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Redesigning Ubuntu – behind the scenes on 10.04

There has been a whole host of innovative features being worked on in the build up to Ubuntu 10.04; some of the technical things include noticeably faster booting, other aspects include artwork and imagine redesign. Community leader Dave Walker shares his behind-the-scenes views on the latter…

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DaveWalker

Dave Walker

Dave  (@Daviey) is a Ubuntu community leader, consultant specialising in business IT, server and telephony systems.

The next version of Ubuntu – codename Lucid Lynx – will be the 10.04 release, and is scheduled to be released and declared stable in April.  As a long-term support version, coupled with increasing popularity, this is undoubtedly the most important Ubuntu release to date.

I was privileged to be invited to the Canonical offices in London recently to preview the image changes and comment on how we might adopt them; offer opinions on how I feel the community would interpret the changes, and offer feedback.  I expected this to be an art and design type meeting, meaning I did have some concerns about how useful I would be since I can’t even attempt a bluff at being artistic.  However, it did turn out to be useful, with lots of fruitful discussions.

For the last 6 years, Ubuntu has traditionally had a theme of brown and earthy colours; which I feel many have come to accept, and perhaps even like.  Over the years we have witnessed the colour being toned down and having less significance in the desktop.  Following some 8 months of work the colour has been dropped from the distribution design, so it was quite a risky move.  The design has attempted to focus and convey Precision, Reliability Collaboration and Freedom.  It will undoubtedly take time for the changes to cascade into all usages.

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The new colours have a heavy focus on orange, and aubergine (purple). The colour orange is intended to represent Ubuntu community focus, with aubergine symbolising Canonical commercial interests; with a varying ratio of both for things depending on the type of use.  However, the designers at Canonical have been very careful to keep crucial elements of the previous designs to ensure some of the brand is kept familiar.

I don’t think I have ever fully appreciated the work involved in being an artistic designer.  When I’ve encountered artwork designs previously, there has been an ever-increasing move towards minimalism which, to me, implied that the work and effort involved to create it was equally minimal.  However, viewing the designs and being talked through the process of how they evolved gave me a new found respect for designers.

The changes aren’t simply limited to palette change, but more a whole brand unification and polish.  The whole rework was an effort to help Ubuntu “grow up” to reflect it’s increasing maturity.  It is thought that the current Ubuntu font, named “ubuntu-title”, had an almost childlike appearance and on reflection I think this statement has merit.

The new font, which will be simply called “ubuntu” has been designed with cooperation between Canonical designers and a world class design agency.  At the time I saw the proposed versions the full alphabet wasn’t yet complete, and I became aware of the huge attention to detail that these committed people were working towards.  One thing that particularly caught my eye was the discussion on things such as how the edge of the letter ‘C’ should finish, “Should it be sharp and flush or slightly angled”.  The wider masses would never be aware how much effort had been put into this.
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