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.

torsdag 29 maj 2014

System Settings and new VDG members

In which we introduce the work on System Settings, talk about our new members and the action group for System Settings.

Right, a while back we had some additions to the VDG team: Anditosan, Gartheco and Ken300 - I promised then that I would make little avatar images for them (which I haven't done, mea culpa etc) but that doesn't mean they've been resting or doing nothing.

Gartheco joined Andrew Lake in working with the new window decorations - as I've posted about before. Being a veteran Aurorae theme designer and a QML genius he and Andrew work in tandem to fiddle with bits about that.

Anditosan and Ken300 where both doing work on System Settings redesign and joined forces with Heiko Tietze and Thomas Pfeiffer from the HIG team to work on the question "How will system settings work in the future?". Together they make up the System Settings Action Group (it's like a superhero team, only less spandex and more thinking) and if you want to contribute with ideas I can only suggest that you go to the forum and post your mockups and help out!
Now with System Settings this is a "way into the future" job - because we are working on the "bit-by-bit" production model AND lets be frank here, the devs are more or less working 24/7 getting the first version of Plasma Next out the door.
But this is what system settings will work like in the future - it's what they work on that will shape the things to come.

Also can I say something that is cool? I am right now struggling to keep up. My intray is massive, I keep trying to read blog posts and forums posts as fast as possible. Individual members of the VDG community are doing awesome work in the forums and I can hardly keep up. I spend hours trying to answer one thing and work on it, then notice someone else have already done it.
This is the coolest thing I've ever seen. Yes it's kinda harrowing but it's amazing the amount of work done.
Tomorrow I'll have a "what Jens need to do" day, and start making lists and tick them off one by one. My greatest challenge for the near future is getting the right design work and designers in contact with the right devs... THATS the tricky bit right now and where I should spend my time.

Why? Because whatever work I can do, the VDG community is doing it quicker, better and cooler than I ever could alone.

You guys and girls ROCK! <3

måndag 26 maj 2014

Monday Report: Wallpaper Edition

The world shortest update in which we talk about the wallpaper competition, whats needed, when it ends and what we need and what you can win.  

Wallpapers are relevant, yes they are easy to change - and yes they probably shouldn't matter since everyone changes the wallpaper but it's one of those things you see first. So a few weeks ago we started a wallpaper competition and we have gotten some great wallpapers sent in but we want more.

The wallpaper competition will therefore be extended two weeks so more can take part in it.

So how does it work, you ask? Easy, our three members of the Jury, Me, one from the community (Sogatori to be precise, if you wish to want to send bribes) and one member of the Plasma dev team will pick out the favorites and with the help of the community pick out the three winners who's wallpapers will be included in Plasma Next.

The three winners will get the awesome book "Design Elements - a Graphic Style Manual" and of course a worthy mention.

So what are we looking for? Photo wallpapers, illustration wallpapers or graphical and abstract wallpapers are all accepted for submission, personally I would suggest to avoid text elements or logo's entirely - the theme we're going for is a hopeful futurism but this should be considered something to focus around, not a prerequisite.

The submissions can be posted in the Deviant Art group or in the thread here in the forums. If you have them elsewhere post a link in the forums.

How about licensing? Well this will all have to of course be yours to licence and done as Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 or GPL v2 or later. 


måndag 19 maj 2014

Monday Report: Deluxe Edition!

In which we talked about the "Conspiracy of the Missing Monday Report", a short thing about the Beta and then some screenshots of where we're heading concerning themes and icons and then talk some more about participation and how much it means.

I forgot.

I know, I know, no Monday Report last week - lets just keep it at "its been kinda hectic lately", "I forgot" and move on. Monday reports are continuing no matter what so don't worry about that. :)
So I will post this and then ANOTHER post soon after to delve some more into the work going on with Wallpapers and the wallpaper competition.

To the Long and the Short of it: We have a Beta as most of you have read. What shocked some is that the beta wasn't a major change in visual design. No, it wasn't intended to be. I've said back in January, over and over, "bit-by-bit". This will be a slow change and let me delve into the "why's".
Plasma is a massive project, it has millions of users and a long history. What started as another Linux Desktop Environment has grown and grown with layers and layers of function. Now some of you might say "Well scrap all of them and build it from scratch" and for a mission with less demands that would be true. Plasma is a MASSIVE project for a reason. One of those are that the users who like the way it is NOW should not feel dismissed, another was that changes had to stick to an obvious layout path from KDE4 another that flexibility should never be compromised and a third that "Community" should always be the focus etc etc (or as a friend said when I told him about the project "What, are you stupid? Why are you doing this!?" ;) ). So bear with us, things are changing but we will do it slowly.

Anyway I wanted to show two screen shots of where we're heading. The first one is from Andrew Lake who together with Garthecho (a new VDG member) heads the work on QML and is tied into almost every bit of it. You can see the new window decoration (that needs to be properly ported as right now we have an Aurorae theme for it but Aurorae doesn't play nice in Plasma Next (so if you're a C++ programmer who likes to get his/her hands dirty, tell us!)) and you can see what Plasma looks like too as well as the Widget theme and a few of the Icons.

Under here you can get a nice good look at Uri Herreras icon work so far. Now Uri is one of life's many overworked people who tend to take on quite a load when he gets a chance so if you want to help out with Plasma Next, try to help HIM with his Flattr Icon theme so that he gets more time to do our theme (yes it's as confusing to write as it probably is to read :) )

Please note that they window decorations, Plasma Theme and Widget Themes are for Nitrux OS and not Plasma Next!

Ok so finally about participation - I know since things move slowly it might be tricky and many seem to think that they are being overlooked or that no devs are checking their work. Trust me, nothing could be further from the truth. It's just that things WILL move slowly. We're working on Plasma Next. That means that when this Beta is out the door we will still be working on its refined state. Plasma as it will be in June, is not the final product. It's just the first iteration of it and my intention is that when this year ends the changes will be visible to all.

torsdag 8 maj 2014

Moka Icon Theme Ported to Plasma!

In which we talk about the porting of an immensely popular icon theme to Plasma, the relevance of Plasma and KDE people to donate a little cash, learn Sam Hewitt wasn't born in 1956 Berlin and here his opinion on design in Plasma

Not at all the icons we're talking about...
Whats all this hoo-haw about icons then?
One of the first things people think of when talking visual design is icons. Now as "design" this is a very tight definition since a large chunk of it is so much bigger. But icons is a part of it all and it is something that is the most obvious change visually. Icons are also something very very difficult to do well as there is not only several very strict rules and concepts to consider while doing them, there is also a very large amount of work involved (thousands of icons for starters). Beyond that there are issues that make it even trickier.
As icons are very direct visually - they are often victim of harsh criticism (or downright harassment) but further than that the BASE theme of a distro have to follow even stricter rules if it want to be accessible to as many as possible.

Now we using Plasma do not have the huge wealth of icon themes as the boys and girls over at GTK, but we are getting there ever so slowly and today I would like to present one of the latest icon themes to get ported to KDE - Moka by Sam Hewitt.

Yeah so this is one of my desktops with the Moka icon theme!
I obviously talked to Sam and sent him some questions to answer which follow below but before we get there I would like to say that you can download the icon theme from his site and, as one Plasma user to another - Please for our sake pay for it. You can afford the 3 bucks if you got a job and what you do when you do that is to send a clear message to Sam and other predominantly GTK designers "We want design in Plasma, Qt and KDE too!"
(in a perfect world I'd love for Sam to see a bump in payments OR donations (I gave 10 dollars) so remember to donate, ok?)

Anyway heres the short Interview with Sam Hewitt:


Who are you?
Who am I? Well, it was 1956 and in a small town in East Berlin it was a cold December day. But Berlin is always cold in December. As for me, I'm from Canada and the '90s
Nearly all the things I've found that I'm good at, I've taught myself, design included; I dropped out of university a few years ago, half-way towards an engineering degree that was killing my love of mathematics & physics. It was after that that I kind of fell into design as a passion and decided to pursue it –open source was simply an enable
Whats the story with Moka?
Moka started a little over a year ago, I can't remember exactly when. I had decided to create an icon theme, as an hobby/endeavour in teaching myself more about Inkscape –Moka then was very different from Moka now.

... heres the early versions of the Moka Icon theme ...
I eventually abandoned the skeuomorphic aspects that I started with, as that was already done by others and it wasn't really my style. Changing gears, I decided to to fill a gap in the theming community of a well-designed, comprehensive icon set that was modern in style. Then I decided I wanted to do a desktop (GTK) theme, which became Moka GTK. Purple as a motif was something no-one was doing; there are colours that are frequent in themes –blue is in many and is highly overused in my opinion.
The whole "Moka Project" is relatively recent, but with the project as a unified thing I started making other subproject and using Moka as an umbrella for it, and here we are.

What do you expect of Moka further along the line?
The future of Moka is uncertain, its fate is practically determined by my fate. Being the sole force behind Moka, should I decide to move on the project effectively halts. It's a reason I (made attempts to) set out to monetize it. If it made a few bucks I'd be motivated to work on it more since I would know there was an appreciative user base to work for. With all that there's a set of flaws I won't get into here.
As for future design plans, it's all up in the air. If I were to start anything majorly new (like a desktop environment), I'd do it outside the scope of Moka –have it hold it's own brand, to which the Moka brand could be applied.

Why did you port it to Plasma? 
I ported/expanded Moka's icon coverage to KDE because it was something I always intended to do. A goal for the set was to be as comprehensive as possible. Moka, excluding the Faba icon set, has nearly 9500 icons (I design 7 icons for every 1 application) and I still take requests (of which I still have a huge number outstanding) for additional icons. I want people to be able to use the icons on whichever environment they want and have the same experience.

What do you think are biggest design issues with Plasma? 
I tend to stay away from overtly criticising the various desktop environments, but since you asked, I'll say something brief. I can sum up the flaws (as I see it) of KDE/Plasma's design practices, thusly: 

"Too Much Bling"

Simply put, there's too much stuff –kill that silly bouncy ball already! ;)
The amount of user interface and user-facing options, I can see as being overwhelming to newcomers, which means it's not outwardly user friendly. Sure, the style could be modernized; the look & feel is too flashy, glow-y and realistic for a design world gone flat. But were I a benevolent dictator for the project, I'd fix the user experience first and then layer on a new style.


More to come?
So with that we will hopefully leave Sam to notice a bump in donations and payments (did I say "pay for it, for KDE and Plasma's sake"?) and perhaps we might charm him into a making a Moka Qtcurve and color theme? My plan is to next time we talk outside of the "monday" reports I'll have a collection of my favorite free wallpapers found on the web and perhaps another short interview.

Till next time, its now two in the morning and this design is dying to get to bed!

tisdag 6 maj 2014

Monday Report #14 - LazyIT edition

In which we talk about Italian helper LazyIT on Google Plus, Wallpaper Competitions, Shutdown Dialogues, Schooling, Window Decorations and new members!

First of all a great thank you to LazyIT who keeps reminding me that monday has passed and he has still hasn't seen my Monday Report. It's like having an italian editor constantly going on about this strange concept of "Deadlines"? :)

We have plenty of things to talk about so I will keep this short and exact:

Wallpaper Competition!
So for the entire month of May we will hold a competition for wallpapers. The winners will be chosen by me, Sogatori and another member of the VDG and then the entire community.
The level quality of wallpaper needed is high - so the choices will be made first by the three person team as something that is good enough for distro release and then from those passing the initial bar.
We will post all things in a devianart group called aptly "VisualDesignGroup" if you have a Deviantart account - ask to join the group, if not post your suggestion in the Forum thread and I or someone else will post it for you.
Please remember that your submission must be under CC-BY-SA 3.0, GPL v2 or GPL 3 licence.
The theme "The Bright Future" we're going for is "The bright future" and the three chosen winners  will all get as a first prize the book "Design Elements: a graphics style manual" as well as the honor and whatever strange nicknacks is found in the back of my cupboard.

This is the kicker though - if nothing passes the bar of "good enough to work as a wallpaper" - no one wins. So bring out your best work, your best smiles and lets get this done!

Shutdown Dialogue!
There is the question of the shutdown dialogue to sort through too! We're planning on revamping the ever-present "Moon" and need some new ideas. A thread will open up shortly in the forums about this so start thinking already about your suggestions. You don't have to be able to draw it, but a suggestion would be awesome.

QML school has opened!
As I, Jens, is a massive dunce of the quality that spent his youth drawing instead of learning any real valuable skills I simply lack any form of schooling except how-to-make-certain-the-teacher-doesn't-catch-me-drawing-in-the-maths-book-again. So me and VDG member Uri will be schooled in the finer arts of QML by VDG unicorn Andrew Lake and new VDG member Garthecho and we invite EVERYONE to join in!
You may notice that my first post was of a boy with a dunce-hat on and Uri said "I'll draw some icons while I think" - so no matter what your skill level is you won't be the worst at it! Ask questions and talk about QML! (Then please let me copy from you during the test)

New Window Decorations!
Ok so Andrew and new guy Gartheco has teamed up to get cracking with the new window decorations which you can see below. It has a clearer window bar as that was asked for, a blue stripe along it that disappear as the window is maximized. You can also play with the QML version if you have Project Neon up and running (In Kubuntu for example) in which case you can get it here!

There is an insane amount of work going on in the background too so stay tuned for next weeks "Monday" report!