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The most typical mistakes in icon design?

#1 Too little differentiation between images
It often happens that within one set of icons, we have icons that look similar to one another and it is really difficult to understand what is what. If you miss the signatures, you can very easily get the icons mixed up.

#2 Too many elements in one icon
The cleaner and more laconic the image is, the better. It is preferable to keep the number of objects in a single icon as low as possible. However, Microsoft“s graphic designers, excited by the new icon format introduced in Windows Vista, decided to go big and drew bloated icons to justify their bloated budget.

#3 Unnecessary elements
An icon should be easy to read. The fewer objects it has, the better. It is better if the complete image is relevant and not only part of it. Therefore, you have to understand the context of using icons.
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 we must) remove the unnecessary part.

#4 Non-unified style within a set of icons
It is a similar style that unites several icons into a pack. The unifying property can be one of the these: color scheme, perspective, size, artistic technique or a combination of several such properties. If the set only contains a few icons, the artist can remember the rules easily. 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 specific instructions are developed. Such instructions carefully describe how to draw an icon so that it perfectly matches the set.

#5 Unnecessary perspective and shadows in small icons
The progress is moving fast: GUIs have gotten the power to display semi-transparent items, lost the limitation on the number of colors and there is now a move 3D icons. But is it really all that useful? Not always! Especially if we are looking at icons sized 16?16 or smaller.

#6 Overly original symbols
Selecting what is to be shown in an icon is constantly a compromise between reconcilability and uniqueness. Prior to a metaphor (image) is created for an icon it is wise to consider how it is done in other projects. Maybe the best solution lies not in inventing something original but rather in adopting the common solution.

#7 National or social differences not being taken into account
It is always necessary to consider the conditions in which your icon is going to be used. A key aspect here is ethnical characteristics. Social customs, surroundings and gestures can vary dramatically from nation to nation.
For instance, a mail box would seam to be a perfect image for a ”Mail‘ icon. But you can find all the different kinds of mailboxes in different countries. In that case, you should either make your icon resemble the mailbox that is typical for the user“s country or area, or pick a more general symbol like an envelope.

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

#9 Text inside icons
This mistake is typically seen in software icons. Clearly the first thing that crosses your mind when working on an application icon is to use the application“s logo. What is wrong with the text embedded into the icon? Firstly, it is strictly language-related and so forces localization. Second, if the icon is small, it is impossible to read the text. Thirdly, in the case of software icons, this text is duplicated in the name 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 stylish and clear; but in reality the icons are small, and under rasterization anti-aliasing blurs the objects“ borders.

 Standard Toolbar Icons

Standard Toolbar Icons

 Science Toolbar Icons

Science Toolbar Icons

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