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GNUstep Icons and look proposal


From: Quentin Mathé
Subject: GNUstep Icons and look proposal
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 01:51:31 +0200

GNUstep Icons and look -- proposal for improvement
=========================================

How something look is important if you want people to use it. That's also true for GNUstep, even if GNUstep is a programming framework. Most people and programmers will just have a quick look on some screenshots and just think that it looks old and "therefore" *is* an old, deprecated technology. Even if we know they are "wrong", it's just the human nature, and is totally understandable. If we want to attract more developers, then improving the look of GNUstep is something we should try to do.

Icons are one of the very important key in how a program looks. And frankly, the current icons set in GNUstep is not very sexy and looks old (by the way, it has nothing to do with the "NeXT theme" -- most NeXT icons are relatively beautiful even by today's standards :) We could want to change the look of GNUstep apps (eg, themes), but one thing that needs to be changed in the first place is the icons set, because icons are comparatively much harder to do than the themes support (eh, looks at http://www.roard.com/screenshots/screenshot_theme37.png for what's coming on soon..).

So, we want and we need new icons.

Sadly for us, we are a bunch of programmers, not graphists. Most of us are not very good at icons design, and the few of us that are not too bad do not have much free time left anyway. We could try to rip already existing icons (for example, the rather nice GNOME icons..), but they won't automatically fit with our guidelines and, moreover, they won't give us any originality or identity, which kind of defeat the whole purpose.

The solution is obviously to ask real icon designers.

Quentin has got in touch with fifteen professional icon designers to ask them about the possibility to collaborate with us for free. Two or three of them expressed some interest to such project, but they said they were already invested in other open source projects during their free time and as such they didn't want to engage in yet another project. Finally they said like others they would be interested to work with us... if we pay them.

As much as we would have prefered to have free icons, it doesn't seem to be possible, and waiting for a nice graphist doing all our works doesn't seem to work either. On the other hand, if we pay somebody for this work, we will be sure to have our icons.

But first we need to have some guidelines -- we want to have coherence as much as possible to provide a smooth user experience, and as anyway the icons (in general, hopefully not the "standard icon set") will be created by different persons, we need guidelines to have some basic control. That's why we wrote a first proposal of theses guidelines, available on http://www.quentinmathe.com/gnustep/documentation/UI/icons/ . Obviously we would like to have opinions and suggestions about it.

The whole base icons set, enumerated in the GNUstep icons UI guidelines document, would have a creation cost of appromatively $ 1500, then a near $ 35 participation from 40 persons would permit to pay an icon designer to create such base icons set to start an all new GNUstep look. We believe that it's a goal we could reach.

Additionally, for our icons, we would like to have some kind of more powerful mechanism than just plain images. We could like to have mechanism to build icons on the fly, apply different effects, compose icons with other graphical elements, have the ability to badge them easily...

We thus started the IconKit framework, whose goal is precisely that. For the moment, basic compositing of elements is done. Future TODO includes graphical effects (automatic shadow, blur...). IconKit also supports to retrieve and set icons (Free desktop compatible thumbnails support included) with a cache mechanism nicely integrated with NSWorkspace current features set.

The IconKit (hmm, not compiling _right now_ :-), but you could have a look at the source) is currently hosted in the Étoilé cvs, Étoilé is a small and innovative desktop environment project started by Quentin, organized around an advanced workspace application designed with Document store support in mind (a bit like Microsoft WinFS or Apple Spotlight) and other things, a rough description of the project can be found at https://gna.org/projects/etoile .

But IconKit -- because it has been written as a separate project (not designed with Étoilé in mind or like an Étoilé part) -- should move later to the GNUstep cvs or to the GNUstep kits repository (GNUstep kits is another project started by us to centralize the most important GNUstep frameworks in one repository).

To sum up
========

- We consider that improving the current look of GNUstep UI will help tremendously to attract people - We consider that one of the most important part of this work is the creation of new, modern-looking icons - We propose to pay a graphist for theses icons and share the bill among us. It should be possible to use Adam Fedor's paypal account for example.
- We propose an Icon's guidelines document to help keeping consistency
- We started a framework to help icon's management and creation, by reusing graphical elements and providing new dynamic capacities

Now... what do you people think about all of that ? If you could at least indicate if you want to contribute ($$) and how much, it would be a good start. Furthermore, we would like to reach an agreement about the icons guidelines. We tried to do our best, but the ideas expressed in the documents are ours, and possibly not the best :-) so if you have better solutions, it would be nice to make the guidelines evolves.

Nicolas Roard <address@hidden>
Quentin Mathé <address@hidden>




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