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The Icon Question



Hey everybody,

Since we've gotten onto the topic of the default icon theme for Fedora -

Well, above all, everyone here wants Fedora to have a slick, great-looking desktop, right? That's the main goal of the Fedora Art project. With Fedora Core 5 we've started to move in that direction with a new logo (thanks to Matt Muñoz) and new theming elements (thanks to Diana) and have received positive feedback. However, we are still using Bluecurve as the default icon set, which has been around for a few years now. Among the complaints about Bluecurve is that it's a cartoony, and 'dated.' So it would be nice to have a fresh, slick look on the icon front for Fedora.

Tango has been suggested as an alternative to Bluecurve, but nobody has really picked this up to make it happen. (Remember, Fedora is a community project, you vote with your time & effort.) As the front page of the Tango Project webpage states, it is "A *suggested* default native look [1, emphasis mine]." Diana, myself, and other Fedora users and developers that we've talked to feel the Tango look is a bit too close to Bluecurve to address the complaints we've heard about Bluecurve. It feels more like a next-gen Bluecurve than something new.

We realize that the look of icons for an operating system can have far-reaching effects. An example I like to use to illustrate this point is the influence the look of Windows XP Icons [2] appear to have had in the somewhat recent UPS logo redesign [3]. One of the core goals of Fedora in general is innovation - looking towards the future [4]. Can we do that visually - can we make an innovative and cultural impact on the world with Fedora while using Tango? It doesn't seem likely.

The main argument that we've been given as a reason for adopting Tango is (to roughly paraphrase) - 'it won't work unless everyone uses it.' The main goal of the Tango Project is: "to help create a consistent graphical user interface experience for free and Open Source software[1]," presumably to make FOSS more usable. I'd like to draw a parallel between this notion of 'all icons should be the same to be usable' to Jakob's Nielsen's idea of usability - his website, which may very well be the height of usability, but is far from pleasurable or delightful to look at. [5] There is definitely some conflict between visual consistency across desktop distributions and the branding of each said distribution, but both are important. Agreeing on a standard set of metaphors / objects to illustrate for icons for each item in the Tango naming spec, for example, would go a long way towards meeting Tango's quite noble goal without requiring Fedora to sacrifice its brand its own desktop.

Looking towards the future of Fedora's visual design, Diana has put together a sample mockup (20 icons) of a possible 'next gen' Fedora icon theme. This is an experimental work-in-progress to explore future possibilities - a suggestion for a default Fedora icon look. We'd like to keep this an open discussion. Remember, the goal here is a great-looking desktop. Some of us (Diana and I) think we could do better than the Tango look. So here it is:

http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Artwork/BluecurveAndBeyond

Specifically:

http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Artwork/BluecurveAndBeyond?action=AttachFile&do=get&target=screen01_28.png
http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Artwork/BluecurveAndBeyond?action=AttachFile&do=get&target=screen02_29.png
http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Artwork/BluecurveAndBeyond?action=AttachFile&do=get&target=screen03_30.png

So, to be clear:

* Are we definitely staying with Bluecurve as the default icon theme in Fedora?

  Yes, until there is a better alternative that helps us meet our goals.

* Are we moving to Tango? Or something else?

We are not moving to Tango right now. We'd like to move to something new in the future.

* What icon set should Fedora Art contributors be working on if they want to create new icons?

You can continue to work on Bluecurve icons, keeping in mind that we are looking to eventually retire it as the default theme. You can also help us out in coming up with a better alternative - we welcome any feedback / proposed revisions to Diana's mockup, or you come up with your own.

~m


[1] http://www.tango-project.org/
[2] http://www.idblog.org/archives/000162.html
[3] http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnwxp/html/winxpicons.asp
[4] http://www.redhat.com/magazine/014dec05/features/fedora/
[5] http://www.useit.com/


--
Máirín Duffy <duffy redhat com>
Interaction Designer
Red Hat Network :: Red Hat, Inc.
Westford, MA


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