupied by image and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This enables icons to have semitransparent details and sleek edges, no matter of the background they are on.

Standard Windows Vienna graphics contain three types of color depth for increased 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 images require 32-bit colour depth.

If you need your icons to look fine all the time, in case of video driver insufficiency for instance, you will need 8-bit and 4-bit depths (with 256 or even 16 colours only).
An icon in various colour depth

If there are 16 colours shown by your screen (this may happen in Windows XP and lower) but 4-bit option is not provided 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 shown in 16 colours.

Vienna icons colour pallet.

Colours in Vienna icons 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

Rotation angle and objects grouping.

Not like older versions, objects in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are recommended for an application icon or to present the volume objects.

Following objects are nicer if 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

Flat or angled overlaying of additional item in the icon is determined on what both the image and the graphic represent. Its difficult to give more concrete recommendation in this situation, you just need to be lead by the trial and study the way the image is comprehended, also if it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna icons.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is used to improve recognition and to intensify the 3D effect. In volume and plain icons the shadow looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-style icons often have a border. Its not so clearly expressed as in XP-style and is not constantly used. Outline is required to make possible recognition of an image, regardless the background it is placed at. Outline may take only a part of an image constantly following the design of an icon securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons contain two functional distinctions from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons have an extra large picture 256x256
  • In typicall icons this grand image has PNG compression
Use of PNG compression is a critical point as it brings 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and earlier releases (only compact size images will be shown).
PNG-algorithm is used in icons for images 256x256 px only. The compression does not change 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 completely compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 image 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 including all common formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are better?

Professionally made Vienna style icons have the whole list of benefits:
  • visual comprehension of application's interface is pleasant
  • program's abilities are better displayed
  • usage is more intuitive , easy search and identification of software, items and actions
  • your program's GUI is advanced , engaging and unique

To get an advanced appearance of a program, Microsoft suggests you to change the design 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 (considering icons representing file types). It is recommended not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and older release style, in applications running under Windows Vienna.

Making of single Vienna-icons.

Picture your software with the most convenient GUI, in Vienna style, with unique icons that clearly present program's functions and tasks thanks to proper metaphors, they make you to use the application just because it's a joy to look at it. Icons made in a style that will certainly be a new world standard.
You could ask: "Where do I purchase these perfect icons, 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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