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Artwork conversations


Apologies for the long post but this touches a broader topic. So be patient and you will reach the see the light or at the end of my email. Are we ready? Good.

I had a opportunity to talk to Diana Fong during FUDCon Boston 2007 after she came up to talk to me about my perspectives and what I was trying to accomplish with the mail I send a few weeks back[1]. On hindsight that was probably not clear to everyone involved and might have been high sounding. So a longer clarification and some views points here.

The conversation we had went on for over an hour about Fedora Artwork project in general and specifically about getting a larger number of contributors involved from the community, the process and the quality that we need to maintain. Diana Fong was worried about the quality of the artwork being produced but didnt work to throw off people from doing the work. I was highlighting that the conversations usually is happening on IRC or blogs which the people here in mailing lists are either not aware of or not participation due to differences in time zones and the process as being important as much as the quality of the work being produced. I suggested that if we cant really collaborate on every step, she can at the moment be transparent about her working methodology and thoughts would be a good first step. I think her recent series of blogs "The Voodoo That I Do" [2] is effective in that and should be appreciated. Not everyone knows equally well to work in the community. Unlike say packaging where the line of quality vs community participation is tilter in favor of the latter, I believe in artwork it should be the former that is given a higher priority. We should not sacrifice the good results and throw off skilled contributions just because they or we havent yet been able to communicate well with the community. Having said that, here is more details to consider.

When the original effort to have a focus on better look and feel was done by Diana Fong for Fedora Core 5, it was entirely a single person's effort. Folks started noticing especially since the artwork happened to be rather in the face compared to the traditional and conservative artwork which we had in the past. I thought that went pretty good overall even though obviously not everyone liked the artwork. It was controversial enough to be talked about inside and external to the Fedora community. Reviews invariably pointed it out in a positive manner. It was also a nod to the idea that Fedora is approachable to everyone and not just the enthusiasts.

Fedora Core 6 artwork turned out to be even better with the concepts drawn by Maureen Duffy, the 3D blender work done Mola and the final polishing from Diana Fong. We managed to work as a team, incorporate feedback from various circles such as the artwork being too dark initially etc. Other than the long term discussions about the trademark protection required in the logo vs the need for creativity, I think there is agreement that the quality of the artwork in general has been good to exceptional. What was not defined and to some extend still causing confusion [3] is the process. We had to rush through kind of in the last minute with Fedora Core 6 and here we are now worrying whether we can do artwork effectively as a community today. I would say that is pretty difficult and we would have to learn by trial and error a few things and I have some ideas that could help here.

1) Expect to jump through hurdles : This shouldnt need much explanation but pretty much everytime we have initiated new projects, there has been periods of confusion and general mess before we started being effective. It is pretty much a established trend that I would be surprised we had it all figured out right from the start anywhere. It happened with with Fedora in general. Fedora Extras, Fedora Documentation and now with Fedora Ambassadors and Artwork projects but artwork is rather unique on its own for a number of reasons.

It is very subjective, people tend to take criticisms rather personally. We are reluctant to tell people that their artwork is crappy because we dont want to give off the impression that we arent appreciating their interest or contributions in general and more important we dont have a established history of caring about good look and feel and creating artwork via the community in general. Every time we had good artwork anywhere in the Free software world, it has been done through single individuals or by a small focused team. Tiger in GNOME. Crystal SVG icons in KDE or closer to home Fedora Artwork in previous releases. The other end happens to be troublesome [4]. Some would argue that this is indeed true of Free software development in general but I wont go into that now. In general, we will figure out the process and if we can make it work over time. We might realise sometime later that this just isnt working and shut it down but I consider that pretty premature to conclude at this point.

* Tackle work in discrete chunks : For example, creating one particular icon for the Echo theme is much more easier than working on a creating a entire desktop theme. We know the theme is incomplete. We put in as the default sometime back to receive feedback and more importantly contributions. So instead of endless talking about what holes we see, try and fix them.

* Work as a team : Expect to receive criticism, others to take your work and come up with variations or polish it better etc. Mola's blender work in Fedora Core 6 and John Baer's concept work in Fedora 7 are good examples of this. If you look at the feedback from the concept work by John Baer vs the recent work from Diana Fong, I think it would evident that the community here is strong is the conceptual stage and others like Mo, Diana Fong good at final execution and polishing. Our expectations can be caliberated at that level. We might grow a stronger community or people can learn the skills from the more experienced folks. This is where [2] is useful too. Nobody knows all the pieces of the puzzle. We are bound to have intermediate failures. Give it time.



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