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Designing Windows Phone Icons is one of those things that would seem straightforward but instead it can be something actually quite challenging for different reasons.
Windows has a long tradition with icons since its inception and the Windows team has provided guidance for previous version of Windows. Let me provide you with a useful resource right off the bat before we start going deeper into the topic of the day. You know how I always take things deep right?  So it won’t surprise you I will now want to talk to you a little about design history and where Metro icon style comes from. We’ve mentioned before that Metro is influenced by the International Typographic Style or Swiss Style which in turn learned also from the Bauhaus school of Architecture and Design. Otto Neurath, a philosopher, sociologist and political economist defined the thinking behind something called the Isotype. The Pictographic Corporation, founded by Rudolf Modley - designer, was the American wing of the thoughts and visual communication language that Neurath and Arntz started in Europe. I found this concept of contrast has been applied in a couple different manifestations: Infographics and Illustrations. In 1974 the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) realized that just within the U.S, there were many different isotype collections being used.
This team of designers performed an extensive research and catalogued a huge number of symbols (icon libraries) used by different cities in the U.S. But really, when designing Metro icons we are not thinking too different from those Egyptians or from our friends Otto, Gerd or Rudolf and even from Master Vignelli. That’s the same question we have to ask ourselves every time we design an icon for a Metro app (same applies to Windows and Windows Phone of course).
The goal behind these design style is to illustrate a concept in the most abstract and universal way possible. Designing icons for your app is part of defining the identity of your app itself, your brand, your value proposition and even business model. Our popular friend Kirupa, Flash community God and Expression Blend Program Manager also has a good tutorial on creating Windows Phone icons with Adobe Fireworks. The circle displayed on each button is drawn by the Application Bar and should not be included in the source image. Icon images should use a white foreground on a transparent background using an alpha channel.
One thing to keep in mind here is that these guidelines kind of mix tips for icons and for icon buttons - they are not the same thing but useful anyways. The same design principles reviewed in the previous section apply here except you are not restricted by a 26 x 26 pixel size because since you are stepping outside of the app bar well, size doesn’t matter. One of the things to consider when using icons in your app either as notifications or as part of interactive objects is to make sure you are adapting to the user theme (light or dark) if you app is designed to respect this user choice. Here are a bunch of examples with annotations to highlight the type of icons we are using within these apps. App bar icons are required in PNG format (with transparency) so they are bitmaps, not vectors. Because of this the tools you will need for creating Windows Phone icons need to produce bitmap graphics which basically any graphic design tool will do.
Windows Phone SDK - The SDK includes a number of icons produced by the Windows Phone Design Studio. Question for you: During the Windows Phone Design Day tour I heard at least a couple different comments from people saying that X or Y icon meant something different in China, India or Norway… do you guys have examples of these type of icons that you know have a different meaning (perhaps a bad one) in other countries? Icons using fingers such as an OK sign or V-sign may mean different things to different cultures. This is a good paper with more details on localizing images, considering cultural aspects and visual metaphors. I myself made an application when I changed the foreground and background color of the app bar. So technically there is no obstacle preventing us from setting the color of the appbar accordingly to the accent color. Designers of mobile interfaces are becoming more prominent in today’s faced-paced web space. Today I’d like to show you some mockups, sketches, buttons, tables, splash screens, and many more examples of iPhone app (UI) designs for your inspiration. CUT-OUT-TOOL - Mix it up and add parts of one photo to another, change the background or make a funny celebrity MEME! Compared to other aspects of Windows Phone, designing icons is definitely more of an art than a set of rules or guidelines. Windows 7 icon design basically shows the highest point in skeuomorphism (using physical world metaphors with realism to illustrate abstract concepts) for Microsoft. A designer in the Studio provided me with a cheat sheet that includes different tips for designing Metro icons. I think this will give you some context and will eventually enable you as a developer to look for the right designers to partner with.

His goal was to share political, economic and social data to people even when these were not experts on these disciplines or couldn’t even read.
A masterful use of this tool allowed designers to produce and convey complex graphics in a single color.
It is interesting to find similarities with Helvetica Man and with what we all know as Stick Figure which is kind of the simplest way to represent a person. Abstraction… how can I represent this concept with the minimum set of visual elements possible and in a way that as many people from anywhere around the world can understand? You will immediately recognize the same design style behind these compared to the work of the designers described above.
The key takeaway here is there is no take away J You can’t do anything with status bar icons. From a purist point of view, those icons we see in the Windows Phone app bar are actually buttons. This is a must follow designer - Austin shows us how to create an icon following the right dimensions (approximately 26 x 26 pixels for the icon which will be hosted in a 48 x 48 pixels circular button) and the right color (white). Not only he provided an amazing tutorial but he has created a library of 300+ icons for you to use in your projects! The foreground graphic for the button should fit in a 26 x 26 area in the center of the image so that it does not overlap the circle. Windows Phone automatically colors the icon according to the theme selection (light or dark), and colored icons can cause this effect to display unpredictably.
All Windows Phones have a dedicated hardware Back button that should be used for backward navigation.
If the language of the device is English, labels appear on only one line, and are truncated if necessary.
When the phone is in landscape orientation, the Application Bar appears on the side of the screen vertically. Here the icons can sit to the sides, top or below an interactive element like a button or a listbox item. Remember there are basically two types of In App Icons: Notifications and Interactive Objects. I noticed a consistent issue when centering the icon in the circle (through remember the circle shouldn’t be there). Use these J There is one icon for a CD that when previewed showed like it was using two colors - black and gray but no, it was just black and semitransparent black.
While mobile-optimized sites may lighten the burden on a site developer, some prefer building a full featured app instead. UI design focuses on user experience and interaction, and while being easy-to-use is important, an attractive yet still practical design is essential to the success of an app. Use piZap to make hilarious MEME's, design custom emoji, and slice and dice photos with the Cut-Out Tool. Our goal is to provide a fun and easy tool that helps people be creative and express themselves.
It was a quick visit but super fun event with tons of people who participate in different segments of the Mobile industry. This is the designer that has drafted most of the icons in the Phone or has helped other designers in the Studio do it as well. With the continued globalization of the world in the early 20th century, many people realized that more common visual languages were needed to communicate with people of all sorts of different cultures and backgrounds. No use of regional or extremely local aspects, textures or symbols but instead looking into represent concepts by observing a global understanding. This would not only strengthen the idea of minimalism and clean design but it would also make printing cheaper. Most of them would address the same concepts, for example, 21 different icons were found for Coffee Shop being used across different cities in the U.S. Taxi cabs are different all over the world - in some places they are yellow and black, others are red and white, others are black.
Theory says the icons should be self-explanatory but a label, which in this case acts like a website tooltip can be useful too. Note that we call it approximately 26 x 26 pixels because depending on the proportion of your icon, more vertical like a clip or more horizontal like say, a ruler, you might actually go a bit (2 or 3 pixels) bigger than the 26 either horizontally or vertically. Check out Facebook for example which uses the icons people have grown to know well in their website next to their main Panorama menu. I received a question in Twitter about whether it was a good or bad idea to represent the user accent color in the icon buttons in the app bar. Here is a list of some of these libraries and I’m placing a little note on what I think about these. While they present the icons in a circle they do so to show them in context of being used in an app bar.
An oft cited example is the representation of the house referring to a home page, or a letterbox to mail.

I learned a lot about the staggering growth expected for everything related to mobile, phones, tablets, devices. Neurath’s theories were put in practice when he partnered with Gerd Arntz, a designer. You do not need to create a black version of the icons for the Dark Theme because the system will automatically invert the colors. From a Metro point of view there’ s nothing wrong with changing the color of the icons to something other than white or black (look at Twitter for example). The goal is to create your icons in vectors so you can easily scale them without losing quality. J So here are some tips for you to consider when choosing icons for apps that will be used in multiple countries and cultures. If an app users can get in the Marketplace has the character of a hub (broad in scope, not many levels deep but the panorama is the star of the show) I can see how you could use tiles. Because of the trip I didn’t have enough time to write the next article called 6 - Translating Information Architecture into a Windows Phone App Flow. Arntz helped visualize Neurath’s ideas and craft an Isotype Collection that is now regarded as the early origins of all international communication, urban signage and transportation graphic iconography. For example an email will display a clip icon indicating this item has an attachment but the icon itself is not tappable (clickable?) - the email item is. You provide icons in white with transparency (PNG) and then you can specify the foreground color of the App Bar - this foreground color will be applied to your icons magically! But the gratuitous use of tiles in apps just as a visual decoration is the thing that doesn’t work IMO.
So instead of failing at my commitment to post every week I decided to produce the 15 - Designing Windows Phone Icons post. Creating icons is such a specialty that there are companies and designers who are devoted 100% to designing icons like the popular Icon Factory.
By abstracting those details and leaving only the essence of what a taxi cab is, we are able to communicate more globally. You could bind this foreground color to the Phone accent color or even pick a custom color based on your branding (i.e.
Creating your icons with vectors is like preserving the source code of an app - you can always go back and make any changes you want.
You can always check icons against the AIGA collection which is the style we follow in Metro. With people from different cultures and languages, governments had the need to create universal visual languages to enable visitors to major cities like Paris, New York, London, Tokyo, Mexico, Munich.
Throughout these years many designers addressed and produced symbols (icons) to address this need.
By reducing details and visual weight from the iconography in the phone we release our user’s eyes to focus more on the content - not the icons.
The only thing we can do with the status bar as a whole is hide it while in our app (or show it).
Icons are usually used floating nicely without any borders or containers unless they exist within buttons. Remember the icon is just an icon - a lot of people think Metro icons always need a circle but no, that is never the case. Icons, along with typography, motion, and other UI controls form a sort of thing veil letting the content stand out.
The status bar is 32 pixels high so a good tip is not to place any critical UI elements of your app up there so that if the user taps the upper portion of the screen to reveal the status bar, your UI gets obscured.
Learning more about the app bar in general can help you understand better the context in which buttons exist. I can see how you could create some nice apps using big tappable icons without a container. Like we’ve said before, this icon style is simply a different style from what we see in iPhone or even Windows XP or Windows 7.
32 pixels is not a lot so you will usually not have this problem with UI controls but sometimes you want to take precaution depending on how you are incorporating branding or header-like elements up there. Finally the other issue I see is these icons are provided as PNGs which means you will have to edit them to remove the circle and change them to white. All this said, showing the icons within a circle does help providing context on how the icons will look.

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