Cultural Design Themes

I said I’d give the new Ubuntu light theme some time and I’ve given a long time to looking at it and considering it. Finally I think I can post a fair blog post about it. I’m going to go with conclusions first:

The white “ambiance”: I dislike it, it’s unbalanced, uncoordinated and looks fake. When you first see it there is something not quite right that you can’t put your finger on, it looks bad, but your damned if you can put your finger on why. I think the best analysis of the components of the theme so far has got to be Jay’s post on kbps, it’s a recommended read. My thought: It looks like dirty old plastic.

What struck me at first was how similar this desktop design has to the likeness of a default Mac OSX theme, purple background, left sided buttons, soft plastic style with shiny gleam. So I talked with various community people about it. Most people could see it was an unintentional convergence of style, form and depth. It’s the spirit of the Mac if not it’s exact clone.

The buttons on the left side is a terrible idea, unconventional, forced for an LTS release they decided to do something far too experimental and invoke the ire of a lot of people. I have some people here in Massachusetts who deliver and manage computers to local businesses for a living and they were all for pushing 9.10 on their customers. But they’ve decided to be weary of 10.04 just because of the buttons, they believe it’s a _really_ bad design and the way it was done has harmed trust in the design of Ubuntu for them.

That’s sad and it’s the kind of thing I hoped wouldn’t happen.

I will be changing the theme on my own computers to a more traditional theme and I’ve asked a number of future users of the machines what they would prefer and so far none of them have said they would like the Ambience theme or the left aligned buttons so I plan on removing these default themes from the PXE boot install.