The end..of the beginning?


I am three days late with my report, I know. The reason for my delay is that I wanted to end my internship with a finished set. For the last weeks I have been designing icons for Inkscape. About 300 icons for Inkscape are now symbolic (I always get lost when trying to count them).

Here is a small part of the set:

The whole set is currently residing in gnome design team repository on GitHub.

I have to admit that some icons have metaphors that are difficult to recognize. Esp. the snapping toolbar needs more prominent icons and (together with Jakub) I will try to figure something out and re-design them in order to make them more easily comprehend-able.

Summary of OPW:

During my internship I’ve designed icons for GNOME symbolic base-plate such as status icons, action icons, categories icons, emblem icons and emotes, symbolic icons for applications, the whole new symbolic set for Art Libre and the whole set for Inkscape. Must be way over 500 icons in total, not that quantity matters (well it matters if you’re an ant). Main goal was pixel perfection, which lead me to learn a lot about aligning to the grid, space restriction and shapes in general.

Recently, I was participating in a Google Hangout session led by Jakub Steiner and Garrett LeSage. You can find the video on Gnome 3 Design You Tube channel. (As you can see I was a “suprematistic” version of myself as my camera was not feeling cooperative). In the session Jakub demonstrated how to design a full-collor Tango icon which will be my next endeavor. Jakub makes it look damn easy, which means that of course it is not.

As you can see, I plan to stay in touch and contribute to this wonderful community. Thanks for letting me in, a huge thank you to Jakub for leading the way. And Lapo, eh! Many thanks also to Marina, who helped me out with everything that wasn’t pure designing.


Les Jeux symbolique

Art Libre icons are now more or less done. I’ve followed this list and made all of the symbolic icons that were doable. A few icons that were heavily depended on color variations were omitted or the methapor was changed. Just one color means that the symbolic icons can be set by the theme using the “color” property. The advantage here is that they look good on any background and that perhaps content gets a little more attention. Jakub told me that all of them are not meant to be icons anyway, so I consider my task completed (some tweaks may still occur). All in all the symbolic Art Libre icon set contains 186 icons and will be used in high-contrast themes.

Next step: designing symbolic icons for Inkscape.



Row, row, row the boat!


My work is still revolving around Art Libre icons. (I was on a short Euro trip last week, but from now on until the end of this internship it is “full speed ahead”). There are many icons left to be designed but one by one I am getting there….Trying to keep it simple, neat and balanced.

Art Libre in progress

Speaking of simple and balanced, just yesterday I came across Tim Boelaars webpage. His style is really icon-like in a way. Nice clean cuts, geometric shapes and a distinct, visual language. Richard Perez has a similar style, too. I have to try and mimic this to a certain degree in my future designs, it really looks amazing and it is my kind of aesthetics.

Sadly, it is not in my power to attend GUADEC…to all of you who are going have a wonderful time! Is there a way to see or hear some speeches over the web?



Next stop…Art Libre!

Hello, hola, haai, zdravo, ahoj, hej, hoj, ciao, ola & aloha!

I’m still here…designing symbolic icons. What is under the roof at this point, are some needed additions to stencil’s base plate (gnome-stencils) and a set of 62 apps symbolic icons.

I have now moved on and ( after Jakub’s suggestion) started creating a set of symbolic icons known as Art Libre. These aim to cover the essential icons useful in free software graphics programs & applications (vector & bitmap) and wil be used with a new, darker theme.

I have started by designing tools as seen in GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). I basically look at the full-color icons and then either mimic the existing metaphor or create a new one (if the full-color is impossible to achieve, or if by any chance I come up with one that could work better). The hardest nut to crack are the color related icons as the distinctions that were made with various colors or hues in the full-color set, must now be made differently.

While I have a plan to produce much more time consuming hi-res, full-color icons once I finish Art Libre, I must say that creating symbolic icons is (maybe contrary to the popular belief) very interesting and rewarding. Feels like design striped down to the bones, basics..Often my question is, what can be omitted so that the result stays the same? Even tough symbolic icons are simple combinations of graphical elements, they are also symbols or perhaps micro storytellers, that represent an object, a function, a concept or an entity. If designed right, they create an immediate, visual understanding between what the designer means and the viewer understands. In a perfect world (where all the users share a similar knowledge and culture) they are almost intuitive, abbreviated pictorial forms. In our world - sometimes they are understood also in relation to other icons and specific knowledge about the program for example. Well executed icons can also help simplify something that might otherwise be difficult to understand. In essence they are quite similar (not the same!) to logos (especially logos that employ an icon-like style). The two key obstacles that make designing icons not so easy (at least for me) are limited size and (achieving) pixel perfection.You can see my newest attempts below! Cheers!


Time flies in 16x16…

Hello, Planet Gnome!

I am happily busy with designing symbolic icons for various applications. Besides working in Inkscape, I am now also running Fedora for some days and I must say I really like it. Fedora was playing hard to get and my computer seem to be Fedora-proof, but eventually (by eventually I mean seven different errors and eleven different opinions of what the install problem is) it had to give in. A compromise had to be made - at first I wanted to have Fedora as a dual-boot, but after some really bad behaviour from Vista (which I wasn’t too fond of anyways),  I decided that Windows had to go and that was a great decision. After that errors backed off and things now run smoothly (*knocks on wood*). Now a new frontier is here and I am ready to get fully immersed.

It is getting quite cosy in my 16x16 design space. It’s a limited space and sometimes I’m left with very few options on how to put a particular shape in there, keep all the defining details and especially make the icon distinguishable and clear. What I found out is that the more simpler the icon, the better. It is usually quite rewarding to keep the number of objects in a single icon to a minimum, although in my case it often means I have to “kill my darlings”. I’m not sure is this is completely true but it seems that number three is where you should draw the line (and two elements are better than three, if you can keep the icon metaphor, although three might sometimes look more sophisticated). All in all, easier said than done.

Jakub was traveling recently, so Lapo helped me with corrections and revisions. Grazie mille, Lapo! I couldn’t wish for better assistance - they both (Jakub and Lapo) provide great tips and I am humbly amazed at how they just look at the icon and know immediately what could work better or where the problem lies.



Symbolic icons - week two

Howdy, Planet Gnome! So, what’s new?

I am proceeding with designing symbolic icons (stencils). First week, I was mostly focused on what was missing according to the Icon Naming Spec. lists. By the end of the second week I have more or less filled in all of the essential missing icons. This week, I am continuing with covering the essential set of apps icons, following this bug. I have also designed some extra icons that can be omitted from the base plate, so Jakub suggested that we do an extra plate into which I am now saving extra icons and some alt-versions.  Therefore I am now saving the icons in three files (plates) - gnome-stencils, apps or/and extras.

My (self-imposed) guidelines that I try to stick to are:

  • (1) make shapes nice and clean (align to the grid)
  • (2) stick to the unifying look (metaphor if possible should be the same as in the full-color set, unless revision of the metaphor is desired)
  • (3) omit the details if they are not crucial for the distinction of the icon (exaggerate only the defining detail)
  • (4) use standard icon names (for example use dashes for separate levels of specificity)
  • (5) balance between the outcome in 16x16 and scaled up dimensions
  • (6) simplify for readability (in the 16x16, the same icon may change from perspective to straight-on)

Yesterday, Jakub has informed me that some of my icons have been released already! Oh my :)

Here is a sneak-peak at what I have done so far (might be to small to see - I haven’t quite figured out the image feature on this blog).


If you need me or feel like contacting me you can find me on #gnome-* channels, esp. #gnome-design, #gnome-women, #gnome and #gnome-shell on irc.gimp.org (GIMPNet). Oh and comments are now enabled on the blog (wasn’t aware that they were disabled by default - thanks, Marina).



First week!

And so it begins.

I started (and ended) the week with designing Symbolic Icons (GNOME stencils).

Many icons are already in the set and I am basically filling new icons in to make the set in the grid complete. Inkscape has proven to be a great vector program (I am coming from Illustrator) and I must say I feel very comfortable designing with it. The learning curve so far hasn’t been steep at all - a bit different terminology and the reversed controls in Scaling is all I can think of from the top of my head. Oh and of course I occasionally use some shortcuts I know from Adobe (like zoom in with ctrl + instead of ctrl scroll or conveniently just +), but that is not a setback at all.

Especially Edit Paths by Nodes tool has many useful functions that speed up the designing process and I also learned about the practicality of having Enable Snapping turned on. Although at this point I can’t say that Inkscape is better than Illustrator (that I’ve known for years), I must admit that for the tasks of creating icons (and illustrating for that matter) - Inkscape has some tricks up it’s sleeve. I think as a combo they are definitely very powerful.

Not to get off track..this week I have designed over 30 icons which I believe it is quite a lot. Some still need a few tweaks and corrections but it is a good start. I started with the icons that are in the Icon naming spec. because Jakub (my mentor also known as jimmac) has informed me that they are the priority. Also I’ve started with the ones I thought would be easier to design and can use features already in the set. The most important lesson so far has been aligning to the grid. Jakub noted that some icons are a bit fuzzy and told me about some tricks how to make the icons sharper (for example: always align the orthogonal lines to the grid), and well.. it works like magic.Thanks Jakub!

So all in all, at least from my perspective, a great start - plus I enjoy doing it tremendously!


A hello.

Hello everyone!

My name is Barbara (Stereotype on IRC) and I will be working as a new intern with the Gnome Outreach Program for Women (any similarity of this sentence with the AA meeting lines was not intentional). Special thank you to Marina for helping me with everything so far and being so kind. I am very excited about being chosen and getting the opportunity to contribute to GNOME community.

I am an anthropologist (with the degree in the field of design anthropology) and a freelance graphic designer. The summary of my interest would look something like this: music (I play drums), art, design, anthropology, human & animal rights, revolution & film.

I will be working on graphic design under the supervision of my mentor, Jakub Steiner (his webpage). I am thrilled to have him as a mentor, especially after seeing his work on icons. This blog is intended to be flooded with updates on my design work for GNOME.

Pleased to meet you.

(Me with my dog Phoebe)


Practice safe design: Use a concept.