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Graphics for Windows Vienna. Design and structure.

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


Graphics, which are used in a recently released Windows Vienna are very similar to Windows Vista graphics. They are designed using the same structure and schemes.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon drawn in aero style (style of Windows Vienna GUI). Significant alterations in icons' design can be seen 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 strict but still and more beautiful way. Glass highlights and defined colours make icons pleasant for eyes, not annoying in continuous work and repeated viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Details of style.
  • Items used as metaphors are crafted in hi- tech style and look more advanced.
  • Degree of turn and volume bring life into images.
  • Objects' angles and edges are soft and smoothly round.
  • All items face a source of light now (with additional diffused lightening all around)
  • Drop shadow adds contrast and volume.
  • Elements with borders are better distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and provide stylish look.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Because icons are symbolic images and not illustrations of specific items, in interface they look even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images show what software the object is related to.
  • Toolbar icons contain fewer 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 those screens in proportional size, saving the quality, large images are required.
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 buttons, toolbar or small symbols only, largest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation recommend to create interface icons for software operating only under Windows Vienna in the listed 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 not necessary for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG format used in these icons can be scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, automatic change of resolution makes the image of poor quality, so another 16 x 16 picture is needed. Algorithms of size changes unfortunately are not perfect and its better to include 48x48 image into your icons to have less perversion.

If you want the pictogram to be completely compliant with not only Windows Vienna but other Windows versions as well, you will have to make the icon including corresponding images (all - with three types of colour depth).

Completely compatible (with Windows XP and previous versions) icon must have following resolutions: 256 x 256, 48 x 48, 32 x 32, 16 x 16

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

Colour depth of Vienna graphics.

Windows Vienna understands 32-bits icons where 24 bits are reserved for picture and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This lets icons to present semitransparent details and smooth edges, regardless the background they are on.

Standard Windows Vienna graphics consist of three levels 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 images need 32-bit colour depth.

If you need your icons to look good all the time, in situation of video driver failure 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 depth is not available in the icon, the colour pallet will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, here 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

Turn angle and objects grouping.

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

Following objects look nicer if displayed non- rotated (like they are laying on a desk and you look on them)
  • Files icons
  • Flat objects
  • 16 x 16 size icons
Icons for rotated and non -rotated objects

Front or angled overlaying of additional image in the icon is determined on what both the image and the icon represent. Its difficult to give more detailed 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 group of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Drop shadow in Vienna icons.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is used to increase recognition and to intensify the volume. In volume and flat icons the shadow looks different:

Drop shadow of volume and flat objects

Border of Vienna-icons.

Vienna-type icons usually have a border. Its not so vividly visible as in XP-style and is not constantly used. Outline is required to ensure understanding of an image, no matter the background it is located at. Outline may be used only a part of an icon constantly matching the design of an icon securing its reality.

Various kinds of outline

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

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

Compatibility of Vista and Vienna-icons with Windows XP

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

Why Vienna icons are better?

Quality Vienna type icons have the following benefits:
  • visual comprehension of application's interface is pleasant
  • program's abilities are more clearly displayed
  • usage is more convenient , simple navigation and identification of programs, items and tasks
  • your aoolication's interface is advanced , stylish and unique

To get an advanced appearance of a program, Microsoft suggests you to edit the look of your commonly displayed icons, using aero style. It is also suggested to make a modern design of all icons presented in Start menu and Explorer (including icons showing type of a file). It is suggested not to apply any icons in Windows 9x and older version style, in applications operating under Windows Vienna.

Creation of individual Vienna-icons.

Picture your program with the most convenient interface, in Vienna style, with individual icons that completely show program's features and tools due to proper metaphors, they make you to work with the program just because it's a pleasure to see it. Graphics made in a style that will certainly be another world classic.
You may ask: "Where can I order these flawless icons, 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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