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The most common mistakes in icon creation?


#1 Insufficient differentiation between images
Sometimes within one pack of icons, we see icons that look alike and it is really hard to tell what is what. If you miss the legends, you can very easily get the icons mixed up.

#2 Too many elements in the icon
The cleaner and more laconic the icon is, the better. It is preferable to set the number of elements in a single icon as low as possible. But still, Microsoft“s designers, excited by the new icon format featured in Windows Vista, decided to go big and drew over packed icons to proof worthy their over packed budget.

#3 Unnecessary objects
An icon is an image that should be easy to understand. The fewer elements it holds, the better. It is great if the complete image makes sense and not only part of it. That means, you have to understand the context your icons will be used at.
Look at the database icons, for instance. The set may look fine for a novice, but if this application (or a specific toolbar) deals only with databases, we can (and should) delete the unnecessary part.

#4 Lack of unity of style in a set of icons
It is a similar style that turns several icons into a set. The uniting property can be any of the these: color scheme, layout, size, drawing style or several of those properties combined. If the set only contains a few icons, the artist can remember the rules easily. If there are many icons in the set and there is more the one designer working on them (for instance, icons for a new OS), then special instructions should be created. Such instructions describe in detail how to design an icon so that it fits straight into the set.

#5 Spare perspective and shadows in small sized images
The progress is moving fast: GUIs have gained the potential to display semi-transparent objects, lost the limitation on the number of colors and there is now a trend towards 3D icons. But is it actually all that helpful? Not always! Especially if we are talking about icons in size 16?16 or smaller.

#6 Misusing original symbols
Choosing what is to be included in an icon is constantly a compromise between reconcilability and uniqueness. Before a symbol (image) is developed for an icon it is smart to consider how it is designed in other products. Maybe the most suitable solution lies not in coming up with something unique but rather in adopting the existing solution.

#7 Ethnical or social characteristics not being considered
It is always helpful to consider the background in which your icon will be used. A key aspect here is national differences. Social customs, surroundings and gestures can differ radically from nation to nation.
For instance, a mail box would seam to be a great image for a ”Mail‘ icon. However, you will see all the different types of mailboxes around the world. In that situation, you should either create an icon to copy the mailbox that is typical for the user“s country or area, or chouse a more universal symbol like an envelope.

#8 Images of real GUI parts in icons
The manual on designing icons for Mac OS X tells us: ”Avoid using Aqua interface elements in your icons; they could be confused with the actual interface. But all in vain! There still are lost of icons that can be viewed as two or even three separate ones.

#9 Text inside icons
This fault is usually seen in software icons. Naturally the first thing that comes to mind when working on an application icon is to use the application“s logo. What is wrong with the text inside the icon? First of all, it is directly language-related and so impedes localization. Second, if the icon is small, it is impossible to read the text. Also, in the case of software icons, this text is repeated in the caption of the software.

#10 Outside the pixel framework
This problem usually occurs if you use a vector format for creating your icons. In large size everything looks stylish and clean; but in reality the icons are tiny, and under rasterization anti-aliasing blurs the objects“ edges.



 Standard Toolbar Icons

Standard Toolbar Icons

 Science Toolbar Icons

Science Toolbar Icons


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