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The most common errors in icon design?

#1 Too little differentiation between icons
Sometimes within a single set of icons, we see icons that look similar to one another and it is really difficult to tell 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 icon is, the better. It is advisable to set the number of objects in a single icon as low as possible. However, Microsoft“s graphic designers, inspired by the new format of icons featured in Windows Vista, decided to go big and drew bloated icons to justify their over packed budget.

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

#4 Lack of unity of style in a pack of icons
It is a unity of style that unites several icons into a set. The uniting property can be any of the following: color scheme, layout, resolution, artistic technique 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 this task (for instance, icons for a new OS), then specific instructions are created. Such guidelines describe in detail how to draw an icon so that it perfectly matches the set.

#5 Spare perspective and shadows in small sized images
The progress is moving fast: GUIs have gotten the potential to use semi-transparent objects, lost the limitation on the number of colors and there is currently a trend towards 3D icons. But is it really all that useful? 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 readability and uniqueness. Before a metaphor (image) is developed for an icon it is advisable to see how it is designed in other products. Maybe the best solution lies not in coming up with something original but rather in adopting the common solution.

#7 Ethnical or cultural characteristics not being considered
It is always necessary to consider the conditions in which your icon is going to be used. An important aspect here is ethnical differences. Social customs, surroundings and gestures can differ dramatically from country to country.
For instance, a mail box appears to be a perfect symbol for a ”Mail‘ icon. However, you will see all the different types of mailboxes around the world. In that situation, you should either make your icon resemble the mailbox that is typical for the user“s country or area, or pick a more general illustration like a post stamp.

#8 Images of real interface parts in icons
The manual 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 viewed as a few separate ones.

#9 Text inside icons
This mistake is commonly seen in software 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 with the text inside the icon? Firstly, it is directly language-related and so forces localization. Secondly, if the icon is done in a small size, The text is not readable. Third, in the case of software icons, this text is duplicated in the caption of the software.

#10 Outside the pixel framework
As a rule, this problem occurs if you use a vector editor for creating your icons. In large size everything looks stylish and crisp; but in real life 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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