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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and structure.

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


Icons, that are used in a recently created Windows Vienna are mostly similar to Windows Vista icons. They are designed using identical construction and guidelines.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon created in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Major alterations in icons' design can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI at a glance. A typical detail of Windows Vista and Vienna interface is new icons, created in a more strict rigorous and more beautiful way. Glass glares and defined colours bring icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in constant work and repeated viewing.

Key points of icons design. Description of style.
  • Objects used for metaphors are drawn in hi- tech style and appear more current.
  • Angle of rotation and volume bring life into images.
  • Items' angles and borders are neat and smoothly round.
  • All items face a source of light now (with additional lightning spread all around)
  • Falling shadow brings contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is new in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not photorealistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not illustrations of specific items, in interface they fit even better than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what applications the object is related to.
  • Toolbar icons contain fewer 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 dimension screens. To display icons on those screens in proportional size, saving the quality, big 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 buttons, toolbar or compact symbols only, largest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to create GUI icons for applications operating exclusively in Windows Vienna in the listed 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 files used in these icons is scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, program's alterations of size makes the image of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 image is needed. Programs of resolution changes however are not perfect and its better to put 48x48 size into your icons to avoid perversion.

If you need the icon to be completely compliant with not only Windows Vienna but other Windows versions as well, you will need to make the icon containing respective images (each - with three levels of colour depth).

Completely compliant (with Windows XP and older versions) icon should contain following sizes: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

We do not suggest to include 24 x 24 resolution into your graphics (except toolbar), as this size is not required. Moreover, the icon including this size, is difficult to be compliant 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 depth of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna understands 32-bits icons in which 24 bits are dedicatedto picture and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This lets icons to have semitransparent elements and sleek edges, no matter of the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna graphics contain three types of color depth for backward 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 want your icons to be good all the time, in case of video driver insufficiency for instance, you will need 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 happen in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit depth is not provided in the pictogram, the colour scheme will be automatically shifted down to 16 colours, below you can get the way it may look 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 icons 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

Rotation angle and objects grouping.

Not like previous releases, objects in Windows Vienna are rotated at 45 angle clockwise.
Rotated graphics are recommended for an application icon or to show the 3D items.

Following objects look nicer when pictured flat (like they are laying 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 is determined on what both the image 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 image is comprehended, also when it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna graphics.

Falling shadow in Vienna icons is applied to increase recognition and to intensify the volume. In volume and plain icons the shade looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Outline of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons usually have an outline. Its not so clearly expressed as in XP-type and is not constantly used. Outline is required to make possible recognition of an image, no matter the background it is placed at. Outline may be used only a part of an image always following the design of an icon securing its style.

Various kinds of outline

Review of Vienna-icon structure
Main differences of Vienna-icons and XP-icons

Vienna-icons have two functional differences from XP-icons:
  • Vienna-icons contain an extra large picture 256x256
  • In original 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 releases (only compact resolution images will be shown).
PNG-algorithm is applied in icons for size 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 picture is perfectly scale.

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

To make the icon completely compatible with Windows XP, 256x256 seize in the icon must be saved uncompressed. You can always add or cancel the compression, this will not affect the quality. Size of the icon with uncompressed images including all common formats will approximately be 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna style icons have the following benefits:
  • visual comprehension of program's interface is appealing
  • program's features are more clearly presented
  • usage is more convenient , easy navigation and identification of programs, items and actions
  • your aoolication's interface is advanced , stylish and unique

To get an advanced appearance of an application, Microsoft suggests you to edit the design of your mostly viewed icons, with aero style. It is also recommended to make a modern design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (including icons representing type of a file). It is suggested not to use any icons in Windows 9x and older version style, in applications operating under Windows Vienna.

Creation of individual Vienna-icons.

Imaging your program with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with individual icons that clearly show program's functions and tools thanks to proper metaphors, they get you to work with the application just because it's a pleasure to look at it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be another world standard.
You could ask: "Where can I order these perfect icons, at a reasonable 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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