This is the work blog for the KDE Visual Design Group a group of dedicated designers striving to improve community participation in design for KDE as well as design work in general for KDE applications and Plasma.

onsdag 26 mars 2014

"Monday" Report #8 - Homeward Bound Edition

In which I explain why I'm two days late, go through the quickest community round-up ever, talk about the Plasma Next theme and brag about the documentation work being done!

Me, three days without brushing my hair, playing Minecraft on the patio. You can't see it but about 400 meters outside the image to the right, there is a massive sandy beach. But on the other hand, there was a massive vein of iron to excavate so who cares? Also since this photo I've gotten a hair cut and trimmed the 'stasche a tad. Less trolldoll meets Pancho Villa.
So this monday report is two days late, I know. Yesterday was when I was leaving my vacation spot, a twelve hour process of moving things (including me) around the earth trying wildly not to go insane. Then I had the happy option of being able to hang-out with my husband without a mother and a mother-in-law in tow. I am now home and going through all the backlogs for the things I have to get done and the major thing to get done is the "monday" report.
I kept up for one week during my vacation but then my inate laziness set in and I stopped working to stroll in the sun, play Minecraft with my brother, his wife and my husband and walking my mums dog. Sorry.

Plenty of things have been happening in the forums where things like help with the Media Center is asked for, the Awesome Community Icon Theme is getting closer and closer to completion (Rock on David Wright!) and in general its getting to be too many threads for me to keep track on it (I am reading through them right now!). If you are a designer and you don't at least skim through them you should be ashamed of yourself. So much work by so many people. It's like an inverted Churchill quote.

But the Plasma Next work keeps going onwards too: a dark theme is slowly taking shape with the work of Marco Martin! And don't it look darn pretty!

There is also some awesome work being done on the Design Guidelines by Andrew Lake and work is going on to merge them nicely with the HIG's to create a nice one-stop place for all your guideline needs.
Andrew has also provided everyone with a GUI mockup toolkit which will be fun to play with. It's SVG's so you'll have to wait for PNG versions of them but it will come in the future (as you can understand I plan on doing just that but it will have to wait until everything else gets done first :))

So check those out, play with them and get things cracking!

måndag 17 mars 2014

Monday Report #7 - beach edition

In which I am bragging about being in the sun, talk about community design, post some Plasma Next design and then rush out to the beach so as to not be divorced by my husband who really wish I would sit less at the computer.

Andrew Lakes Beautiful new clock desing! Check the slogan!

I would firstly want to say that I am on vacation in the sun so everything written will be written while looking forlornly at the ever present sandy beach. So do not expect a massive amount of information :)

First of all Community News: there is simply too much going on. Me and Thomas Pfeiffer from the HIG group recently mentioned this in discussion that the success of the VDG public forum means that it's almost impossible to keep up with all the threads. Ideas are being posted, talked about and mock-up'ed at such speed that trying to keep a presence in all threads is tricky at best. 
Which is as should be! The boys and girls in the forums is for me such a massive inspiration that I tend to just lurk and read and you guys will be referred to whenever someone says that Community Design is impossible!

Now the issue is getting the ideas to the right dev group in the best way possible which is something to think about, what is the preferred way of making certain the right dev see the right ideas?

In the VDG group Uri Herrera (the Nitrux guy) is posting more and more icons for the next Icon theme and among them symbolic icons for the folder-tree - a personal dream for me (the current "same folder icon as always but tiny" has been a pet peeve of mine).

Uri's icon work

David Brandl has started work on the logos of projects - trying to combine the logos of Plasma Next and Frameworks 5 and I can only say that the sketches and the work done there are awesome.

Andrew "The Design Machine" Lake has kept trundling onwards like the creative rocket that he is - he has also posted mockup kits and edits to the Plasma Current theme - the Next theme almost completely done! (the clock at the top is just one example).

Fabian Bornschein has almost finished the system tray icons, meaning that beyond a dark theme (which is a matter of reversing colors from the color theme) the work for Plasma Next theme is as good as done!

Finally it's that glorious bit - where the borders of VDG and KDE community blur - the work being done on the new cursor theme in the forums as well as the Awesome Community Icon Theme is marching on at the speed of light. I will hopefully get an interview this week with all the people involved in those things and will give that specific subject the time it deserves then!

Now I gotta go, my husband is standing looking at me with the "oh are you done soon?" look and we're heading for an early swim. 
Gotta run!

måndag 10 mars 2014

Monday Report #6

Where in we talk more about the value of community design, talk about creating resources for developers, why it's cool checking out other designers work, show some details from the coming Plasma Theme (and a sneaky special gift to our fine readers ;) ) and then end with a short comment on politics.

From Marco Martins blog and Desktop. Plasma Next.

What a week, what a week... One of my favorite things is going in to the VDG forums at the KDE-forum and read and reply to posts. There are too many awesome things to talk about going on and ALL IN THE OPEN. Some would call it "design by committee" I call it "social design work"!


First off the Awesome Community Icon's need a mention. The idea came from a while back when a proposed set of monochrome icons to be used in applications and widgets based of the Awesome Font was talked about. It never really got further than that but now that work has started up again in earnest. The idea being to make a simple, lean and above all symbolic icon language to be used in Open Source projects and KDE projects especially. By being monochrome, it can also use the coming effect of changing to the color of the chosen text color in the color theme.
Right now a group of community members (me included) are sifting through the available icons and sorting them into the correct places, community member Davidwright will then work it into a git-thing and hopefully a member of the VDG will sort out a project page with all icons accessible and nice so anyone can use them. Hopefully we will also be able to describe all icon sets and what the name of the icon mean so further icon design work is made simpler.

We're also hoping to include monochrome versions of LegnaVI's Krita icons to create some kind of unification in this project, trying to make all KDE apps to use the same iconset.
If you feel like helping out KDE, join in the fun and help out - the beginning of the thread has links to the Google Spreadsheet we're using for work and the Awesome Font page we're using as base for all icons. Do it!


Then Leroux also finished his network icons that I posted about earlier and I suggest anyone who feels a passion for icons and themeing should check them out and perhaps use them in a theme (contact him so you guys can collaborate). Hopefully we will be able to use part of them in the AKI (yes "Awesome Kommunity Icons").
A wild debated has started about a new form of sidebar in the forums - a plethora of mockups and design idea's are being hammered out and I for one is right now lurking in the thread reading every little idea and notion with interest.
(Future Plasma Design leak: part of the design ideas are being used in the sketches for the next Plasma Kickoff Launcher... don't tell anyone, iiih exciting)
The Kmymoney project is also shaping up nicely - due to the brililant work of community member lucashappy, they now have a new application icon and thoughts are being worked on working the AKI icons into a future design for them.
Now there is also a large debate going on System Settings and the future of them in the forums. For now it will be a slow and bit-by-bit thing but when it takes off a large chunk of the work is done so far so if you want to get in on that, join the debate!
The System Settings also had a split today in how we handle Desktop Effects. Due to technical reasons it was split into Compositing and [Desktop Effects]. One being more technical and "please don't play too much with this" and the other the same collection of effects we as KDE and Plasma users have come to love and adore. That means naming should be talked about... and it is! In the forums!

Now all this is to say: if you have a problem with something, you have an idea how to solve it - we have a massive community, together we can fix things design-wise, we can come up with new ideas and amazing concepts in an air of togetherness, kindness and cooperation. So don't just say that you don't like something somewhere on a blog, write a proper suggestion for a solution (without smacktalking anyone, respect is key) in the forums instead. Join in the fun!


Also this week I have been installing different kinds of desktop environments to check them out and see how they solved their issues. The plan was to post that report yesterday (along with an illustration tutorial) but things got in the way so it'll be coming next week.
Safe to say, don't expect any "Unity/Gnome/Openbox/whatever sucks!" texts from me. I have nothing but admiration and respect for the work done by ALL Open Source and Linux designers. All. Even if I use Plasma by choice it doesn't mean I have to hate on them instead of seeing how they did different. So this is my shoutout to the designers of those desktop environments: "Great work boys and girls, you're an inspiration! <3"
Also I will start writing a column in Full Circle Magazine about Open Source and Design which will have its basis in my experiences with the KDE Community and the design work there. I think the first short one will be in the next issue.


From Marco Martins blog and desktop

But what about Plasma Next? Well the work is ticking on. The first screenshots from Plasma Next using our light theme are out on Marco Martins blog and everything is being worked on and tested right now to hopefully get into the Alpha of Plasma Next. We've soon to begin the work on a dark theme which hopefully will roll out the doors any second.

As a matter of fact... consider this a rare treat: We've bundled the preview we have that you can use in Plasma Current, it won't look exactly the same and it is massively a WORK IN PROGRESS - but we've added a color theme, an Aurorae theme for the window decoration and a Qtcurve theme for the widget - also a quick fix to make Chrome or Chromium look nice. So don't say we never did anything for you ;)

Now remember, this is massively a work in progress and hardly a final - the clock and logout and other bits need refining (and some lines etc). If you're on Plasma Next then it might be a bit more correct with the correct blurring effect on the panels - but anyway, enough talk you can download a tar of it here! Now it will say "no preview" but just press download and everything is ticketyboo.

All this is due to the massive work undertaken by Andrew Lake of the VDG - Andrew, what would we do without you?


Politics. Concerning the recent events in Malmö I just want to add a short #kämpashowan and that during the recent surge of right wing extremist violence and politics in Europe it is important to remember Edmund Burkes words: "the only thing necessary for the triumph for evil is for good men to do nothing", that is all for now and probably the last I will talk about politics in this blog.

Next week we will have some icon work to look at, some refinements to check out with the theme (maybe another sneak preview to our dedicated readers, hmm?) until then, take care!

måndag 3 mars 2014

Monday Report #5

In which we talk about community efforts, the work done so far in the community, the icons and show some work in progress things.

During the Linux Action Show spot I talked a lot about community and community efforts and I wanted to shine a light not only on the things that HAVE been done, but the things being worked on and the things yet covered.

Lets start by talking about the community contributors. Right now there is a handful of people throwing ideas into the ring. Some are new to the whole "design-malarkey" and some are old dogs in the field but all are awesome designers in my eyes. It takes courage to say "look what I made". It's showing something you've done and cared about and hoping that people see that first and give it the respect it deserves. 

I want to kick off with a quote from the forums:

"I'm not really a designer, in fact I've never designed an icon before in my life [...] I am, however, enjoying myself"

This is one of those things I consider to be the best wins of this project - it sums up my hopes precisely and really fills me with creative energy for my own projects. That sensation of letting yourself be engulfed by the work and enjoy doing it is something I think many of us know and love.


Then we have this awesome piece of work by legnaVI for the Krita tool icons. Now legnaVI is using windows because he/she (I don't know the gender of legnaVI) needs for it his/her education.

That is even cooler in a way.

If you contribute - or whatever you do - there are sometimes needs that you need to consider. If you're forced to use Windows, or even if you prefer it and still wants to contribute - go for it! I'd prefer it if you used Linux but this is not an elite club, this is a community. Perhaps a KDE user might feel more at home - but this is for all. Being a part means you are a part.
And just look at those icons, that is some handsome work right there!


Then there are the system tray icon thread. That grew incredibly fast with idea after idea being posted and talked about.
The amazing thing is that many of the idea's may not have been picked up by the Plasma-NM team but they where ingenius like Leroux massive icon theme for system tray and network manager (of which only a tiny snippet is seen on the right).
Right now, scanning through the thread, reading the debates and discussions is like sifting through a gold-laden river of design notions and concepts. I recommend it!

Right now I'm trying to find a Plasma Theme'r who can cooperate with Leroux because I demand that this is made available in a theme! :)


But there is more, so much more! These where just two examples. Right now talks are being done concerning a vast array of topics - from System Settings to a Universal Themer, a new "Get cool stuff" method and more and more and more!

So if your a dev and need design luvvin - Post about it in the forums! If you're a community member and have an awesome idea, scribble it down on paper and post about it in the forums! The more the merrier and the better the end result will be!


Now lets get down to some of the work done by the VDG people. Right now, in secret a group of our top-voodoo brand-designers are looking into something massive, the Plasma Logo. You know it as "the Cashew" and it will change in the future is the plan. The work being done is to create a layout and visual style based on the hard rules of print design and logo work (and there are a thousand and one rules there) and there is nothing to show right now - but I want you to know it's there and it's coming (as soon as Carneval in Venice and Rio is over).
Plans are also on the move to set up a Wordpress blueprint for blogs and launchpages based on the Plasma Next theme's and visual goals.

Over in the Plasma NEXT area, Andrew "The Design Machine" Lake (Aided by Marco and Ivan), is working on a prototype for the Plasma Theme to be used in both Plasma Current and Plasma NEXT.

At the same time Uri, Nuno and Acidrum are hard at work on icons and the future icon theme. Safe to say I don't wish to disturb them in their work but visually they are going for what can be described as an idea based of the multiple ideals of Mirrors Edge and Polygonal Art. Sounds strange? Trust me, it will be awesome!

Ideas are being drafted for future features and more! But that's just the tip of the iceberg soon as things fall into place more and more things will come popping up.

Oh and before I forget - have I mentioned wallpapers? Well, if not, those are coming too... Now back to work for me!

Next monday report will be a tad bit more exact and with more details for everyone to gush over. Until then, check out the forum, join in the work and help the devs or ask for help!

söndag 2 mars 2014

Not the monday report but some clarification

In which I jammer on about the virtue of community, why I frowned and huffed during the Linux Action Show when things like "design by committee" was dragged up and why I hate the idea of "customers", "producers" and "salesmen"

"salesman" creative commons S A

So I was on Linux Action Show and blabbered on incoherently. I thought some clarifications where in order of why I suddenly got angry and upset :)

"Community" why is that more important than "Design"? Because it is design. It is the basis of Open Source Design. One of my favorite distros and desktops (aside from Plasma Desktop) is Crunchbang. It's one of my first pure Linux Loves and will always have a certain place in my heart.Crunchbang got one huge chunk of design right: communication. Design is communication - it is not just "make pretty", its the ability to communicate goals, ideals and ideas to a group. In Open Source the benefit we have is that everyone can be a part - we use it in almost every aspect, from the Kernel up to Widget programming. But we tend to forget Design because design have a myth about it of the "Lone Genius" and that "Design by committee" it's supposed counterpart is somehow "bad for design".

That is absolute garbage. I can't stress this enough. It is the art and communication theory equivalence of Intelligent Design and if you thought I reacted strongly on the Linux Action Show (huffing and puffing as I do), I would like to say that I was holding back because I didn't want to go into a tirade of swearwords.

Crunchbang made perhaps a defined visual setting and idea for almost everything "Back to black" etc, but its main Design is it's community which is one of the most helpful and laid back available in the world in my opinion. Openbox is fiddly to deal with in comparison to many other desktop environments but by being inviting as a community, being supportive and above all being humble to users needs - they bridge that issue without once having to get to the programming. They got (or perhaps by a lucky accident) that Design = Communication and Open Source = Community.

So Gnome does it wrong? No, no - I in hindsight realize I may have slighted the Gnome Designers somehow - really I didn't mean to. Design NOT by committee is easier - they streamlined their process a tad but by having design as a relevant thing they involved more than just a design team. That said I prefer to try to get it even MORE open. Gnome is a brilliant DE, it's well designed, there is a ton of love that has gone into it and it shows - it's just that I favor Plasma by KDE.
(Let me also say that the silly duality and argument "Plasma vs Gnome" is one that I have never bothered with. I think that there should be more unity between the two, but I realize my technical restrictions and leave that to others to talk about - beyond that there is no debate in my mind. I don't have to use Gnome or consider it my favorite to support it)

Further I despise Lone Genius designers. Seriously. If you can't be a mensch while designing or if you can't work with others please don't bother. The classical design-myth (writer myth, artist myth, musician myth) of the lone white, hetero dude who behaves like an ass but is excused because he is such a wonderful designer is one I consider to be one of the things holding Open Source Design back.
I'd rather have one happy amateur who just want's to learn, who want's to cooperate and create cool things with others than ten "lone genius" designers with decades of experience.

This is why the bar for contributing is low but the bar for criticism is high. Criticism doesn't get a free pass in my world it is an actual thing and something that can be "good criticism" or "bad criticism".
(Also I want more female designers! That and more designers who are people of color from Africa, Middle East and Asia! I can write at length on the virtue of a mixed group from different backgrounds - but that can be for another time. Just so you know)

Finally the weird "Users" and "Devs" thing. Yes I may have gotten a stroke I guess but this is another of my pet-peeves. I don't believe in users as the opposite of dev's. I believe in cooperation and co-conspirators. The idea with Open Source isn't just to air the source out to let it dry or something - it's to invite cooperation. Tell everyone "hey look at this, whaddaya think? Want to add something? Go for it!"

I fell in love with Linux and Open Source due to what I see as the reason it cannot be stopped. It transcends the logic of the "customer", "producer" and "salesman" and let us all be a part. Instead of thousands of customers we have thousands and thousands of devs, bug testers, designers and idea makers.

Let's remember that and focus on the most relevant bit of design, that chunk that is often forgotten: community.

Ok so tomorrow it's monday update and I'll focus more on our design goals, the ideas where heading for and I will try to lift the bonnet a tad to explain what we're going for so that everyone can be a part and suggest things... Just haven't figured out how to do that well ... :)

lördag 1 mars 2014

The issue with icons

In which we talk about the icons, trademark law, awesome designers and say sorry.

"accident" Creative Commons SA

Ok so last sunday I presented the awesome work by Acidrum and Uri - the day after, we hit a snag.

Essentially there are a lot of trademarks rushing around the application icons. Plenty of companies have trademarked their logo and icons and that means that by law they have to enforce any abuse on their icon work (abuse= any change).
Now for an icon theme being posted on KDE-look or Deviantart (check both places out btw, there are a mass of awesome icon theme's there), this is not an issue. Usually, even though companies are aware they exist, they turn a blind eye (which is nice) but in the case of the vanilla theme for a huge DE like Plasma - that is probably a no-go.
This means that the solution is asking these companies to create icons for their software that fits into the design language we're going for, which tend to be fruitless (I'll be reaching out to some companies shortly to at least ask nicely).

We are too small to influence them, but too big not to get sued - is the long and the short of it.

Considering that half the idea was to have a unified look the break these applications would create would ruin the effect and make the whole point sort of missed.

This was a few days ago - I had the bitter job of telling our icon designers that it wouldn't fly and "can you please start from scratch?". Icons are a huge deal - they are the most easily commented on detail of a desktop (tiny images, easily lined up and an easy design language to get into) but they are also a massive amount of work. Not only to implement but to set up.
So this week Uri Herrera, Acidrum and Nuno Pinheiro have sat down to hammer out a new design goal for the icons that fits into the design goals of Plasma that are new, that can contain odd-icons without breaking the theme and with all the relevant bits-and-bobs that any icon theme may contain.

The second they feel comfortable with the sketches they have I will of course post it here. :)

Now this was my fault - 100%. I should have foreseen this issue and can only apologize for the delays it may be for everyone in the community but also to our icon designers that had to have that horrible sensation of having their hard work put on hold and scrapped. It's not something a designer should have to go through and its the job of a Project Lead, me, to ensure that doesn't happen.

It won't happen again.

Soon it will be Monday and a new monday report will go out - that one will be about ideas for the theme.