Artwork Quality (was Re: Sound themes)

Máirín Duffy duffy at
Fri Oct 24 03:02:26 UTC 2008

William Jon McCann wrote:
> It is not often fun to be told that your work is not good enough or
> inappropriate. 

It seems you've hijacked a thread about sound themes to indirectly 
allude that the art team's work is not good enough or appropriate. If 
you do believe this, it would be better to give direct feedback rather 
than beat around the bush. Specific critiques about the Fedora 10 
artwork, which I think exceeds the F9 artwork by far, would be greatly 
appreciated. Also, please consider that we have a number of non-native 
English speakers here who might not necessarily pick up on the nuances 
of your message.

> And it is an essential part of how human
> development works. You simply can't grow without it.
> In this aspect, art design is no different from software design.

I trust that was meant with the best of intentions, so I'm sad to admit 
I can't help finding this somewhat patronizing, sorry.

> You would be right to point out here that we don't all agree on what
> our audience is and what our product should feel like.
> That is indeed a serious problem.

How do you propose to fix it?

> Another problem is how you define who the judges are.  Do you try to
> poll your audience? (requires you to clearly define the audience) Do
> you trust your peers?  (must define peers)  Do you trust the
> critics/experts? 

While you have not come out and said directly to what you would like to 
apply these questions to, I'm happy to be quite direct and state that we 
have done all of the above on the art team. Over the past few releases 
we've tried different things and learning from them. "Growing as human 
beings" you could say, I suppose.

> It is a tough problem.  But it always goes back to
> audience.  Otherwise you may create something that is beautiful,
> complete, and wrong.

Again, I can't help but feel a bit patronized.

> I think that the desktop wallpapers we've used by default are a good
> example of this:

Why not just say the Fedora 9 wallpapers sucked instead of going to all 
that effort? I wouldn't argue with you on it. There were some real 
stinkers before we had a community art process as well. Same with the 
bits of the release in general, we've had some real stinkers with some 
broken bits shipped out of the box. So artwork and code, we've never 
been perfect every release. Even so, there are quite a few fans of the 
F9 wallpaper despite its suckage.

> Switching gears slightly.  When resources are limited, fragmentation
> often results in inconsistency.  Or, when the problem space is too
> large or unbounded the best we can do is to define standards.  For
> desktop apps we have the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines.  For icon
> themes we have the Tango guidelines, and the upcoming Mango
> guidelines.  Widget themes are slightly different because the problem
> is basically bounded - there are only so many widgets to theme.

Artwork is a little different and harder to pin down than GUI design 
guidelines (which are also very difficult to pin down except on the very 
top, surface level which is all the GNOME HIG itself has actual clear 
guidelines for.) We have some basic guidelines that the artwork adhere 
to a theme that can be clearly linked back to the spirit and goals of 
Fedora. Its base color is typically a shade of blue that is the same or 
complementary to the official Fedora logo colors. We have specific 
guidelines about resolution, aspect ratio, elements (where the logo is 
and isn't allowed), and formats for every bit of artwork we put into the 
  release. These requirements, of course, are just as surface-level as 
the guidelines for widget usage in the HIG.

Just as you can't follow a formula like the GNOME HIG and pop out a 
beautiful, usable interface, you can't follow a formula like the Fedora 
theme guidelines and pop out a beautiful theme. The magic inbetween that 
makes something good is design. I'm quite saddened by the fact that you 
don't seem to believe this team has or is capable of having that magic, 
but I suppose to relate it to coding as you did in your message, perhaps 
not everyone felt Linus had the magic or capability to develop the magic 
necessary to start a real, usable operating system.

I suppose you could suggest we hire a professional Artist to sit in a 
room by themselves and design the entire theme all by themselves to get 
something beautiful, perfect, and befitting our high-quality desktop, 
but then you'd be in conflict designing artwork in a closed manner for a 
community operating system. It's not really fair to make comparisons to 
how software development and code works only when it is convenient so 
let's be fair and complete the analogy.

The thing is, when one person designs things in a vaccuum, you only ever 
see the end product and you never see the work-in-progress so the end 
result I think always seems so impressive than if you had seen it 
develop in stages. Unfortunately with the open process we have here, it 
is quite easy to judge works before they have fully formed and thus 
adopt an unfair bias against a final work that otherwise may have seemed 
quite satisfactory.
> So, back to sound themes.  I am maintaining the default freedesktop
> sound theme.  It is very new, incomplete, and definitely a bit rough.
> If anyone has any high quality sounds that meet the guidelines listed
> in the README please let me know.

It probably would have been better if you started a new thread since I 
am sure this was lost in the heat of all of the above so I've started a 
new one for you.
> One thing that we need to stop right now is the "us" versus "them"
> mentality. 

That would be great, I really look forward to this! It's a real shame. 
all the aggression that's happening on fedora-desktop-list concerning 
the artwork. The artwork list was left off of the cc as well, which 
makes me think the thread was started only to cause strife and not to 
help improve things (if it was meant constructively I don't understand 
leaving out the very folks involved in the decision it ranted about.) 
It's that kind of aggressive, adversarial behavior that really makes me 
question why I bother. (maybe from your POV it would be a good thing if 
I quit the art team, who knows) But I certainly don't see that type of 
behavior coming from the art team in the reverse direction, for sure.

> I've heard that there is a long and sorted history between
> the Fedora art and desktop groups.  Frankly, I don't know or care
> about any of that.  It is all in the past.  We need to focus on
> creating the right product for the right people and making it feel
> beautiful.  Let's do it.

How do you propose we "do it" since it seems clear to me that you feel 
we are not doing it?


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