I need to choose icons for the UI of a Windows Store application, and am debating between the modern ones such as these (first result for images of "segoe mdl2 assets") and the traditional ones.

I realize that not all apps are the same and this might be dependent on different factors. I can't, however, seem to find what these factors are. So that's my question.

I hope this is not seen as an opinion based question (which, I know, are frowned upon here) since I'm not asking what would you see as the most important factors. I'm asking for different factors that would affect this decision, so I can make an informed decision with that information.

  • 2
    This is mainly about the consistency throughout the ecosystem. Modern icons which are used throughout all applications will make your app fit into the ecosystem. Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 5:49

2 Answers 2


When you are choosing icons, they should be the same style with the rest of the interface. If your interface is glossy, use glossy icons. If its flat design use flat icons. The important thing is not to mix them. For example, if your interface has 3D shapes or elements, don't use 2D icons, because they contradict the look and feel.

Also, the primary use of icons is to give visual representation of information for faster recognition. You should decide in which icon set the icons are easier to understand.

Those are the 2 most important factors: consistency and understandability of icons.

  • Consistency - of course. But I can choose between all Modern or all traditional. As for the understandability - I agree, though I'm not sure which UI type is better.
    – ispiro
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 10:49

I agree with other answers/comments that indicate that you'll want to keep with the consistency/theme of the OS, however I'm going to add some "food for thought".

The trend of "modern" flat icons is good from the standpoint of simplicity however I feel that sometimes we throw away some usability factors like discoverability just to get a flat look. I personally prefer a little "life" to my UI elements with a subtle shadow and or gradient that makes them more inviting to touch.

In your linked flat icons there is this one: enter image description here

Which I presume is a file folder. I say presume because it doesn't reflect the iconic file folders that I'm used to. I find the vertical orientation to be "unnatural" as if used in real life like this all the files would fall out.

This next icon IMHO provides some visual clues that are absent in the one above.

enter image description here

The blue is probably not as common as the yellow but it is instantly recognizable. The orientation matches the way file folders are used. There is a subtle gradient and shadow that gives it some life.

I don't want to start a skeuomorphic debate here but I think there's room for flat-ish icons with usability hints of color, shadows & gradients without reverting back to the "full on Windows XP bubble gum" look & feel.

  • 2
    I agree, and on a personal note I find the 'wire' skinny icons to begin blending together after a while until all I see are a series of arbitrary lines and circles. That said, I don't mind the solid colour icons so much as they're somewhat of a halfway point between flatty or gradient using icons like the blue folder in your post and the absolute bare minimum wire icons.
    – Logan
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 13:11

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