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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

The most important design features of icons appearing in operating system Windows Vienna, structural differences of Vienna, Vista and XP icons, guidance to crafting Vienna type icons.


Graphics, which are used in a recently created Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista icons. They are designed with the same structure and schemes.

First, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon made in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant alterations in icons' design can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna interface even at first sight. A distinctive feature of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, created in a more rigorous rigorous and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and reserved colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in continuous work and repeated viewing.

Overview of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Items used for metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and appear more current.
  • Angle of rotation and volume make image alive.
  • Items' angles and edges are soft and smoothly round.
  • All items face a source of light now (with extra diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are better distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and provide stylish look.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Because icons are intuitive images and not pictures of certain items, in interface they fit even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what software the file is assigned to.
  • Buttons icons contain less details and appear more flat for neat look under smaller size.
  • Icons have biggest size 256 x 256 and it makes them useable for high dimension screens. To display icons on such screens in scaled size, keeping the quality, big images are needed.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Typical 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, maximal size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to create interface icons for software running only under Windows Vienna in the following 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 needed for Windows Vienna or Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons can be scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With smaller sizes, automatic change of size makes the image of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 image is required. Programs of size changes however are not flawless and its recommended to put 48x48 image into your icons to have less perversion.

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

Fully compliant (with Windows XP and previous releases) icon should contain following sizes: 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), because this resolution is not required. Moreover, the icon including this size, is difficult to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need images for your toolbar, their resolution is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour options of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna uses 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are reserved for picture and 8 bits by opacity channel.
This enables icons to present semitransparent details and sleek edges, no matter of the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna graphics consist of 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 icons need 32-bit colour depth.

If you need your icons to look good all the time, in case of video driver failure for example, 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 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, 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 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 older releases, items in Windows Vienna are turned at 45 angle clockwise.
Angle -wise images are recommended for a software icon or to show the volume items.

Following items are better 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 rotated placement of additional item in the icon depends on what both the item and the graphic represent. Its difficult to give more concrete suggestion in this situation, you just need to be lead by the trial and study the way the icon is understood, also if it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna graphics.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is used 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

Outline of Vienna-icons.

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

Various kinds of outline

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

Vienna-icons have two main differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain an extra large picture 256x256
  • In typicall icons this large picture has PNG compression
Use of PNG file is a key point as it makes 256x256 image non-useable with Windows XP and earlier versions (only smaller size pictures will be shown).
PNG-compression is applied in icons for size 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not affect the quality and file 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 compliant with Windows XP, 256x256 resolution in the icon should be saved non-compressed. You can always add or cancel the compression, this will not change the quality. Resolution of the icon with non-compressed images containing all common formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna style icons have the whole list of benefits:
  • visual comprehension of program's interface is appealing
  • program's abilities are better presented
  • usage is more intuitive , easy search and identification of programs, items and actions
  • your program's GUI is advanced , engaging and individual

To get a professional appearance of a software, Microsoft suggests you to modify the look of your commonly viewed icons, with aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (including icons showing file types). It is recommended not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and older release style, in applications operating under Windows Vienna.

Creation of single Vienna-icons.

Imaging your program with the most intuitive interface, in Vienna style, with individual icons that clearly present program's functions and tasks due to proper metaphors, they get you to use the software just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Icons created in a style that will certainly be a new world standard.
You could ask: "Where can I order these flawless icons, at a competitive 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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