Why Message and Audience?

Every piece of artwork conveys a message even if you don't care about it. That would be to take a risk instead of an opportunity. If you do care about the message, you have to think about the recipient. You don't talk to a 12 year old girl the same as you do to a 61 year old man.

If you work on art without a documented audience, you are still very likely to make a number of assumptions regarding your recipients. Such hidden assumptions are detrimental to cooperation on artwork.

The target audience for artwork doesn't need to be identical to the entire audience for Ubuntu as such. You can't please everyone. One person's exciting is another's over-the-top. One person's elegant is another's boring. Aiming at a limited circle of people makes it a lot easier to please at least them and avoids bland, at best mediocre results.

Defining a main audience, even specifically for artwork, is likely to raise complaints about excluding people. But the attempt to target everyone implies an audience of just average people. No single person is average, though.


While the age range of current and potential users might reach quite far in both directions, you might want to assume a peak somewhere between 20 and 35.

One could ask: Who is Ubuntu good for? Who will benefit from its key characteristics the most? Here there is a risk to end up in a loop, though. So we prefer to ask:

Who do we want to attract next?

Trendsetters who will lead others to follow. People who are visible in their computer use. Those who have interesting capabilities to add to our community. Those who have the glamour we would like for Ubuntu itself. Young web-savvy professionals.

This should lead to attributes such as young, modern, progressive, sharp. All of which can be thought to be fitting or desirable for Ubuntu.

People like that will often be accustomed to proprietary software, some without good free alternatives. But with the available free software, we can offer the following benefits:

  • no license cost. For some professionals, these costs are negligible. But for students and newcomers and in countries with a weak economy, this can be a big issue.
  • no license tracking required. Need another copy of the software? No problem!
  • no copy protection, no dongles: no hassle!
  • lower risk of lock-in. No closed file formats.
  • sharing and collaboration are made easy, as virtually anyone can get a copy of the used software.
  • the possibility to get involved in free software projects.

The overarching theme here is freedom in a very pragmatic sense. no chains, but also no pretentious kitsch!

We should show that artists and designers are involved to lead the way for others to follow.

Audience characteristics

How to define the audience more closely, if deemed sensible:

  • Age Group
  • Gender (percentages)
  • Social status
  • Education
  • Technical knowledge
  • Skills
  • Attitudes and cultural bias
  • Hobbies
  • Goals (as far as related to computer use)
  • Common tasks
  • Equipment
  • Environment (work/home)
  • Geographical location

How to handle cultural differences around the world?

  • Avoid to be culture specific as far as possible.
  • Accept a western-centric bias.
  • Leave it to spin-offs to happen where the need and ability collide.
  • Get experts aboard for each major cultural region, if possible.

The Message

The message is not restricted to what anyone thinks of Ubuntu now, but is entirely about how it should be seen in the future.

Impression on sight, not necessarily using it. Ubuntu is:

  • distinct from other offerings. That means there has to be something about the design that you do not find elsewhere.
  • a viable alternative of professional quality. Stand out not like a clown, but like a champion!
  • desirable. Something between chocolate and a sports car.

On use, trust must be established. Ubuntu is:

  • trustworthy
  • straightforward
  • supportive

Furthermore, Ubuntu is:

  • friendly and welcoming
  • based on cooperation and sharing
  • global
  • about software freedom

Means to Express the Message

This is a listing of what can be done to express each part of the message, not of what has to be done.


  • Characteristic color palette.
  • Characteristic shapes or combinations of shapes.
  • Wallpapers made with a specific technique/style.
  • Tendencies in the choice of motives (e.g. motives related to Africa).

Viable, of professional quality:

  • Don't just copy the competition.
  • Continuity: Wallpaper, window and widget theme and icons must be adjusted to each other.
  • Avoid paleness.


  • Make every detail look refined and elegant.
  • Make widgets look like they could be touched and it would feel good.


  • Don't try to impress in a flashy and bold way like an imposter would do.
  • Keep it simple, clear and balanced. Avoid distractions.
  • Make transitions smooth, avoid any flickering.
  • Keep strong visual ties from one release of Ubuntu to the next.


  • Avoid unnecessary details.

Supportive, friendly and welcoming:

  • Provide visual guidance, make clear what is important and what is not.
  • Have a tendency towards warm colors, avoid paleness.

Cooperation and sharing, all around the world:

  • Use motives that are about people, being connected and the globe

(Software) freedom:

  • Use motives that imply freedom, such as wide open sky and far away horizon. Specifically software freedom is a too complex story to tell, though.

Prejudices to fight

  • Linux is overly complicated and only for nerds. Avoid a complicated and cold, technical look.
  • If it's free it has to be inferior. Free of charge should only be an implied part of the message, bound to the sharing and community angle, because things that do not cost money are often not valued and thought to be inferior.
  • It's just a bad clone of Windows/OSX. See first 2 points of the message.

Beneficial associations

  • Letterpress printing (cultural achievement, infrastructure, sharing of knowledge)
  • Scientific process

Those who might think negative about the above are quite likely to not be sympathetic towards Ubuntu, anyway.

Release specific additions

There are a few major goals set for each cycle. It has to be considered if any of them can be reflected in the design of the boot-splash, login screen and wallpaper. Especially the wallpaper, as it is expected to be a new one for each release.

Artwork/Documentation/Message (last edited 2009-04-15 19:07:38 by p5089738D)