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.

tisdag 29 april 2014

Monday Report #13 - lucky for some

In which we talk about wallpapers a competition and the magnificent prizes involved. A few things about Ask-a-dev weeks to come are touched upon. We mumble a bit about what the future will hold as it comes to releases and work on that AND we start talking about future projects and changes.

Soon time to start to test things IRL
Wallpapers - its the subject we hate to love and love to hate. One of the things people either say "Well it's the easiest thing to change" or "It's the first things users see". I agree with both personally because I think that a good wallpaper is essentially the "hello, my name is..." of a desktop and also that I have yet to meet a user who didn't change theirs.
But we need them! A while back I started a thread about it and it needs a reboot - the reception was luke warm at best and I thought "a proper competition - with fabulous prizes, like a car is whats needed!". Then I remembered that I'm not Oprah and this is Open Source and scaled it down a bit. With the help of the KDE eV we got funding so we can get the three winners the awesome book "Design Elements - a graphic style manual" (which is a brilliant and accessible book about graphic design that everyone should read) and the plan is to dig out some tshirts and stuff to to throw in the mix.

So how will this work? Essentially this is the deal - a group of community organizers/VDG people will pick out the ones that work, rank them into three piles and then let the community decide through a poll. "Wait wut?" you might say, why not let the community decide from scratch? Weeeeeell this is the catch with this competition. Some distros and DE's has had a not great experience with these things and as much as I think "come one, come all" is a relevant point - we also need to have a quality check of the wallpapers. The cruel bit is: if the VDG/Community Organizers don't feel like any are up to snuff - no one will win. They will try to make certain that all entries get help to get up to snuff, but if nothing happens - no wallpaper will be chosen.

More on the competition in the thread HERE.

Ask-a-dev is another idea but this is about increasing the exchange between the design community, the community-at-large and devs. Essentially every week we will pick a dev, introduce the poor man or woman - and start a thread where we can ask technical or design questions to that dev to help introduce the "behind the scenes" work. The thread will then remain BUT with the edit that "Dev has left building" meaning the dev might not answer more questions - that way the threads can be used as a FAQ section for the future and a place to talk about that specific work.
Now before that kick off please bare in mind I will monitor these threads like George RR Martin writes books - the devs have agreed on the condition that we play nice. This is not an opportunity for people to scream "Why did you remove X feature!!!111" and I will go all Red Wedding on anyone who does.

The first victim happy dev to be asked things this week will be David Edmundsson who can be best introduced as someone who works on Plasma and KDE Telepathy as well as a host of other things. He helped out with the work on the log-in screen and boot process and is "high protector of English cooking".

You can ask him anything HERE.

But lets get into Plasma Next again - what does the future hold? Remember when we talked about "bit-by-bit" implementation? Somewhere like 10 Monday Reports ago? Yeah this is when we talk some more about it. For the next version of Plasma we will keep some of the most experimental things as "Opt-In" instead of "Opt-Out". Essentially the issue is as follows: Aurorae is not a viable option to ship for many good technical reasons (which may be answered in full by Martin Grässlin in the Ask-a-dev thread of the future) so we will, for the time being ship with the Oxygen windec theme (please not the difference between Widget and Windec). So essentially the first version this June will ship with mostly Oxygen and then change over time as things get finished up.

So how will that work? Well hopefully we will ship with an aurorae theme and qtquick as well but let it be something you can pick during settings instead of something set by default - simply because it may be too heavy and clunky for now.
Aside from all that there is work on the fonts, the Plasma theme, the porting and work on icon themes. This summer the first version shipped for testing will contain a large chunk of the work but not that which we don't feel confident shipping by default just yet.

This is key: Opt-in is ALWAYS better than opt-out and I will defend this stand point to death. If we're not sure, we wont push it on you (tbh we don't push anything on you but ... yeah) :)

Next time we will try to talk some more about real world examples, show some screen shots and essentially some more pretty pictures :)

måndag 21 april 2014

Monday Report #12 - Amazement!

In which I can't contain the amazing efficiency of the design community in last weeks thread and blab on and on about that. Also a video AND some other details and tasty treats for you, magnificent reader. But lets start by swearing at my internet provider who've chosen this time to collapse.

Andrew made a collage of these past seven days work.

So "My internet is down". The "dog ate my homework" of this modern era I suppose but it's true! My internet is down meaning this is all going through my cellphones internet connection. So I'll be brief

Lets start by saying I am double-glazed weapons-grade-amazed of the brilliant work done in the forums. Last week I posted Andrews amazing work on the widget theme and that he would open a thread on it in the forum asking for cooperation from the community. And what cooperation he got! A slew of people turned up (all that I would have named had my aforementioned internet not been down for counting) and made something stunning into something even more stellar.

Heres a short video he shot (the colors is of course the phone - we're not going for a sepia theme just yet... or are we?). Just look it! Look I tell you what - you go to a design office and go "hey you know what a group of dedicated individuals working together in cooperation can do faster and better than you?" and then show them the widget theme and the activity the cooperation and just the wonder of it.

I will list you all and hope to get a few interviews in this week to come with a few of you. In the forum another thread exploded into a hive of activity when people started hacking on the Aurorae theme! Gartecho's version (one of several people who've edited, tweaked and worked on it I might add) consists of several different versions and is awesome in all possible ways and you can download it here!

Gartecho's Auroare Theme.

(expect this post to be greatly revised tomorrow morning when, the gods willing, the internet is back completely)

This leads me to three different things I want to ask for help with! First off I want to kick off a Wallpaper Thread properly. Get as many people as possible to join in and start suggesting wallpapers. Now you don't even have to make a new one, just post things you'd LIKE in a wallpaper. You can write and simply say what it is you enjoy, what wallpaper you have and why you have it!

Second I've started looking into sound effects for things.... Now I know, you don't have to say it: a majority of us turn them off directly. Now I'm not saying the current ones are bad - just that I want to simplify them, mute them a bit, make them part of the background and have a boot jingle that isn't so much a jingle. Something with less than three tone shifts in it.
The second I have an internet connection I will post them here!

Thirdly I think it's time to start looking again at the massive thing that is Icon themes - now Uri Herrera (Of Nitrux and Qtbox fame - you should check out his work) is working on the icon theme but to be able to devote enough time he need help on HIS icon theme and he is looking for a skilled icon designer who can follow the design guides for the Flattr theme and help him out.

And finally before my phone bill reaches four figure sums - I want to start planning for the second stage of the VDG. When it moves from designers working silently with a community around it into a group of Community Organizers with a passion for design, open source and cooperation who help create open, inclusive design together with everyone!
This is for me the holy grail of this massive project of mine - to turn design completely into a community effort with a minimum of a hierarchies, a maximum of inclusiveness and a whole lot of cool design work for all!

So these comming weeks will be strange, fun and exhausting as the hunt is on to set up community organizers who want to handle one section of design work together with the community.

Join in at the VDG forums!

And now I will go to bed swearing at internet providers and why I ate all that chocolate cake earlier today. 

måndag 14 april 2014

Recap post To Dantix@reddit (+all): Wth is Community Design anyway?

In which I write my first "recap" post about what's been set and what's been talked about and how things work. Just a little how-to for everyone who just joined us! This time it's about Community Design and why it matters so much.

Photo Jencu "Sharing Toys" CC-SA

I've been meaning to write this post for some time - a sort of recap for people who just joined us in what's going on.
Dantix, a reddit poster was a tad miffed that the editable combobox was the wrong size for it's scroll-down arrow. I'm not trying to call the dude out, I'm sure he (or she) is a brilliant person and didn't mean anything mean, it was just a comment and an apt one so no harm no foul!

But it told me that I need to talk more about this Community Design thing.


There are three points I really want to take up:

1) Everything shown will be shown from scratch. Nothing hidden.
Now from a marketing perspective that sucks. Lets be honest - we all like "the big reveal" where some designer in a turtleneck pulls back to curtains and go "tadaaa!". We wont do it like that. You will see it when it's just a mass of scribbles all the way to the finished product.
Why is it like that? Because that way everyone can see the process. It gets demystified and something more accessible and open to all. It shows everyone the trick behind it. Design have become a catch-all for "don't bother me, you wouldn't understand" and I don't think thats a healthy attitude for Open Source to adopt.

2) You are expected to join in if you want to. As long as you play nice the toys are for everyone.
This is the big one. Yeah yeah you've heard it before. But its true. No matter how little of an "eye for design" you have, you have it. Comment, post mockups and try to see the cool things people do and spin off that.
I can't promise that you're work will end up being the official theme for Plasma Next - but I can promise that you will influence it. We actually DO listen to comments. To cool ideas especially.
And that's the bit to remember - its always better to contribute than to comment especially if you're comment is "I don't like that". We have some rules and they are essentially: If you post criticism, what it is you don't like, why you don't like, how it could be fixed and propose a fix it's a gold star comment. If you criticize, specify what it is you don't like and how it could be fixed. Thats a silver star comment. If you criticize and specify what it is you don't like ... thats bronze. As long as you do it in a nice and cooperative way it's ok to post. If you can't say exactly what it is you don't like about something AND can't be nice about it - don't post.
If you have a cool idea on the other hand. Post. Thats the only rule for contributions.
Why is it like this? Because we want to foster a friendly attitude. Design IS communication and communication is hingent on a community. By letting everyone feel like they can contribute with mockups and cool ideas - we get more cool ideas. By playing with the art or design school rules of criticism we make certain that the other nasty and sadly common thing in design is minimized - the nonsense put-downs to make yourself seem "better" or the simple "you suck" comments that does nothing at all for design work.

3) This is a massive social experiment.
Yeah. It is. It's the tricky bit in what I do. On the one hand the goal is to create a stunning visual design for Plasma Next, on the other the plan is to create a community of designers and make design a "thing" within Plasma and KDE and Open Source in general.
I want to change the way we look at people and stop dividing them into experts and "everyone else". I want to tear down those barriers and makes us all feel included, like we're a part (like I felt on the first sprint I was at). I want to change the way we handle design and this work is a test for that.
Why is it like that? Because I am old enough to know that failing is only really good when you fail miserably (that's when you learn things) and that sometimes you got to aim for the moon and skip the tree tops.
When I got into this I talked to some of the other designers who had worked on KDE projects and many of them where more or less burned out. They had worked themselves to the bone and then crashed due to it. I didn't feel like being another one AND I wanted to fix the issue permanently. So I went for the higher goal of it aware that it would mean more work for me personally and a higher risk of failing.


Not only so that we all started talking about design more constructively. Not just so everyone felt they could comment and be a part. Not only that there where hundreds of designers where yesterday there where one or two. Not only that.

But so that in the future there would be a model a system in which design would be created without the need for a petty expert-dictator who's presence was ever needed for the work to go forward. Where the load was shared by all. Where the work was more play than backbraking labour.

Maybe it will succeed, maybe it will fail - but if it does fail I think we can all agree that it will be a majestic catastrophe of a failure ;)

Next time I'll talk about the Design Vision (it won't be boring promise) what it is, how we intend to stick to it and where we are now in terms of design guidelines.

Monday Report #11 - Go time!

In which we talk about widget theme, community participation, ask for help, show off work by two handsome devs and mention some future promo work to come!

KDE VDG group member, hard at work!

This time I will focus primarily on the widget theme. Now as some of you may now there is a "quiet area" where we keep some of the work that either needs to be secret or where there are some issue or you want to test things or you need to work on it in quiet in a small group.

This isn't the end plan - the idea is that in the end everything except sensitive things (where perhaps the dev has asked us not to tell others about it yet) will be done in the open. Now is the time to try that out for reals!


Andrew has been hard at work with the widget theme - now unlike before it doesn't demand that you know C++ just that you can handle QML. Now what does that crazy abbreviation mean? Well, QML is "Qt Meta Language" and it's the way we can among other things style Qt apps or widgets.
It is comparatively simple to use and learn. I say comparatively because I'm trying to learn it as we speak and I would be lying if I said it was a dance on roses BUT it's way simpler than any other method for styling AND it offers a ton of features and possibilities.
Andrew is well under way with it and the current iteration - as well as a sneak peak at the window theme - can be seen here:

With a sneak peak at window dialogues too.

But he needs the communities help refining it! In his post in the forum is a short recap of the issue and some instructions as well as an invitation to EVERYONE no matter what skill level (or indeed if the suggestions are done in words or mockups or QML) to participate. I can only suggest that you do! The more we are, the better it will become!


Aside from that some rather fascinating possibilities have opened up. Alex Fiestas and Vishesh Handa, two of what I prefer to call "KDE's finest" have started working on a new Video Player.
Now many might think that this is a waste of time as there already are video players out there - then let me let you in on a little secret. Inside this thick skull of mine is a dream of crafting applications made for desktop usage. Where we take a sincere look at whats needed, how it can best be presented, how it should work and flow - without feeling stuck in the hellish "where did my X/Y/Z feature go in X/Y/Z software?" problem. When you remodel something existing you run the risk of ruining it. It's a simple fact - it also ties you down design wise because we're nice people (trust me, designers are not only "nice" we are also "people") and to storm in and tell someone who doesn't want to change their application that you're there to do just that isn't a great experience.


Also this week hopefully a small promo video will be cut together for one detail or two of Plasma Next. Nothing long or fancy, no wonderful great secrets revealed BUT something to set the tone.

So this was perhaps not the longest monday report - but it was hopefully pleasant to read and informative! Until next time! (Oh and remember my promise "A year and a day for KDE"? 20% of the time has now passed...
(EDIT: I forgot to add the second image from Andrews post, sry fixed now)

måndag 7 april 2014

Monday Report #10

In which we mention the recent Alpha, gush about Community Design its problems and gains. Talk about whats coming for Plasma Next AND hand out freebee's - also we confess to have done something bad and say "sorry". 

"Hello, this is the Future. I just called to say we're coming."

Ok so first off the Alpha is out as I'm sure most of you have seen. This means that time is running up and this summer will definitely be the baptism of fire for this "Community Design" thing we got going.

This whole process has been mostly pain-free up until now so I would like to take a moment to get you all in on the trials to come.

The first issue is marketing. Community Design, when everything happens in the open, is not as easily marketed as Closed Design. There is no "Big Reveal" with a ton of features and looks you've never seen before because you've seen the process from scratch. Sure there are some secret projects, but they are moving towards an open situation as we speak.
Second is name recognition: we don't have massively famous designers that we can refer to - we have community members all as relevant as anyone else on the project.
Third, when there isn't a dedicated team progress can be jumpy. It can be at a standstill at times and it can move at the speed of light at others. It all depends on how much community members wish to concentrate on any one issue.

Now at one point EVERYTHING will be handled by the community with Community Organizers handling different sections and a Project Lead to pick up eventual slack. There will be a list or a roster where you sign up who's doing what without being binding (meaning if you suddenly don't have time there should never be any shame in saying "You know I can't do it now sorry") - until then this half-and-half will do.

So why do it? Because of many good reasons. Firstly my predecessor worked himself to the bone for the design for the last version of Plasma. Nuno Pinheiro made Plasma's (KDE 4's) design through the ample use of blood, sweat and tears and that work was almost too much for him (the fact that he did it amazes me. I would have gone around and slapped Plasma Devs at the half-way point)
We need to spread the burden around.

Second Open Source works magic - but design in Open Source is still closed. Why have a handful of experts when you can have hundreds of designers who can do it in cooperation and passion. Why hold yourself back?
Thirdly if there is anything my art-history studies teaches me is that art, design and all has often been tied in with an elite. With that it becomes stagnant until it is broken free and opened to a larger community. Design has to be done something common - something we are all allowed to do.

But what about Plasma Next? Well let me tell you! We're trying to figure out how to get a new widget theme into the next version of Plasma (widget themes are a PITA) and that's puttering along. The Plasma Theme is all on and will be compliant with the color theme chosen. Icons are puttering along and will hopefully be up somewhere around summer. Hopefully widgets and window decos will come in time for the next version of Plasma.

There is also two new cursor themes! It's made by the VDG Community members, Kver's Bridge (and Snowbridge) Cursor and Sir_Herrbatka's Perspective. Both are hoped to be included in Plasma Next as they follow two different goals for the design (one using Oxygen as starting point and one going for clarity).
This is also another moment to talk about the awesomeness of Community Design! LegnaVI and Leroux helped out with both, Flying Sheep helped Kver with Bugfixing and the whole process was one of amazing cooperation and support. I can only be impressed as hell at everyones (there where more) work!

You can download Bridge here and Perspective from KDE look here!
Also this is my moment to say sorry for screwing up the landing in the thread when I couldn't find the Perspective image AND failed to see that Andrew was supposed to do the presentation... Sorry guys and especially Sir_Herrbatka who has all right to feel a bit angry at me. Wont happen again. You can read their awesomeness and my bumbling mistake here!

Oh but there is more! Andrew has started work on new logout dialogues and David (one of the Plasma Dev's) have started working on it.... iiiih! "Teh Exitez!" as the kids say these days (darn kids)!

Yes it is awesome & yes it will be brilliant!
Further a new thread for wallpapers has opened up (because we need to look at more wallpapers and I can only urge everyone to join in AND we're gonna start working on a new Splash screen!

Good gods there is more though! I suggest checking in Kmymoney and their blogpost about the recent design work gone into their application and all done on the VDG forum! There is simply too much to write up at this point! :D

Ooooooh the future is so bright I am getting third degree burns! Talk later gotta work now!

onsdag 2 april 2014

A Monday Report #9 of sorts...

In which we dedicate this entire post to describe an idea that is moving forward... Also mention Italy AND then why "Monday" is just a mirage :)

"Spaceship Controls" Creative Common SA

Yesterday Thomas Pfeiffer made an April Fools post based as a way to introduce a new idea for Plasma Next.

"That’s why I came up with the idea of a “Choose Your Plasma Experience” dialog at the end of the installation process of distributions shipping Plasma:"

Yes the post was a joke, we will not pretend that you can just switch into KDE 2 for funsies and I was quoted as if I talked like a Manowar lyric and no one noticed (which makes me think I should start doing that full time)... Anyway the post may have been a joke but the idea wasn't.


See one of the majestic things with Plasma is it's flexibility - one of the downsides is the current way to use this flexibility. I like to call it the rocketship-controls.

Say that you rent a moped on a trip to Rome. You wanna swish through the streets screaming "Ciao!" at passers-by in the way of a 1950's Fellini film-revival. Once up on the moped you notice that the controls for it are in fact identical to those for the International Space Station. Passing by the Fontana-di-trevi you run down a group of Belgian tourists since to be able to turn you had to flip five switches and program the orbital angle into the mopeds steering system.
This isn't empowering - this is choice made to cripple the user. While we don't have any plans on removing choices - we plan to make them accessible. The alternative: inaccessible choice is just as bad in practice as "no choice at all".


Thomas post touched on this and we thought we should do a work-in-progress reveal. We want to make it possible to edit your theme in one go. Not edit everything individually - but create a situation where you easily just click in a "Experience" (as these are called, encompassing not only visuals but layouts), hit apply and presto. Your desktop layout, the plasma theme, the widget theme, the icons and colors all change in one deft strike.

When you first install your computer you will have a simplified version of this setting - which Thomas explains on the Blog post he just posted. But when up and running you will be able to change the appearance, layout, theme and concept easily. You like OSX? We can hook you up...
But thats not all that we plan on doing - one of the things is a way to edit the theme. The point is as I stated not at all about REMOVING options but rather, making them accessible.
So you go into the experience switcher - click an experience and then "Edit Theme". From there you can edit all the things you're used to edit individually. When you're done you save the theme to a new file and can decide on whether to export it or not.


Here are some doodles and sketches on how we thought the System Settings "Experience" should look like and work - yes it's early and yes these are rough drafts (obviously since their on paper) but things are moving forward and soon mockups and then screenshots...

Yes this is actually I how I think out application and design things.
You crazy kids and your computers! I still use a pen and paper!

Anyway these are for the System Settings module "Experience" - Thomas has more on the work on the Post-installation one on his blog as well as more details :)

Aside from all that things are moving forward - right now everyone is off doing their own thing though which is odd so it's eerily silent. Next "Monday Report" (which will actually come on a monday will have more news.

See you then

tisdag 1 april 2014

Open Source I love you!

In which we apologize for "monday" being a fluent term, promise that it is coming and essentially talk about Open Source instead - because we should.

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the sea of fog, 1818 

First of all - "Monday" - I know it's been a tad fickle when it comes to those reports. This is has all to do with the massive amount of work being done and the work posted in the Public Forums. Going through it is a solid days work suddenly which is brilliant! It's also something that suddenly springs on you - much like the sudden burst of great weather we're having here in Sweden. So tomorrow a "monday" report is coming!


Until then I want to take this short moment to talk about the magic of Open Source. I recently spent some time trying to fish up local funds from City officials and politicians and found out the hard way how hard it is to describe what Open Source is.
Not just technically but communally - the idea behind the method that is Open Source and why I left everything proprietary behind and switched to it when the design and illustration community is so thoroughly entrenched in proprietary software.


Ok so I spent the day cold-calling (IE calling without having a prior contact) local politicians. The discussion went sort of like this:

Politician: So you guys want venture capital to invest in your idea?
Me: No, see since this is something that everyone will use we need the common, the state, the EU etc to help fund it.
Politician: So you're offering this to us for free?
Me: No, we need help funding it. We can't do a years work without paying people.
Politician: So the company you work for want to sell it to the City?
Me: No, we want to give it away when its done so everyone can use it for free.
Politician: So you're giving it to us for free?
Me: No we still need funding.
Politician: So you want venture capital?

Here I had to explain, again, why you can't sell Open Source software in the same way you can sell Proprietary software. Then I had to explain why something that would benefit everyone isn't exactly economically viable to invest in by a company or venture capitalist.
After that I had to explain WHY I did something that I couldn't make any money off. Which got me thinking... Isn't this awesome? Isn't it great that my motivation clearly isn't about making money (aside for paying my bills) but doing something that I know will benefit a rather excluded group in Europe (if not across the globe)? Something that is common - a thing for all?

But how could I explain it without going on into a marxist tangent? (Now, granted I am one, but it doesn't do to use that as an explanation for your actions)

The end result was: because this is the future.


Yes we don't have as much cash as proprietary software. Sure, we don't have the business contacts or perhaps even the market savvy.

But the difference is, they are an oared ship trying to catch the wind - while we have full sails up, flowing with it. They can hire hundreds of dedicated developers - we are already thousands. They try to figure out how to create something you can sell - We look at whats needed and do that.

We're not salesmen, we're creators. We're explorers, pioneers, inventors and artists.

At this point one of the politicians asked: "So do you work for Microsoft or Apple?"


Tomorrow the "Monday" report will be done and posted! There will be a run through of all the things we're getting done and it will be awesome. Stay tuned!