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The most typical mistakes in icon creation?

#1 Too little differentiation between images
Sometimes within one pack of icons, we have icons that look similar and it is really hard to tell which one is which. If you miss the signatures, you can very easily be confused by those icons.

#2 Unnecessary elements in the icon
The simpler and more laconic the image is, the better. It is advisable to keep the number of objects in a single icon to a minimum. But still, Microsoft“s designers, excited by the new format of icons introduced in Windows Vista, decided to go big and drew over packed icons to proof worthy their over packed budget.

#3 Unnecessary objects
An icon should be easy to read. The fewer objects it has, the better. It is great if the complete picture makes sense and not only part of it. That means, you have to think about 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 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 pack of icons
It is a similar style that turns several icons into a pack. The unifying property can be any of the these: color scheme, layout, size, artistic technique or a combination of several such properties. If the icon set is rather small, the designer 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 a new OS), then special guidelines are created. Such guidelines describe in detail how to design an icon so that it perfectly fits into the set.

#5 Unnecessary details in small icons
Progress does not stand still: GUIs have gotten the potential to use semi-transparent objects, the number of possible colors to use became unlimited and there is now a trend towards 3D icons. But is it really all that helpful? Not always! Especially if we are looking at icons in size 16?16 or smaller.

#6 Overly original metaphors
Selecting what is to be displayed in an icon is constantly a compromise between readability and originality. Prior to a metaphor (image) is created for an icon it is wise to consider how it is designed in other projects. Maybe the most suitable solution is not in inventing something unique but rather in adopting the existing solution.

#7 Ethnical or cultural characteristics not being taken into account
It is always necessary to take into account the background in which your icon will be used. A key aspect here is national differences. Social customs, surroundings and gestures can differ dramatically from nation to nation.
For instance, a mail box appears to be a perfect image for a ”Mail‘ icon. But you will see all the different types of mailboxes in different countries. In that case, you should either make your icon represent the mailbox that is typical for the user“s country or area, or pick a more universal symbol like a post stamp.

#8 Images of real GUI parts 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! We still have lost of icons that can be read as two or even three separate ones.

#9 Text inside icons
This mistake is usually seen in software icons. Clearly the first thing that comes to mind when working on an application icon is to adapt the application“s logo. What is so bad with the text embedded into the icon? Firstly, it is directly language-related and so impedes localization. Second, if the icon is small, The text is not readable. Third, 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 editor for drawing icons. In large size the images looks stylish and crisp; but in reality 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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