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The most typical errors in icon creation?

#1 Insufficient differentiation between icons
It often happens that within a single set of icons, we see icons that look similar and it is very hard to tell which one is which. If you don“t see the legends, you can very easily be confused by those icons.

#2 Unnecessary elements in the icon
The cleaner and more laconic the icon is, the better. It is advisable to set the number of objects in a single icon to a minimum. However, 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 bloated budget.

#3 Unnecessary objects
An icon is an image that should be easy to read. The fewer elements it has, the better. It is great if the complete image is relevant and not just a part of it. That means, you have to pay attention to 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 separate toolbar) deals only with databases, we can (and should) delete the unnecessary part.

#4 Non-unified style within a set of icons
It is a unity of style that unites several icons into a set. The unifying property can be any of the following: similar colors, layout, resolution, artistic style or a combination of several such properties. If the set only contains a few icons, the artist 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 instructions are created. Such guidelines carefully describe how to design an icon so that it fits straight into the set.

#5 Spare perspective and shadows in small sized images
Progress does not stand still: interfaces have gained the power to display semi-transparent items, the number of possible colors to use became unlimited and there is currently 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 Misusing original metaphors
Selecting what is to be included in an icon is always a compromise between readability and uniqueness. Prior to a metaphor (image) is created for an icon it is wise to see how it is done in other projects. Maybe the best solution is not in coming up with something unique but rather in adopting the existing solution.

#7 National or cultural differences not being considered
It is always necessary to consider the conditions in which your icon is going to appear. A key aspect here is ethnical characteristics. Social traditions, surroundings and gestures can vary dramatically from country to country.
For instance, a mail box would seam to be a perfect image for a ”Mail‘ icon. But you can find all the different types of mailboxes around the world. In that situation, you should either create an icon to resemble the mailbox that is typical for the user“s country or area, or chouse a more universal illustration like a post stamp.

#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 all in vain! We still have lost of icons that can be read as two or even three separate ones.

#9 Text embedded into icons
This mistake is typically seen in software icons. Naturally the first thing that comes to mind when developing an application icon is to adapt 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
This problem usually occurs if you use a vector editor for drawing icons. In large size the images looks pretty and clean; but in reality 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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