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The most common faults in icon design?

#1 Poor differentiation between images
Sometimes within a single pack of icons, we see icons that look similar to one another and it is really difficult to tell what is what. If you don“t see the legends, you can very easily be confused by those icons.

#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 icon format introduced in Windows Vista, decided to go big and drew over packed icons to justify their over packed budget.

#3 Unnecessary objects
An icon should be easy to understand. The fewer objects it has, the better. It is better if the whole image is relevant 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 pack may appear fine at a first glance, but if this application (or a separate toolbar) deals only with databases, we can (and we must) delete 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 one of the following: color scheme, perspective, resolution, artistic technique or a combination of several such properties. If the icon set is rather small, the creator can remember the rules easily. However, if the icon set is large and there is more the one designer working on them (for instance, icons for an operating system), then special guidelines should be developed. Such guidelines carefully describe how to design an icon so that it perfectly matches the set.

#5 Spare perspective and shadows in small icons
Progress does not stand still: GUIs have gained the potential to use semi-transparent objects, the number of possible colors to use became unlimited and there is now a move 3D icons. But is it really all that useful? Not always! Especially if we are talking about icons sized 16?16 or smaller.

#6 Overly original symbols
Choosing what is to be included in an icon is always a compromise between readability and uniqueness. Prior to a metaphor (image) is created for an icon it is wise to consider how it is designed in other products. Maybe the most suitable 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 helpful to consider the background in which your icon will appear. An important aspect here is ethnical characteristics. Social traditions, surroundings and gestures can differ radically from country to country.
For example, a mail box appears to be a perfect symbol for a ”Mail‘ icon. However, you can see all the different types of mailboxes in different countries. In that situation, you should either make your icon represent the mailbox that is common for the user“s country or area, or select a more general illustration like an envelope.

#8 Images of real interface parts in icons
The tutorial on creating 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! We still have lost of icons that can be read as a few separate ones.

#9 Text embedded into icons
This mistake is usually seen in application icons. Naturally the first thing that comes to mind when developing 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 strictly language-related and so impedes localization. Second, if the icon is done in a small size, The text is not readable. Thirdly, in the case of software icons, this text is repeated in the name 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 crisp; but in real life the icons are tiny, and under rasterization anti-aliasing blurs the objects“ borders.

 Standard Toolbar Icons

Standard Toolbar Icons

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Science Toolbar Icons

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