[ubuntu-art] UDS Notes: Artwork

nothlit nothlit.linux at gmail.com
Tue May 20 10:54:43 BST 2008

I'm at UDS, and after speaking with kwwii, and _MMA_, I have written a
few notes, as well as some personal thoughts. This is mostly for the
planning process itself, but I am sending it to the list so everyone
is clued in as well :).

Things we discussed:

Dark theme, and incompatibilities from programs with hard coded
values. In terms of this, the current plan is to push a dark theme
into Ibex ASAP so people can begin to file bugs against the
applications in question.

The largest problem at the moment, is Icons.
In order to create an entirely cohesive theme we need to remake our
own set to match. However, there have been concerns raised about those
icons that don't match. This is especially accentuated by the fact
that one of the current proposals are the etched solid icons. However,
this will always happen: and in order to ever break out of Tango we
need to start somewhere. sabdfl is definitely against using Tango--
however, those that Human currently doesn't fill since its been
commissioned (in Dapper?) will show up as Tango. In terms of where we
need to go: 1. We need to decide on a direction, 2. We have to lock
down the minimum number of worthwhile stable contributors. 3, and go
from there. One item that was raised was whether sabdfl wants to
purchase a new icon set. It would certainly be easier on our man
hours. Hopefully, if this happens, the commission agreement will
supply is Free artwork and make the sources available.

Icon themes: Besides the dark theme, etched glass etc: There has also
been raised using our own sort of Oxygen. I actually raised this point
myself as well, but as I have decided this is most definitely a bad
idea. There will definitely be more interest in terms of
contributions, but in terms of the manpower that takes we could most
probably do an entire icon set on our own. Perhaps we should revamp
Human instead, and  extend it as well? I haven't tested whether Human
is mostly compatible with dark themes as it currently stands, and I
will look into that.

Dark Theme

Dark Theme: If we do this, would we have to produce a companion light
theme as well? Or is the carryover from the last release sufficient
for those who prefer or need to work with something lighter. There is
also the question where people will accept a dark theme in which some
applications with hardcoded values produce some undesired results. I
think this is mostly a nonissue, as long as we can file bugs for the
major apps like FF. If we can pull off something that looks
impressive, or great-- people will be satisfied. In art, the big
picture always matters the most. It doesn't matter how wonderful an
eye, or finger is, if everything else is executed poorly. It is the
whole of the work that applies.

Developers, and Packaging

One major concern is that we have no developers really interested in
developing for us--but the larger issue is that we still have to find
packagers. Hopefully, we can do that here at UDS. However, MMA has
informed me that the launchpad bzr can produce .debs, so this may be
somewhat mitigated. However, afaik (feel free to correct me) the
community theme package has still thus far not been produced? I'll
talk more about the community theme package and its importance later
in this psuedo-essay.


We also need to reduce the mess and make everything easily viewable.
This may come from ubuntu-art.org giving us a category or it may come
from a set of guidelines following along the lines of Fedora. One idea
was that people need to successfully contribute something in order to
post about the project. This would definitely reduce the amount of
naysayers and those with mouths that run, but feet that do not walk.

--- My Thoughts:

What We Need

In terms of being even relatively successful, we need to do something
artistically strong and distinct. What does it mean to be 'strong'?
This means something that is cohesive and presents the same look and
feel. This means something conceptual behind it, even if it is
something simple. Why do we need a concept? This is the only way to
unify many disparate parts, especially in terms of working with
multiple contributors. I think, an important part of this, to be
successful, is a _gatekeeper_. This may be someone at UDS, but mostly
likely will be the concept or mockup originator.

What makes something artistically strong.
To be artistically strong-- this means we have to have defined our
vision greatly, in VISUAL terms. Which means supplying our references,
studies, and notes. However, the visual component is the most
important. Any competent artist, the ones we're interested in, will be
able to pick up the major elements and mayhaps bring an interesting

I think that the artwork 'team', needs to only have ONE, as in
singular project-- and all other pieces simply become outside
supplemental contributions. If this doesn't happen, we will never have
focus, and it'll just be random contributions, in which people have
little opportunity to really get to apply their skills in a concerted
effort. Without this, we become a selection comitee, which is a valid
direction. However-- I do believe that the community is infinitely
more interested in creation.

Concepts, and the necessity of representational art.
Another important part of this that is that in order to produce
something conceptually strong, this necessitates representational art
in terms of the Wallpaper, Gdm, Splash, and perhaps even the metacity
and gtk. If you represent nothing: in the end, all you have is a
picture of nothing. However there is nothing wrong with abstraction.
However note that abstraction is not nonrepresentational art, its
simply distilled into its most important elements. These are not
necessarily the ones that will make it identifiable as coming from its

In terms of contributions-- we should invite all and any. This is
where a _gatekeeper_ plays a great role. This person will keep things
on track, a simple yes or no should be sufficient, feedback will be
optional for time and practicality. It should be stressed that it is
the cohesiveness of the entire theme that is important. Even someone
with great talent may produce something that perhaps is not quite
right for the particular project at hand. Yes, reality is a gatekeeper
will also keep subpar works out. This is just a fact of numerous
contributions from everyone. It will be up to the discretion of the
gatekeeper or gatekeepers. The big picture, always matters the most in

In terms of logistics, perhaps we need major contributors (minor will
get proposals) to each have their own branches which get merged upon
approval. Perhaps the right way to do this is like developers do it
themselves, with a core team, and others submitting minor changes,
proposals. With bzr, its distributed so people can definitely still
work or even spin off if they feel so.

An Important part of the process is releasing. Art has the same
tendency as software projects where we want something completely
ideal. However, with the reality of time. This is not practical-- we
should release early, and release often. Whether this is a push to
Ibex or to the Wiki or whatever working system, this is important for
feedback, and the process itself. It keeps the project from stalling,
and helps make sure everything is actually ready.

The absolute most important this is to define a manageable scope. This
may mean extending the icons to a 2 cycle release, or entirely
extending, or cutting back. This means we have to lock down the
absolute minimum number of steady contributors and plan for that.

In terms of concerns of the Ubuntu Brand: Doing something
representational is absolutely not bad. If we actually do something
distinctive, and representational, that is <establishing> and
identity. A strong presence only increases your brand. There will
always be people who dislike certain things. However, if we don't
resonate with our major user base, there is no function to the
artwork. Every well known company will have dissenters, those are not
important to its overall success.

Now: In terms of what I call the Mark Roulette: We should strive to
make something as fantastic as possible. If he doesn't like it, we'd
most likely have ended up with a clone of the previous release
anyways. We can package it anyways, and put it into community or a
more important repo. An audience will always choose what it most
likes. Our job is to make this as usable (potential dark theme issues)
and accessible as possible.


Mark Roulette: Package Anyways- If we didn't try anything new, we
would have ended up with a clone anyways.
Contributions: Have a gatekeeper, a final say. Importance is
cohesiveness, not apparent quality.
Swirlies: I think I've made a strong case for representation art here,
even if abstract.

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