Microsoft

The icon evolution in Windows 10

Greg Shultz takes a look at the new icons in Build 10130 of Windows 10.

Windows 10

As you may remember, a few versions back in the Windows Insider Preview program (Build 9926 to be exact), Microsoft began phasing in a new set of icons that were less colorful and lacking the dimensionality of the icons found in previous versions of the Windows operating system. In a previous article, "Windows 10's new icons: Experimental or the future of icons?," I bemoaned the change and called on Microsoft's UI developers to return to their senses when it came to icons. Apparently, so did a lot of other Windows Insiders.

When Microsoft released Build 10130 of the Windows 10 Insider Preview on May 29, the icons took a step away from the new flat looking design and back towards the previous vivid design. They didn't go all the way back, though. More like half way. Essentially, Microsoft made a design compromise, if you will.

In the post on the Blogging Windows site announcing Build 10130, Gabe Aul, who leads the Data & Fundamentals Team within the Operating Systems Group, discussed the icon design changes:

"We've updated our icon design to reflect our Microsoft design language, creating a more consistent and cohesive look and feel across all our product experiences. These icons are more modern and lightweight, while creating a better visual relationship between typography and iconography. On top of that, app icons are now more consistent between desktop and mobile so apps like Word and Excel look similar no matter what device you're using.

"Feedback played a huge role in the current icon design refresh. In earlier preview builds, we heard our design was too flat and lacked richness. We've since iterated to deliver a balance between mono line style icons on mobile, and the three dimensional depth of desktop icons. The new icon set is familiar, yet fresh and usable."

I'm really happy that the icons in Build 10130 are now more like the icons that we had in previous versions of Windows. However, I must point out that I'm equally excited to see the words "Feedback played a huge role" in his post. Of course, this isn't the first time that he's mentioned the importance of feedback in determining Windows 10 features, but this one just seemed more prominent.

Aul continued his discussion with more detail concerning the icon design:

"Between the legacy aero-style icons and new app icons, several thousand icons were designed and redesigned. We explored Swiss graphic design, Dutch product design, and modern architecture (among other design fields and styles) to inform and inspire the design process. The icon evolution will continue as we push more consistency and better functionality."

He ends this discussion concerning icons by saying that there may be more changes in Windows 10 icons as we move closer to the release of Windows 10.

He also included a graphic (Figure A) that shows Windows 8.1 icons in the top row, the flat Windows 10 icons from the previous build in the middle row, and the new icons in Build 10130.

Figure A

Figure A

Build 10130's icons take a step away from the flat look.

If you want to see all the icons that Microsoft used in the various Windows 10 builds, check out the Windows 10 Icon Database site.

What's your take?

Were you repulsed by the icons in build 9926? What do you think of the icons in Windows 10 build 10130? Let us know in the discussion thread below.

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About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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