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The most common faults in icon creation?

#1 Poor differentiation between icons
It often happens that within one set of icons, we have icons that look alike and it is very difficult to understand which one is which. If you don“t see the signatures, you can very easily be confused by those icons.

#2 Too many elements in the icon
The simpler and more laconic the image is, the better. It is advisable to set the number of objects in one icon to a minimum. Nevertheless, Microsoft“s designers, excited by the new format of icons introduced in Windows Vista, tried to go big and drew over packed icons to justify their over packed budget.

#3 Unnecessary objects
An icon should be easy to read. The fewer elements it holds, the better. It is great if the complete picture is relevant and not only part of it. Therefore, you have to understand the context of using icons.
Take the database icons, for instance. The pack may look fine for a novice, but if this application (or a specific toolbar) deals only with databases, we can (and we must) delete the unnecessary part.

#4 Non-unified 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: similar colors, layout, size, artistic technique or a combination of several such properties. If the set only contains a few icons, the creator can remember the rules easily. If there are many icons in the set and there are several designers working on them (for example, icons for an operating system), then special guidelines are created. Such guidelines describe in detail how to draw an icon so that it perfectly matches the set.

#5 Unnecessary details in small sized images
Progress does not stand still: GUIs 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 really all that helpful? Not always! Especially if we are talking about icons in size 16?16 or smaller.

#6 Overly original metaphors
Selecting what is to be drawn in an icon is constantly a compromise between reconcilability and uniqueness. Prior to a symbol (image) is created for an icon it is smart to see how it is designed in other projects. Maybe the most suitable solution is not in coming up with something unique but rather in adopting the common solution.

#7 Ethnical or cultural characteristics not being taken into account
It is always necessary to take into account the conditions in which your icon will be used. An important aspect here is ethnical differences. Social customs, surroundings and gestures can vary radically from nation to nation.
For instance, a mail box appears to be a great symbol for a ”Mail‘ icon. However, you will see all the different types of mailboxes in different countries. In that situation, you should either make your icon copy the mailbox that is common for the user“s country or area, or chouse a more universal symbol like an envelope.

#8 Pictures of real interface elements in icons
The manual on creating 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 couple of separate ones.

#9 Text embedded into icons
This fault is typically seen in software icons. Clearly the first thing that comes to mind when developing an application icon is to adapt 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 small, The text is not readable. Also, 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 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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