When designing new icons, consider grabbing pen and paper and sketching your ideas out.
Here's an example of an initial sketch for the Windows XP My Pictures icon:
Figure 11. Sketch of My Pictures icon
Considerations when designing icons:
Use established concepts where possible to ensure consistency of meanings
for the user.
Consider how the icon will appear in the context of your user interface and how it might work as
part of a set of icons.
Consider the cultural impact of your graphics. Avoid using letters, words, hands, or faces in icons.
When you must represent people or users, depict them as generically as possible.
If combining multiple objects into one image in an icon, consider how the image will scale to
smaller sizes. Consider using no more than three objects in an icon. For the 16 × 16 size, you can also
consider removing objects or simplifying the image to improve recognition.
Note: Use the following guidelines on the use of the Windows flag in icons:
To support trademark and Windows branding guidelines, do not use the Windows flag in icons, with
the exception of the Windows Update icon.
The Windows flag should only be used in icons that ship as part of the Microsoft® Windows®
The Microsoft branding team should review any usage of the Windows flag in an icon.