Toolbar icons: think, then draw

October 16, 2007

What I always loved is when software developers used random icons in order to fill toolbar icons’ space.The latest and one of the obvious samples of such behavior is TranslateIt!: OS X dictionary tool.Here’s a fragment of their GUI in Russian:

Try to guess mnemonics of their buttons (L2R):

  • Left/right – that’s obvious
  • Purse? Books? Journal? Nope… Dictionaries.
  • Morse code? Justify? Huh. Just notes.
  • System busy? Wait? Time left? History… how cute!
  • I know this! it’s RSS! No? WTF? It’s just “say”…

Now, when we live in the world of Google, Iconfinder, Flickr and dozens of icon and image finding services we still have to deal with developers being unable to spend 2 minutes (sic!) per icon just to find a good metaphor.

I’m voting by my own dictionary purse by not buying semi-usable applications and recommend you doing the same.

P.S.: nope, that’s not the only programs’ UI fault, but beating the falling one isn’t fair, right? 🙂


Icon search engine

August 10, 2007

One more offspring of Web 2.0 era: Iconfinder icon search engine.

It lets developers and designers find free icons with certain metaphors. Pretty useful stuff if you don’t mind an idiotic logo. I’m not sure how legally clear the icons it founds are (although many are claimed to be released under GPL or CC), but for me it’s an interesting metaphor evaluation tool.

Vista icons: could they be better?

July 18, 2007

No vector icons. OK, bitmaps are usually large enough. But are they worth looking?

Iconfactory, the creators of original XP icon theme has made a lot in order to give Vista a brand new look. However, what we actually see is far not as good:


Just compare the same computer’s icon from Iconfactory portfolio with the one from an actual Vista.

The reason, I suppose, is simple: unwilling to pay for a complete icon suite from Iconfactory Microsoft has just taken a sample set and made the rest by its own designers (obviously far not that skilled). As a result, we see lots of elegant and nice looking icons (like Recycle bin) aside with ugly, blocky and aliased ones you’ll unlikely wish to enlarge.

OS X makeup

May 18, 2007

In fact I have a very low interest in system customization nowadays. Probably because I’m tired of this kind of stuff (years of creating skins and icons and work in Gladiators Software could not come unnoticed) or just because desktop customization in Windows is an endless source of troubles: from system slowdown to incompatibility problems or constant crashes.

Well, I often configure the system I’m working on to some extend, but this configuration is usually limited to wallpaper and some other minor changes. What I was really surprised with when working on OS X is how easy it is to change icons of files, folders or even applications. In most cases you only needed to copy-paste the icon you like in file properties window…

The thing that really annoyed me many times was the look of brushed metal windows. They contrasted a lot with Aqua style looking so much “old-school”. Besides, certain developers seem to overuse brushed metal windows in their apps which started looking freaky.

So, after some accommodation period I just tuned-up the system to make it look (and behave) more the way I prefer. What’s even more interesting, all these customizations could be done by only using free software and stuff.
Fullscreen shot

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Microsoft Vista icon design tutorial published

March 22, 2007

Microsoft has just published a draft version of their new Vista icon design tutorial. Definitely a must-know for everyone involved in the process of software design.

Even now the tutorial is quite comprehensive (especially compared to Apple’s guide with a little of useful info), but some graphics is blocky (nearest neighbor resampling, oh no…) plus some there’re certain problems with text parts on images. An excellent document nevertheless!

As you may also notice, Vista icons try to balance between a photorealistic Aqua style and “dummy”-like XP. I don’t personally like the whole their icon set, but some icons are interesting.

P.S.: does anyone know, who worked on Vista icons this time? Before there used to be IconFactory, who has made a classic XP style.

Resample not resize

January 12, 2007

It’s a shame, that even today people still use nearest neighbor resizing in GUI designs, especially in places then it’s not suitable. Taking into account that Lanczos resampling usually offers far better result at no cost (for static images) and even linear filtering outperforms nearest neighbor easily.

Just to make you see what you might be missing I share a couple of images, resampled (downsampled) with different algorithms:


Original PNG image (once again from Tango) and two smaller versions: Lanczos and Nearest neighbor resized:


Now let’s see some OS X wallpapers:


The difference is pretty obvious: “nn” spoils images by making them blocky, distorted and ugly which is arguably an advantage.

So, the tag is simple: unless you know for sure what you’re doing, do not use  nearest neighbor resizing as it’s a fast way to spoil image. Also prevent usage of this mode by programmers (in many cases they use it without a real need) creating applications by your sketches.

Coming back to the title: resample, not resize; resample not, resize and not the opposite 😉

Bookmarks: icon design

December 26, 2006

Even in case you’re not a professional icon designer having a sence of beauty and knowing some background of icon design would doubtly be useless. Therefore here’re a few links youmay find useful:

And, finally, my own small article on vector vs bitmap icons.

Enough for today. Have a good reading!