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Icons for Windows Vienna. Design and construction.

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


Graphics, that are used in a recently created Windows Vienna are mostly like Windows Vista graphics. They are designed with identical construction and schemes.

So, what is Vienna icon? Vienna icon - is an icon made in aero style (style of Windows Vienna interface). Major alterations in icons' appearance can be seen in Windows Vista and Vienna GUI even at first sight. A typical detail of Windows Vista and Vienna GUI is new icons, created in a more rigorous rigorous and more fine way. Glass highlights and reserved colours make icons appealing for eyes, not annoying in constant work and repeated viewing.

Key points of icons creation. Description of style.
  • Items used for metaphors are made in hi- tech style and look more current.
  • Degree of rotation and volume make image alive.
  • Objects' angles and borders are neat and rounded.
  • All items face a spotlight now (with extra lightning spread all around)
  • Falling shadow gives contrast and volume.
  • Outlined elements are easily distinguished.
  • Gradients intensify the volume and gives stylish appearance.
What is updated in Vienna graphics?
  • Style is more realistic but still not completely realistic. Since icons are symbolic images and not pictures of specific items, in interface they fit even more appropriate than photos.
  • Overlayed images illustrate what software the object is assigned to.
  • Toolbar icons contain less 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 scaled size, saving the quality, large images are required.
Size of Vienna - icons.

Typical 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, biggest size is not required.
Microsoft Corporation suggests to make GUI icons for programs operating exclusively 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 unneeded for Windows Vienna and Windows Vista, because PNG files used in these icons can be scaled with no perversion from 256 x 256 to 32 x 32. With more compact sizes, program's alterations of resolution makes the image of bad quality, so another 16 x 16 image is needed. Programs of resolution changes however are not flawless and its recommended to put 48x48 size into your icons to have less distortion.

If you want the icon to be fully compatible with not only Windows Vienna but former Windows versions as well, you will have to create the icon including corresponding images (each - with three types of colour depth).

Completely compatible (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), because this resolution is not necessary. Moreover, the icon containing this size, is difficult to be compliant with Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
If you need icons for your toolbar, their resolution is the same 24 x 24 and 16 x 16 px.

Colour options of Vienna icons.

Windows Vienna support 32-bits icons where 24 bits are dedicatedto image and 8 bits by transparency channel.
This allows icons to have semitransparent elements and smooth edges, regardless the background they are at.

Typical Windows Vienna graphics consist of three types of color options 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 good all the time, in case 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 screen (this may happen in Windows XP and older) but 4-bit depth is not included in the pictogram, the colour pallet will be automatically reduced down to 16 colours, here you can see 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 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 combination.

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

Some objects look nicer when pictured non- rotated (like they are down on a table and you look on them)
  • Files icons
  • Flat objects
  • 16 x 16 size icons
Icons for rotated and non -rotated objects

Flat or rotated placement of a second image in the icon is determined on what both the image and the graphic mean. Its difficult to give more concrete recommendation in this situation, you just have to be guided by the trial and study the way the icon is comprehended, also when it is in a combination of icons.

Overlaying of objects - front and angled

Falling shadow in Vienna icons.

Drop shadow in Vienna icons is used to improve recognition and to potentiate 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 usually have a border. Its not so vividly visible as in XP-style and is not always 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 style.

Various kinds of outline

Review of Vienna-icon architecture
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 compression
Use of PNG compression is a key moment as it brings 256x256 image non-compatible with Windows XP and previous versions (only smaller size pictures will be displayed).
PNG-compression is used in icons for size 256x256 px only. The algorithm does not affect the quality and file is reduced in almost 4 times while transparency channel is included and image is perfectly scale.

Compliance 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 uncompressed. You can always add or discharge the compression, this will not change the quality. Size of the icon with uncompressed images containing all standard formats will be about 400 Kb.

Why Vienna icons are recommended?

Quality Vienna type icons have the following benefits:
  • visual comprehension of application's interface is pleasant
  • program's abilities are more clearly presented
  • usage is more intuitive , easy search and identification of software, items and actions
  • your aoolication's GUI is advanced , engaging and individual

To get a professional appearance of an application, Microsoft recommends you to modify the look of your mostly displayed icons, with aero style. It is also recommended to make a new design of all icons reflected in Start menu and Explorer (including icons showing type of a file). It is recommended not to use any icons in Windows 9x and earlier version style, in applications running under Windows Vienna.

Making of individual Vienna-icons.

Picture your program with the most intuitive GUI, in Vienna style, with unique icons that completely present program's features and tools thanks to appropriate metaphors, they make you to work with the software just because it's a joy to see it. Graphics created in a style that will definitely be a new world standard.
You could ask: "Where do I purchase these flawless icons, at a reasonable price and not just similar 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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