This design guide was created for Windows 7 and has not been updated for newer versions of Windows. Much of the guidance still applies in principle, but the presentation and examples do not reflect our current design guidance.

Visuals include the visual elements other than the controls. These guidelines help you make decisions about layout, fonts, color, icons, and so on in your app.

In this section

Topic Description
Layout is the sizing, spacing, and placement of content within a window or page. Effective layout is crucial in helping users find what they are looking for quickly, as well as making the appearance visually appealing. Effective layout can make the difference between designs that users immediately understand and those that leave users feeling puzzled and overwhelmed.
Users interact with text more than with any other element in Microsoft Windows. Segoe UI (pronounced "SEE-go") is the Windows system font. The standard font size has been increased to 9 point.
Color is an important visual element of most user interfaces. Beyond pure aesthetics, color has associated meanings and elicits emotional responses. To prevent confusion in meaning, color must be used consistently. To obtain the desired emotional responses, color must be used appropriately.
Icons are pictorial representations of objects, important not only for aesthetic reasons as part of the visual identity of a program, but also for utilitarian reasons as shorthand for conveying meaning that users perceive almost instantaneously. Windows Vista introduces a new style of iconography that brings a higher level of detail and sophistication to Windows.
Standard Icons
Standard icons are the error, warning, information, and question mark icons that are part of Windows.
Animations and Transitions
Strategic use of animations and transitions can make your program easier to understand, feel smoother, more natural, and of higher quality, and be more engaging. But the gratuitous use of animations and transitions can make your program distracting and even annoying.
Graphic Elements
Graphic elements show relationships, hierarchy, and emphasis visually. They include backgrounds, banners, glass, aggregators, separators, shadows, and handles.
Sound is the audio element of the user experience. When used appropriately, sound can be an effective form of communication that establishes a non-verbal and even emotional relationship with your users. Sounds can be used alone or as a supplement to visual UI. For example, adding a sound effect to a notification increases the likelihood that it will be noticed, especially if the user isn't looking at the screen when an event occurs.