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The most typical mistakes in icon design?

#1 Insufficient differentiation between images
It often happens that within one pack of icons, we have icons that look similar and it is very difficult to tell what is what. If you miss the legends, you can very easily get the icons mixed up.

#2 Too many elements in one icon
The cleaner and more laconic the icon is, the better. It is advisable to set the number of objects in one single icon as low as possible. Nevertheless, Microsoft“s designers, inspired by the new icon format introduced in Windows Vista, tried to go big and created bloated icons to proof worthy their over packed budget.

#3 Unnecessary objects
An icon should be easy to read. The fewer objects it holds, the better. It is better if the complete 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 instance. The pack may look fine at a first glance, but if the software (or a specific toolbar) deals only with databases, we can (and we must) delete the irrelevant part.

#4 Non-unified style within 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 these: color scheme, layout, size, drawing style or a combination of several such properties. If the set only contains a few icons, the creator can keep some rules in his head. However, if the icon set is large and there is more the one designer working on this task (for example, icons for a new OS), then specific guidelines are created. Such guidelines 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 gained the potential to use semi-transparent objects, the number of possible colors to use became unlimited and there is currently a trend towards 3D icons. But is it actually all that useful? Not necessarily! Especially if we are talking about icons sized 16?16 or smaller.

#6 Overly original metaphors
Choosing what is to be included in an icon is constantly a compromise between reconcilability and originality. Prior to a metaphor (image) is developed for an icon it is smart to consider how it is done in other products. Maybe the best solution is not in inventing something original but rather in adopting the existing solution.

#7 National or cultural characteristics not being considered
It is always helpful to consider the conditions in which your icon will appear. A key aspect here is national characteristics. Social customs, surroundings and gestures can vary radically from nation to nation.
For example, a mail box appears to be a great symbol for a ”Mail‘ icon. But you will see all the different types of mailboxes in different countries. In that situation, you should either make your icon resemble the mailbox that is typical for the user“s country or state, or pick a more universal illustration like a post stamp.

#8 Images of real GUI 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 all in vain! 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 application icons. Naturally the first thing that crosses your mind when working on an application icon is to use the application“s logo. What is wrong about the text embedded into the icon? First of all, it is strictly language-related and so forces localization. Secondly, if the icon is done in a small size, The text is not readable. Thirdly, in the case of software icons, this text is duplicated in the caption of the application.

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