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[wiki:Artwork/Incoming/Hardy/Alternate/BasicIdeals/Ideas Ideas]

NEXT ART RELEASE:BRBetween Sun 16th Dec - Sat 22nd Dec


Basic Ideals

An interface with only the purpose to be the usable and intuitive by design. The most basic user is to open this interface, and know what each element does, what to expect from it, and how to do what they want.



The "Basic Ideals" concept is not the search for an ultra-cool theme that blows away 'competition'. The idea of this theme and the upgrades that would become necessary for it to be supported only have the purpose to create the most usable user interface. Elements of cool and amazing designs are only second to ease-of-use.

Each element in the theme, from buttons to scrollbars, should be self explanatory. Everything should be considered in the design of an element. Should a button be pill shaped, like OS X? Should they be square with rounded corners, like Windows? Should they change colour, light up, cast shadows? Reflect? Glow? Have markings or decals? What will feel natural, what would feel unnatural?

Going to the bare basics, how to elements compare to their real-life counterparts? Where does light come from? How will your grandmother interpret it? How will you interpret it? If sounds are present, what would it sound like? If animations are present, how would they move?

Hopefully, with solid guidelines and coherence, the theme will look good on it's own, without needing to resort to gimmicks. Additionally, some of the effects mentioned also require Compiz and Emerald; So an alternate version of this theme would need to be made for lower-spec computers.

Basic Theme Guidelines

A good theme should have consistent cues to tell the user what an object can do. This is a basic list of guidelines this theme will ultimately follow.

General Rules

In addition to this list, there is an explanation on each of some of these rules within the different sections as well.

  • Light sources: Light comes from the same source as Gnome Icon Spec. Basically, from the top of the icon, slightly leaning to the left. This means the shadow would lean to the bottom right. Every element that rests over other elements should cast a shadow.

  • Outlines: Outlines will be the most prevalent on the outside of the window, and become subtle as you move to the inside of a window. This means the windowframes and panels will have the thickest outlines, divisions within the chrome will have thinner outlines, and buttons will have outlines that are barely visible. This will let users know what belongs to what if they glance at the screen, and more easily navigate the gui. Because there are 2 interface colours (Chocolate and Tan, more info on the next point) the outline on the thickest lines should always be the opposite colour. So Chocolate elements have Tan outlines, and Tan elements have Cholocate outlines. Nutshell: Panels & Windowframes=~2px solid inverted colour, high contrast. Chrome=~1px solid. Widgets=~1px subtle. Gradients=~1px, subtle, gradient.

  • Colours: Colours will help guide the user to what's really important, or active. Tans and Beige colours are for areas that contain content or are unimportant - as they do not distract the eye. Browns and Chocolate are for elements farther away from content, contain important content, or selected widgets. Orange colours are for active widgets to show either what you are interacting with, or what option you have selected. Only the most important widgets will permanently have orange, as would be a highlighting colour. Icons and user-customizable elements (not necessarily ingrained within the interface) should remain orange. Nutshell: Tan=Content. Brown=Not Content. Orange=Objects, Highlights & Activity.

  • Transitions: Anything that is connected with another, related object of a different colour will be blended in a gradient. This is to lead users through the interface and provide a smooth feel. This does not apply to anything highlighted in orange, as users could be led to believe elements connected to whatever is highlighted might be affected.

  • Transparency: Anything that rests on top of content should have a subtle level of transparency, to show there is content underneath. If it's going to cover the desktop, it should only be slightly transparent (Maybe ~10%), but if it's covering window content, it should be less opaque (maybe ~20% transparent).

  • Rounded Corners: Corners should be rounded whenever they are unattached to any other element, and if possible, inside corners should be rounded too. For example, when dropping down from a toolbar, the toolbar button will (because of the gradient) take a corner to transition into the dropdown. The other 3 corners would be rounded. Rounded corners should be subtle. Only enough to look softer than harsh square corners - if rounded too much they begin to look almost toy-like, and not very solid. Either 2pc or 4px of rounding.

  • Active Elements & Orange: Any element that is active and being manipulated should be highlighted in orange. Because smaller items may be covered by the mouse (small buttons, check-boxes, etc) and we want consistency in the theme, elements should use an outer "Glow" effect, not dis-similar to the Windows Vista min/restore/close buttons. This will let users see very easily what elements they are working with. Small single-click elements like buttons or check-boxes should glow on mouse-over. Elements like scroll-bars should have arrows/icons that would glow on mouseover, and afterwards have the entire element glow when scrolling. The glow should pulsate on a click if possible. Widgets will still highlight in orange on the widget itself in nearly identical locations as the Feisty Fawn widgets.


Chrome contains every major widgets and piece of content users will interact with. Think like some mixing board you'd see in a sound studio.

  • The chrome itself will have subtle transparency, however this is the definition of subtle: only 2-5%.
  • If there is a toolbar embedded in the chrome, the toolbar will be chocolate, as it contains important functions.
  • If the element separates several objects (tabs, dividers) they should fade out towards the bottom to avoid crowding and to show that the element is part of the chrome.


Panels are both the most persistent, and customizable parts of the interface. You set up panels your way and they are omnipresent, they are the ultimate part of user customization

  • Top and bottom panels will be more opaque as they contain any content with text (vertical panels are anemic when it comes to text because of how narrow they are)
  • Side panels will be more transparent, as side panels tend to be used more for widgets.\
  • Side panels should have improved support, as in general themes tend to ignore vertical-panels and it harms th possibility of using them.

Window Frames

Frames are far less common in the real world when you look at what window frames actually are/do, and there are trade-offs no matter what style we go with.

  • The window frame should cover the top and bottom, as well as the sides. There is more functionality in the frame when users can easily grab it.
  • Because windowframes are away from content, and contain useful widgets and information, they should be Chocolate.
  • Windowframes should have subtle transparency when nearing the outline, as windows always rest on top of other windows or the desktop.
  • The material should blend into the contents of the frame, as they are a connected element. Subtle lines should divide the frame so users know where the frame ends and the chrome begins.
  • The outside of the frame should have a clear outline, as it contains all elements. Only panels have lines this thick.
  • Windows will have a drop-shadow on Composited machines.

Any thoughts, additions, inconsistence or anything else on this should be expressed please.


In real life, a often buttons are raised, made from a different material, they might have a light behind them, and they always have some sort of instruction on them.

  • Widgets will glow when moused-over. It would be a halo-style glow and preferably "splash" over the nearby area for the best visibility.
  • grouped widgets will pulsate to illustrate their relation.

This spec is subject to change


More media will become available as work is refined and created. Please post errors or inconsistencies in the "Suggestions / Issues / Corrections" section below.




  • Revision 1 of the pallet, showing colour and texture. To be revised.


Latest Concept Images

Cutting-edge images: the latest uploads are displayed here


  • The first example of what a windowframe might look like. Note that several widgets are missing. This particular mock-up shows a window without the toolbar.


  • A second window mock-up; This shows a window with the toolbar. Note that several widgets are missing.



  • SHIFT concept: A blue version of this Ubuntu theme. This will be developed alongside the main theme. Named after the fact that it's pretty much just a Hue Shift.

Recent Concept Images

Recent images: not the latest, but still worth commenting on. If newer images in the above section lack something you prefer from this section, please suggest that it to go back in.


[ First-Version mockup]

  • A mini-rendition of a desktop using the theme following the spec. The bars below can be substituted in place of the thicker-outline (or will be able to be) by the end user; But this is what the theme might look like by default.

[ Compiz Acceleration?]

  • Four unique styles of panel. The top two are for non-compiz enabled machines with lower hardware requirements. The second two are more flashy versions that follow the guidelines above, and up the users experience. Comment on which panel style might be preferred (dark or light border?); The dark borders are easier on the eyes, but light borders follow the guidelines perfectly.

[ Zoomed in Panel]

  • The massive benefit of SVG graphics; They can be zoomed in for disabled users, polish high-resolution displays and make resolution-independent interfaces.

Archived Concept Images

These are Pre-SVG images are no longer relevant. They remain here for completeness and for design reference. The images below DO NOT reflect the current theme. If newer images in the above section lack something you prefer from this section, please suggest that it to go back in.

[ (Pre-SVG series) Compiz-enabled Panel]

  • Mock-Up 1 of Compiz-Enabled Panels.

[ (Pre-SVG series) Dropdown Example]

  • What a drop-down might look like. There are 2 mouse cursors on this mock-up, one orange, one brown. Orange technically fits the spec (as it is always active) however it is less visible than brown. The default white cursor theme might be more appropriate.

[ (Pre-SVG series) Mockup of alternate wallpapers]

  • Several alternate wallpapers.


Suggestions / Issues / Corrections

Please post any issues, errors, general corrections or ideas in the "Ideas" wiki, link below.

[ Ideas Wiki]


This is a really cool idea. It's things that I've thought about and would like to do. If possible would I be able to help you? -- Lmessenger DateTime(2007-11-20T02:16:45Z)

For sure! At this point I'm to mocking up window frames and a list of different widgets (scrollbars, buttons, tabs, etc) and a couple "Action shots" with the elements; Once that's done, if you would like, list everything I've done wrong, anything that doesn't follow the guidelines, could be improved or added to, looks crowded or hurts the eye. Additionally, if you would like, start an "Ideas" section in the meantime and list everything you feel will make the interface more intuitive and consistent. -- Ken Vermette, "Kver3"


I just finished an update a short while ago and noticed several people watching this page; Apologies about the (probably many) emails you've received. I believed I was the only one interested in this page. I'll slow down / stop the smaller edits and make single larger updates at nights end when I have several updates ready. Thank you for your interest, I'll try not to disappoint. If anyone wants to reach me personally, my email is -- Ken Vermette, "Kver3"


Your theme looks great, but I feel that for Ubuntu to look and feel ahead of the pack, it has to move away from the Web 2.0 aesthetic. I find that this article provides a good baseline on what to do.

Best, BramPitoyo

Thank you for the input; The presentation and related material hold excellent materials and design philosophy. The concept links in the powerpoint presentation were great, but inappropriate for a general-purpose operating system theme; The purpose of this theme isn't to make the new "Look" or break some design barrier, but to provide a familiar and intuitive environment for beginning users.

This theme is based on strict rules, so ideally any suggestions will get specific. For example: "Any sliders or scollbar widgets must have a visible analog track line". As long as it makes some kind of sense it will probably be incorporated.

Anyway, I'm ecstatic to hear you find the theme worthwhile enough to suggest this could pull ahead of the pack; Keep throwing ideas into the pot! If you have any specific ideas (there will be widgets coming tomorrow to comment on) please post; It's greatly appreciated. -- Ken Vermette

Right now updates are a little bit (read: very) slow because I'm re-making this theme in vector-format, so I'm finicking with Inkscape, Xara eXtreme and other programs (the theme right now was made in the Gimp). When the time comes, this theme can be ahead of the curve with zooming and resolution technologies. On that note, if you are experienced vector artist, please post here; we could use you. Smile :)

Also, should there be a blue version of this theme for the Blubuntu users out there?

-- Ken

I created an idea page for those that would like to add their own ideas to this theme.

Thanks, Lucas (Lmessenger)

Excellent! I wasn't aware you could do that, Kudos! I've added another section to the top of the page where your link will be more visible (and also to have a place where we can put more links and sub-pages should we find ourselves needing more room)

I'll move some of the content we already have to the new page when I get the chance. Right now I'm trying to find a way to get Xara to export SVG (made the dock in vector, but Xara apparently doesn't play nice with SVG).

-- Ken

SVG panels added, plus one panel zoomed in. I'll add the dropdowns and a few different wallpapers tomorrow or the day after. I've been holding out of widgets for too long, so I'll try to get even a button and scrollbars posted when possible. Inkscape used to build the vector graphics, GIMP used for export & low-rez font rendering (more accurate). SVG source files will be available in the attachments. Thank you.

-- Ken

Wow, these new images are looking great! I personally like the frames with the darker color, due to the fact that the light takes away from the whole idea. If you could make the light smaller (thiner line), then it seriously look great. Just remember, I am just expressing my own opinion and that others may disagree with me.


Lucas Calder Messenger (Lmessenger)

Updated images, the usual. I figure it will be user option to switch the panels out for the darker variations, however going 'by the spec' the thicker panels will be used in images and mockups. Thank you.


I like the new screen shots that you put up, but I just noticed that in comparison to the image with 4 bar that the bar on this is darker than what the other ones look like. Just a personal thing I noticed and thought I could mention it.

-- Lmessenger DateTime(2007-11-28T05:58:03Z)

It looks like the transparent bars are darker; it's probably because I reduced the opacity of the "gloss" so that the background would more readily show through, I'll correct it. You should be able to see the updates when I upload the next round of images (Fri 30th Nov)


There has been a delay; The new images will be postponed until tomorrow. Apologies. --Ken

Sorry for the suspense on updates for this theme. After attending the art meeting and listening to the path the main OS is taking, I think there's room for this theme provided a few minor changes are made. Generally speaking, in the new look the gloss would be nixed, gradients would be positioned differently and it would overall have a more simple look-and-feel and really drive-home usability.

I already have several concepts on-the-go, but I'd like input before posting them here in this wiki. Should this theme be revamped (along with the spec) and have the current work go into a historic-reference section; Or should we keep this page as-it-is and create a new mini-wiki with a new spec? (I would no longer update this wiki, but every source and reference I have would be uploaded if others wanted to take over)

I really would like to go with a more streamlined look after carefully examining (literally) over hundreds of other themes and skins. BramPitoyo, this wouldn't quite be an amazing artistic thing, but the new concepts really seem to break away from that web2.0 look. And the spirit of the theme (sheer usability) would be strengthened.

Thoughts? Keep this wiki as-is and start anew, use this wiki as a base, or keep the theme as-is and keep going with it (posting the new art as concepts)?

--Ken. (Fri Dec 7th, 11:36pm: Pacific Time -8:00)

I think at in terms of design i have nothing to say, i just have to point that the gtk-clearlooks package which the ubuntu human theme is based on, seens rather limited for this. I would recommend using the the murrine engine, which uses the cairo engine, which is SVG Based, instead of the clearlooks ( ). See the example of Xubuntu, it switched from tango clearlooks to murrinastormcloud, and the desktop is now more apealing and fast. If we want to implement these type of effects we should select the gtk-murrine for the base.

  • -- racoqster

Finally! an update! Sorry for the lateness, I've had several delays recently.

Racoqster: I'll definitely be taking a good look at what Murrine can do, odds are if it's SVG-based it's what I'll be using when the time comes. Thank you!

-- Ken Vermette

Early update, as usual please post feedback in the ideas section! Later updates will depend on any changes, so I figured I'd post early before the hole is dug too deep.

  • Added dark "strips" where the gloss used to be in panels to create depth. Hopefully it's not too reminiscent of gloss.
  • Added a panel docked to the side of the screen. The same as a regular panel, except more transparent. Better for widget usage.
  • The brown will remain the same hue & saturation; After tinkering, nothing of notable difference looks better.

  • SHIFT will be updated when widgets are complete, widgets will arrive after a few days of feedback on the windows.
  • The ideas section from the main page is being moved to the ideas sub-section.

And I just want to say thanks to everyone for the participation in this project! -Ken

Media, Files & Images



[wiki:/?action=AttachFile Attach File]