One of the last talks I attended on Desktop Summit was “Swimming upstream or downstream? Both!”. Announced as speaker was Vincent Untz, but he didnt the talk alone, there was also Allison Randal, Harald Sitter and our own Jaroslav Řezník.In this talk came up the problem with the branding.
I should start with an quote: “Freiheit ist immer die Freiheit der Andersdenkenden”. Translated it says “Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters” or better Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. This quote is from Rosa Luxemburg a socialist politician from the begin of the 20th century. On the end it means, that you can have your freedom so long that you can accept that other people have an other opinion and give also the freedom to them. So let us talk a little bit about it what it means.
All this started with an blogpost from Aaron Seigo about Building brand together. There was also offered help to doing that. So where is the problem then? So let me show a little bit how the help looks like.
That are the Striped wallpaper done by Ivan Cukic, they was mentioned in the talk as example but it wasnt looked in all sides of that topic. So let me explain a little bit more on that. It was mentioned that they can do the wallpaper in the color of the distribution., fine. There the problem begins. So look how many distributions use blue as main color? So would you see which distribution it is when the logo is removed, in the case of debian, arch or fedora one? So when the colors are interchangable then its very clear that the color dont make it typical, its the pattern. Btw. KDE dont like dark colors so another limit, and they need some light differences in the wallpaper otherwise, the AIR theme dont looks so good (it becomes Win95 grey). So not every color is chooseable.
There is no problem for distributions like Kubuntu or Pardus who provide only the KDE desktop environment that they use the upstream wallpaper or such a striped wallpaper in the color of there distribution. There are more problems on distributions who give the user the possibility to choose the environment they want.
The experience with the desktop of a “normal” user dosnt begin with the desktop himself, it begins with the bootsplash. So what pattern should be used then, the KDE one or that of GNOME? In the case of openSUSE it begins earlier the backgrounds are used in YaST installer.
Anaconda does that not, so no problem for Fedora there. But it should become clear a distribution should look well designed from the begin of installation, over the booting process and finally on the desktop.
As I did the in the talk mentioned “positive example” I was totally captured between limits and sitting between the chairs. First of all green as color for a distribution sucks or better use it for the distribution wallpaper sucks. It looks totally different on every monitor. Move away from this color is extrem hard, there is a party who think the design for openSUSE has to be green because it was always green. What isnt true, there was some versions with blue and some with photo backgrounds. That party doesnt even think about to use the green as a accent. First limitation.
Second limitation, I mentioned KDE needs a lighter color with differences in the lights that the AIR theme looks good. First I came up with a green tone like teal or pine green. To dark for KDE, but they didnt come up with a better solution until short before christmas or the Release Candidates. The solution for them was celadon an light green, they even let Coolo change the codename for the release to using it. It was not the problem using it, but noone of them considered how it would look compared to the color for GNOME.
On GNOME side there was only a limitation called Sonar theme. Jimmac did it once and it looks good and the people love it. There are crazy dudes on ubuntu who make it available for there distribution. The problem with Sonar is, it uses a dark olive green what is additional blended with black. It looks not so good on every green. Two opportunities, first remove Sonar and risk a flame war with the openSUSE is green lovers, second one choose a neutral color who looks Sonar good on and which looks also fine with the KDE color.
I thaught second solution would be the best and choosed a dark grey for the GNOME environment. Vincent Untz spoke with me, that he dont think that GNOME can be represented from the grey I choosed. After a short discussion why I like to use it, the GNOME team had understanding for the choice I made.
So whats the point of all this? Retrospective on the quote I mentioned on the begin, it means if you claim all freedom for yourself you deny it same time to others. There are so many limits of technical nature, ressources and others that one desktop environment cant have all freedom it maybe want. It’s more that one environment can have so much freedom as it is possible if it grant the other ones the same.
The solution is definitly not that KDE designers do the artwork for KDE in Fedora. They would do artwork what gives KDE all freedom but would not think what Fedora, GNOME, XFCE, LXDE and all the others need.
Means to provide an KDE look&feel in a distribution really using a pattern provided from them or means it more to come up with a design what respects the design of KDE?
In the first case the claim for an KDE branded desktop in distributions is so senseless like the claim that all linux distributions should be called gnu/linux! In the second case some people should definitly think about, that a distribution is more then the desktop environment and that they are not the only desktop.
So hopefully some people start to think about that what others need instead of claiming only what they need for themself. Retrospective looked on Aaron Seigos article “Building brand together”, together is not offer something without talking to the other side what they need Using upstream artwork on a multi-desktop distribution will never work! What can work is design artwork what gives the look&feel what KDE like to have but only it needs not more ressources.