The Breakroom

WWDC and Beyond

August 16, 2006

By Webmaster


As we recover from an exciting week at WWDC, it seems like a good time to recap what happened during our time in San Francisco.

Of course, it was great to meet up with our wonderful clients. And we really enjoyed meeting new people and putting faces to our online friends. (Congratulations again to the ADA winners!)

An unexpected surprise was to hear in person how much people like the redesign and animations.
Thanks everyone!

One thing that always happens after WWDC: you begin to think about the future. This year, a lot of those thoughts have a huge impact on the icon and interface design community. Now is a good time for us to give some advice.

(As we are under NDA with Apple and other companies, we can’t offer concrete reasons for these opinions, but we assure you that they are well founded.)

For the past few years, we have been anticipating the need for larger and larger graphics in user interfaces. This need is driven by displays with higher densities—in a few years time, our current 100 dpi displays will seem as quaint as a 640×480 VGA display. Simply put, an icon with 128×128 pixels isn’t going to be big enough in this new world of high resolution displays.

One way that we have been “future-proofing” our own work is by designing on a canvas that is larger than the client’s requirements. A good rule of thumb is to work on a canvas that is somewhere between 2x and 8x of the requested size. This goes for application and document icons, toolbars and other media embedded into the application (such as about box graphics.)

A critical part of this workflow is to do the primary design work with vector graphics. Vectors can be easily rasterized to any size. Once a design is complete and rasterized, we touch up the smaller resource sizes as necessary—a 16×16 icon that is generated from high resolution vectors will need more tweaking than a 128×128 icon.

This may seem like overkill, but we are sure that there will be a day when our clients ask for larger versions of the work we’ve done for them. By having source artwork at a larger size, we will be better able to serve these clients. We’ll certainly have to tweak the art and build new files, but this is much simpler (and cost effective) than creating all-new art from scratch.

Be aware that this move to larger graphics is already beginning to occur: the current Windows Vista beta supports 256×256 pixel icons on the desktop.

We will continue to update IconBuilder to support these new sizes and OS requirements. Our current plans are to release a new version with support for Leopard and Vista by the end of this year—giving developers and designers time to adjust their apps before the release of the OS on which they run.

So plan ahead, because the future is closer than you think!