According to our Google Analytics, 58% of your are using a Macintosh Operating System, 39% are on Windows, 1.5% are logged as using the iPhone OS, and, finally, as the subject of today’s post, 0.65% of you are reading this from a Linux Operating System. (Wow, 0.01% use Playstation 3!). The Linux platform, in contrast to that of Apple’s and Microsoft’s, is free and open source and has major street cred among hardcore developers and people that simply want a tinkerable alternative to the Mac vs. PC battle. Also, unlike its commercial brethren, various operating systems can operate in a Linux environment, and one of the most popular is Ubuntu — launched in 2004 by Canonical Ltd. and embraced by a growing community of users that contribute to its growth and evolution. Under a new brand vision of “Light” Ubuntu is preparing to change its identity this coming April.
The new style in Ubuntu is inspired by the idea of “Light”.
We’re drawn to Light because it denotes both warmth and clarity, and intrigued by the idea that “light” is a good value in software. Good software is “light” in the sense that it uses your resources efficiently, runs quickly, and can easily be reshaped as needed. Ubuntu represents a break with the bloatware of proprietary operating systems and an opportunity to delight to those who use computers for work and play. More and more of our communications are powered by light, and in future, our processing power will depend on our ability to work with light, too.
Visually, light is beautiful, light is ethereal, light brings clarity and comfort.
— On Brand at the Ubuntu Wiki
As the cornerstone of the old and new identity is the “circle of friends,” an icon showing three abstract human figures coming together to form a whole. A lovely concept. A terribly tired visual cliché. And, in this case, one tepidly executed and forgettable that has not evolved in the least for the new identity. What is worse is that now that it is significantly smaller in relationship to the typography, the shapes become indistinguishable. But let’s assume that the “circle of friends” has enough equity within its community to survive at that size, then at least some technical assistance should have been provided to make it more readable and scalable — perhaps not to the exhausting degree of Firefox, but in that vein.
In terms of typography, I surprisingly liked the old one, or at least the combination of these particular letters, since the full font is kind of half-cooked. The new type is more techie and gadgety, rarely a good thing, and it doesn’t quite work here, as it breaks the harmony of the characters with those pointed corners. And being so big, the typography would have to be so much more interesting than this.
In the Brand page of their Wiki, Ubuntu presents the new look along with some conceptual sketches of what the brand will look like and how the different members of its community can embrace the new identity. In either case, old and new, the whole is a mess of its parts. It’s understandable that not everything has to follow a dictatorial style but these are so similar that they just don’t gel together. I may be coming across as drastically critical of an open source project, but if the idea is that the power of the community can create something great, like software, then shouldn’t the same be expected of their identity?