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The most common faults in icon creation?

#1 Too little differentiation between icons
It often happens that within one pack of icons, we see icons that look similar to one another and it is very difficult to tell what is what. If you don“t see the signatures, you can very easily get the icons mixed up.

#2 Too many elements in the icon
The cleaner and more laconic the image is, the better. It is preferable to keep the number of elements in one single icon as low as possible. However, Microsoft“s graphic designers, excited by the new format of icons featured in Windows Vista, tried to go big and drew over packed icons to proof worthy their bloated budget.

#3 Unnecessary elements
An icon is an image that should be easy to understand. The fewer objects it has, the better. It is great if the whole picture makes sense and not just a part of it. That means, you have to understand the context your icons will be used at.
Look at the database icons, for example. The set may appear fine for a novice, but if the software (or a specific toolbar) deals only with databases, we can (and we must) remove the unnecessary part.

#4 Non-unified style in a pack of icons
It is a similar style that unites several icons into a pack. The unifying property can be any of the following: color scheme, layout, size, drawing style or several of those properties combined. If there are only a few icons in the set, the designer can keep some rules in his head. If the icon set contains over a hundred images and there are several designers working on this task (for instance, icons for a new OS), then specific guidelines should be developed. Such guidelines describe in detail how to design an icon so that it fits straight into the set.

#5 Spare details in small icons
Progress does not stand still: interfaces have gotten 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 useful? Not necessarily! Especially if we are looking at icons in size 16?16 or smaller.

#6 Misusing original symbols
Choosing what is to be drawn in an icon is always a compromise between reconcilability and uniqueness. Before a symbol (image) is developed for an icon it is smart to see how it is done in other projects. Maybe the most suitable solution lies not in inventing something original but rather in adopting the existing solution.

#7 National or social differences not being taken into account
It is always necessary to take into account the conditions in which your icon is going to be used. A key aspect here is ethnical characteristics. Cultural customs, surroundings and gestures can vary dramatically from nation to nation.
For instance, a mail box would seam to be a perfect image for a ”Mail‘ icon. However, you will find all the different kinds of mailboxes in different countries. In that situation, you should either create an icon to represent the mailbox that is typical for the user“s country or area, or select a more universal symbol like an envelope.

#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! We still have lost of icons that can be viewed as two or even three separate ones.

#9 Text embedded into icons
This mistake is typically seen in application icons. Clearly the first thing that crosses your mind when developing an application icon is to use the application“s logo. What is so bad about the text inside the icon? First of all, it is strictly language-related and so forces localization. Secondly, if the icon is done in a small size, it is impossible to read the text. Third, 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 editor for drawing icons. In large size the images looks pretty and clear; but in real life the icons are small, and under rasterization anti-aliasing blurs the objects“ borders.

 Standard Toolbar Icons

Standard Toolbar Icons

 Science Toolbar Icons

Science Toolbar Icons

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