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The most common mistakes in icon design?

#1 Too little differentiation between icons
It often happens that within one set of icons, we see icons that look similar to one another and it is really hard to understand what is what. If you don“t see the legends, you can very easily be confused by those icons.

#2 Unnecessary elements in one icon
The simpler and more laconic the icon is, the better. It is preferable to keep the number of elements in one single icon to a minimum. But still, Microsoft“s graphic designers, inspired by the new icon format featured in Windows Vista, decided to go big and drew over packed icons to justify their over packed budget.

#3 Unnecessary elements
An icon should be easy to understand. The fewer objects it holds, the better. It is great if the whole image makes sense and not only part of it. That means, you have to think about the context your icons will be used at.
Take the database icons, for example. The set may look fine at a first glance, but if this application (or a specific toolbar) deals only with databases, we can (and should) remove the irrelevant part.

#4 Lack of unity of style within a set of icons
It is a unity of style that turns several icons into a set. The uniting property can be any of the following: similar colors, layout, size, drawing style or a combination of several such properties. If the set only contains a few icons, the artist can keep some rules in his head. 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 created. Such instructions describe in detail how to draw an icon so that it perfectly matches the rest of the pack.

#5 Spare details in small sized images
Progress does not stand still: interfaces have gotten the potential to display semi-transparent items, the number of possible colors to use became unlimited and there is now a move 3D icons. But is it actually all that helpful? Not necessarily! Especially if we are talking about icons in size 16?16 or smaller.

#6 Overly original metaphors
Choosing what is to be shown in an icon is always a compromise between readability and originality. Prior to a symbol (image) is developed for an icon it is advisable to consider how it is designed in other products. Maybe the best 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 take into account the background in which your icon is going to be used. A key aspect here is ethnical characteristics. Social traditions, surroundings and gestures can vary radically from country to country.
For example, a mail box would seam to be a perfect symbol for a ”Mail‘ icon. But you can find all the different types of mailboxes in different countries. In that case, you should either create an icon to resemble the mailbox that is typical for the user“s country or area, or chouse a more general illustration like a post stamp.

#8 Images of real GUI elements 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 no use! There still are lost of icons that can be viewed as a couple of separate ones.

#9 Text inside icons
This fault is usually 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 strictly language-related and so forces localization. Second, if the icon is small, 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 format 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 frets the objects edges.

 Standard Toolbar Icons

Standard Toolbar Icons

 Science Toolbar Icons

Science Toolbar Icons

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