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The most common faults in icon creation?


#1 Insufficient differentiation between icons
It often happens that within one set of icons, we have icons that look similar to one another and it is really difficult to understand what is what. If you miss the signatures, you can very easily get the icons mixed up.

#2 Too many elements in one icon
The simpler and more laconic the image is, the better. It is advisable to keep the number of elements in one single icon as low as possible. But still, Microsoft“s graphic designers, inspired by the new icon format featured in Windows Vista, decided to go big and drew bloated icons to proof worthy their bloated budget.

#3 Unnecessary objects
An icon should be easy to understand. The fewer elements it has, the better. It is better if the complete picture makes sense and not only part of it. Therefore, you have to think about the context your icons will be used at.
Look at the database icons, for example. The pack may appear fine at a first glance, but if the software (or a separate toolbar) deals only with databases, we can (and should) remove the irrelevant part.

#4 Lack of unity of style in a set of icons
It is a similar style that unites several icons into a pack. The unifying property can be any of the these: similar colors, perspective, size, artistic technique or a combination of several such properties. If there are only a few icons in the set, the creator can remember the rules easily. If the icon set contains over a hundred images and there is more the one designer working on them (for example, icons for an operating system), then special instructions should be developed. Such guidelines describe in detail how to draw an icon so that it perfectly matches the set.

#5 Unnecessary details in small sized images
The progress is moving fast: GUIs have gained the power to use semi-transparent items, the number of possible colors to use became unlimited and there is currently a move 3D icons. But is it really all that useful? Not necessarily! Especially if we are talking about icons sized 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 metaphor (image) is developed for an icon it is wise to see how it is designed in other products. Maybe the most suitable solution lies not in inventing something original but rather in adopting the existing solution.

#7 Ethnical or social differences not being taken into account
It is always helpful to take into account the conditions in which your icon is going to appear. An important aspect here is ethnical differences. Social traditions, surroundings and gestures can differ dramatically from nation to nation.
For example, a mail box would seam to be a great symbol for a ”Mail‘ icon. However, you can see all the different kinds of mailboxes in different countries. In that situation, you should either create an icon to resemble the mailbox that is typical for the user“s country or state, or pick a more general illustration like a post stamp.

#8 Images of real GUI elements in icons
The tutorial on designing icons for Mac OS X warns us: ”Avoid using Aqua interface elements in your icons; they could be confused with the actual interface.‘ But no use! There still are lost of icons that can be read as a few separate ones.

#9 Text embedded into icons
This fault is commonly seen in application icons. Clearly the first thing that crosses your mind when working on an application icon is to adapt the application“s logo. What is wrong with the text embedded into the icon? First of all, it is directly language-related and so forces localization. Second, if the icon is small, The text is not readable. Third, in the case of application icons, this text is duplicated in the name of the application.

#10 Outside the pixel framework
As a rule, this problem occurs if you use a vector format for creating your icons. In large size everything looks pretty and crisp; but in real life the icons are small, and under rasterization anti-aliasing blurs the objects“ edges.


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Customize desktop icons CustomIcons is an ultimate tool for customizing the icons on you desktop, in Windows Start menu and many other locations. Using CustomIcons you can easily replace default Windows icons with the ones to your choice. Download it

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