I like the non-subtle orange block… but then, I’m a “brand fanboy” and would paint my face orange, given half the chance I think a lot of the mockups shown above (including the vertical orange line) would be fine - it’s just a case of picking one, and none will please everyone. If one is more accessible, then sure, go for that.
Apologies for wall of text, but I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few days thinking about Communitheme, and my hopes/fears for the finished version. I wonder if it might (to my eye) fall between two stools, in terms of visual design.
I recognise that Unity 8 looked great. The darkness of the panels made the different colours of the wallpaper, icons and accents feel really “luminous”. Ubuntu 17.10 was also really nice - but in a completely different way. The transparent panels looked really fresh and airy.
So I do like both, but in different ways, and am not sure a mix-and-match approach works. In the current implementation, the dark top bar makes the launcher look too… insubstantial, IMO? At the same time, the lighter transparencies of the launcher and wallpaper make the dark top bar feel too heavy. They don’t flatter each other.
So I think Communitheme stands at a crossroads, and either way would be great if done well - but a mixture of elements from both is in danger of being less than the sum of its parts.
You could go for a “luminous” look that contrasts darkness with colour and has a similar appeal to Unity 8. But I think you really have to commit to that, if you want it to shine. Top panel and launcher should be a dark, dramatic team.
In this model, I’d go with lighter drop shadows to stop dark panels seeming “blurry” at the edges. If you were printing a dark stripe on some paper, you’d want the stripe to be nice and dark, and you’d want the edges to be really crisp. Otherwise, it looks unprofessional - like you printed it at home. In the current implementation of the top panel, I think grey bar/dark shadow play a trick on my eyes, and make me see faded, blurry black. But maybe that’s unique to me?
I’d also consider speaking to the default wallpaper people, to move away from faint transparent mascots - if this is a road Communitheme wants to take. Otherwise, it’s like a delicate watercolour in a dark, industrial-looking frame. Artful Aardvark and the current top bar aren’t quite a match made in heaven, IMHO (I note that Bionic Beaver is also drawn in light transparencies).
So, taking all that together, you would end up with something like (quick mock-up - I know it’s not quite right):
If you go for the “luminous” approach, I think you could probably bring back the orange launcher icon from Unity 8, and the different coloured accents (like the blue slider) will all work well
Alternatively - another perfectly good road to take - you could continue with the “fresh air” feeling of 17.10.
In that approach, I’d keep the 17.10 top bar unchanged, to complement the transparencies of the launcher and wallpaper. I wouldn’t put drop shadows under nearly see-through panels, because crisp lines of division help when you have a subtle difference across a boundary. They make the panels look like panes of glass, which seems precise rather than vague. Also, leaving off the drop shadow gives some consistency between the panel edges and the “folds” in the default wallpaper, like so:
With 17.10, everything you saw when the desktop first appeared on-screen seemed to work nicely together. Folds, transparencies, panel edges, wallpaper. The immediate visual impact was quite strong, IMHO. Developing the “fresh air” feeling for Communitheme requires fewer shell changes (it’s more a case of not changing things from 17.10) and looks like:
A quick note on the icons. For 3rd party apps, all I’ve done is make a neutral Suru background. This is the Terminal icon with the following changes:
- Remove the “>_” to make a plain squircle;
- Set it to 50% opacity, so the squircle will adjust slightly to the colours around it.
Then I simply shrink the default icon to 38x38, and centre it on the squircle. I feel like this operation (or something like it) could be done automatically, for all the apps in the Software Centre, until masking is available in Gnome 3. And I think it looks pretty cool, too
Anyway, I better wrap this up. I guess my hope is for Communitheme to pick one of these “looks” (Unity 8 versus 17.10) and do it well, rather than mixing elements from both. Otherwise, it’s like wearing a black bow tie with a leather jacket. Both are great items of clothing, but neither flatters the other as much as you’d like
One last thing to add to this epic post… I don’t know whether this is Communitheme doing it, or individual apps, but my Chromium and LibreOffice now have less wall-of-darkness at the top. LibreOffice has a pale menubar, and Chromium has pale (rather than dark) background for the tabs. And it looks so much better! These are two of my main apps, so my overall Ubuntu experience looks a lot better now