We spend all day clicking, poking or swiping computer icons, yet most of us rarely think about them. The Ubuntu Linux design team, however, has been busy in recent weeks rethinking the icons in the popular open source operating system, and has unveiled a set of new designs with an eye toward compatibility with both PCs and mobile platforms.
Ubuntu developers usually tweak the artwork and visual themes of the operating system a little bit for each twice-yearly release. The platform's look hasn't changed radically, however, since Canonical abandoned the orange-brown "Human" theme of Ubuntu's early days back in 2010.
Now, change is coming, at least in the realm of icons. The Ubuntu design team reports that it is working "to create a single modern, high-resolution icon theme for desktop and touch devices that can adapt to various screen densities and reinforces the Ubuntu user experience. We want our icons to express our values and convey Ubuntu's personality in a unique way."
In December, the designers revealed the latest iteration of the new icon theme they envision:
In addition to those updated application icons, Ubuntu designers have also revamped the (mostly) grayscale "symbolic" icons that Ubuntu uses mainly for notifications:
There's nothing too revolutionarily about any of this artwork (which remains a work in progress, the designers say), but it represents a nice refreshment of the current Ubuntu icon line-up (which is plenty attractive and usable in its own right, by the way).
The updated icons also reflect a small step in Canonical's long march toward "converging" Ubuntu across different types of hardware platforms. Intended to work and look equally good (I know, prescriptive grammarians, one can't "work good" -- unless I say one does), they will make it easier for Ubuntu to become the most popular open source platform for TVs, tablets and smartphones, as it already is on PCs and laptops.
So, the icons are here -- or soon will be. Now, Canonical just needs to get Ubuntu actually running on more than a handful of devices outside the traditional PC realm.