Call for participation: an ubuntu default theme lead by the community?

I’d be up for doing SASS/CSS, though the last time I contributed to anything Ubuntu related was theming

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Stefan Eduard Krenn, you are perfect in almost every way with your design.

Alas it isn’t a simple theme - would need a lot of programming work. But I love it!

I will play with some Extensions, I want to see how close I can get!

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Hi everyone! I’m glad to be able to be part of this!

I’m not a programmer, but I do have some ideas I would like to share with you. Maybe in due time, I will be able to contribute more. For now, my first thoughts:

I am, generally speaking, a fan of adjusting the ‘Ubuntu experience’ to become more of a vanilla GNOME experience. (See also my other posts.) I understand the need for a transition period with 17.10, but the sooner we can drop these adjustments, the better, to me. There is no need in telling you that I’m a fan of the vanilla GNOME workflow and looks.

Most important for me is 1) nice, modern and reinvigorated Ubuntu branding (with a slick new theme and icons) and 2) for Ubuntu to become the easiest LInux distribution to install, update, and install software in … just like in the pre-Unity period.

  • To me, the ideal default theme for 18.04 matches a non-gradient top bar, like the default GNOME top bar, which fits nicely with Adwaita’s light or dark top bars. If we go back to that, we won’t have to go to the trouble patching the top bar, and we’ll give users the ability to install more GNOME themes. I have tried to install United GNOME in Ubuntu Session, but the gradient top bar messes up the colours of the United GNOME Shell theme (both dark and light varients).

  • I am a fan of United GNOME, and we definitely need a theme with light and dark application possibilities, as well as light and dark variants to replace both Ambiance and Radiance. Why start from scratch? Is the developer willing to join and help?

  • As far as icons is concerned: I am all for the Suru Icon Theme. I like kazhnuz’s list of possibilities, and would like to add one. Is it an option to use the Adwaita Icon Set? … Maybe, just like the default Shell theme, adjust it to the Ubuntu branding colors?

I am really looking forward to see this community effort evolve and am willing to help out as best as I can. Thank you for taking my suggestions into consideration. (Some of them don’t belong in this particular forum, for which I apologize.)

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Charmander concept is beyond awesome, and the author of United Gnome theme does fantastic work, perhaps he should be contacted, he would probably love to contribute to the new Ubuntu theme. Theme I consider perfectly balanced is Arc Darker theme, Arc is too bright, Arc Dark is too dark which is why Arc Darker strikes a perfect balance and is both aesthetically pleasing and easy to look at. United Gnome has an excellent shell theme, but GTK themes are good, but lack the subtlety of the Arc Darker theme, but United Darker with more Ubuntu colored titlebars, not that black one, would look beautiful with a sprinkle of Charmander concept. Having a fully dark option would be good too as some users like fully dark themes.

Suru icons on Ubuntu Touch looked great and I believe Canonical should reuse a lot of them for the new theme. As for existing icon sets Numix Circle is beautiful, clean and very readable even by a casual glance. I dont like Papirus and similar icons, they lack the professional clean and easily readable look Numix icons have. Apple has great icons everywhere and that is something Ubuntu should strive for, professional looking, cleanly designed and easily readable icons. Most Linux icon packs are either too cluttered with design (too much stuffed on a single icon) so they are not easily readable by a casual glance, also often they choose colors poorly. Numix however does not suffer from these things for the most part and in my opinion is the best Linux icon theme overall, looks nice and professional and has high readability.

Users should not strain their eyes when they look at theme elements, colors and icons and should not spend any excess time “deciphering” icons they are looking at, they should be easily recognizable by a casual glance and easily remembered for their clean design which is why I personally consider United Gnome shell theme, Arc Darker GTK theme and Numix Circle icons the most professional and clean looking Linux theming I found. These plus Suru icons and Charmander concept would make for a fantastic new Ubuntu theme. Ubuntu should have a unique look and feel and new shell theme, GTK theme and icons would contribute heavily to that, lets make users marvel at the beauty of the next Ubuntu desktop :slight_smile: Something that will make Ubuntu desktop beautiful and instantly recognizable. I have zero skills in graphics so sadly I cant contribute with anything more than moral support and testing.


Hi, I believe it’s great idea and sound decision to base new Ubuntu theme on upstream theme.
Also I’ll be happy to contribute once you set up repo.

My “wishlist” for new theme (and dock):

  • Tighter window header bar (CSD) compared to upstream Adwaita theme. Shouldn’t be taller that it is in current GTK3 Ambience theme.

  • Favor good UX over bad trendy flat design. Find good balance. Don’t avoid using slight gradients and shadows where needed.

  • Icon theme without backdrops for consistency with 3rd party applications since most don’t have it (chrome, vscode, virtualbox…). Also upstream dash to dock extension has Enable Unity 7 glossy backlit items option which emulates Unity 7’s dock tiles and adds nice backdrop behind all docked icons for those who like it.

  • Now that I mentioned Dash to dock extension… option to switch between panel and dock mode as in upstream version would be really nice.
    Maybe you could use unmodified version of Dash to dock because it has some very nice and useful features. Then you could put only basic options to Setting > Dock and leave possibility to edit original options by right clicking on Show applications button as it currently works on original extension.

Also Pixel Saver extension could be installed (and maybe enabled) by default as it helps save some precious vertical screen real estate (something Unity 7 was very good at).



I am trying to get as close as possible to Stefan Eduard Krenn concept.

So far I am using Suru icons and United-Ubuntu theme…


  1. Is there a way to hide the activities button, and have the dock go all the way up/down, while still showing top bar?
  2. Is there an extension that anyone knows of which makes the activities view non-full screen / side view?
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Hey there!

I’m the lead developer working at System76 on the look and feel of Pop, and I’ve even put together a conceptual “Popiance” which takes colors from Ubuntu to make a new, modern looking theme. I’m also pretty well versed in GNOME Theme development, both on the Shell side as well as GTK. And I already happen to know a few of the folks involved on the Canonical side (@didrocks and @popey ). I’d love to work with everyone on making a new theme for Ubuntu!


Where can I get this theme [Popiance]?

Also, Stefan Eduard Krenn’s design is the most difficult, but (in my opinion) the most thought-out design. It would be difficult to get ready for 18.04 (really difficult), but at the same time, it would not be a bad goal to have and work toward (maybe over a few releases). I would love to see that happen!

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Sam’s suru reboot icons are superb:

I always liked the look and feel of unity 8, it had a true ‘next gen’ feel.


Great initiative. I love that the focus is put on building a collaboration team and not starting another pointless design competition. And it looks like we already have very talented and enthusiastic people here:

The guys from United Gnome GTK theme, Pop/Popiance, “Finding Ubuntu” concept… and of course, others that I don’t know of. I’d suggest (as others already did) contacting Sam Hewitt, the creator of the Suru icon theme and more awesome stuff.

Looks like a Dream Team could be in construction… although mixing good ingredients doesn’t always give a good recipe, so you never know :slight_smile: It will depend on how much they are willing to collaborate and even “detach” from their own projects for working towards something new. Talent is there, it’s all about collaboration now.

I don’t have experience in these matters so I’ll just follow along and try to give feedback when possible. I hope you keep the process open and we regular users can find a way to do that. Really looking forward to this!

+1 on contacting Sam Hewitt, he’s making a really good work on icon themes.

I’m really interested too by this “popiance” idea, it could be either a great possibility, either a great source of inspiration.

About Stefan Eduard Krenn’s designs, they are interesting from a design point of view, but as of theming, I’m personally not too fond of them. I get a better feeling from the Hot Charmander concepts… I feel that the coloring of it have some more “modern” stuff.

Personally I think that the “Ambiance” scheme of a dark-brown headerbar on lighter applications would be really a great thing to keep. That with a transparent-that-become-dark titlebar, it create a nice, integrated feeling compared to many OS, and it make Ubuntu stand out compared to OS X and Windows.


if you ask me, I think the best looking theme is actually the default GNOME theme: Adwaita. More over, you’d need no work at all :slight_smile:

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I just want to clarify a few points in didrock’s original post.

We expect that a new theme will take a lot of work to get finished, more work than can be reasonably accomplished in a single 6 month cycle. So the plan of record for 18.04 is a two pronged approach:

First we take the existing Ambiance theme in 17.10 and spend some time getting it in good shape for 18.04. This will need input from you, calling out the things which you think need fixing. We will also spend some time with our design team to get their help as well. As Didier says, this meeting is already scheduled, so please give your feedback on that soon. That’s probably best dealt with in a separate thread though. So, let’s use this one:

Meanwhile, we as the community will be working on a new theme. This can be made available to 18.04 users via a package in Universe. If it’s considered “finished” by 18.04 then we can also look to move it in to main. I don’t want to discourage anyone from contributing to the community theme, but it will be a lot of work and is unlikely to get done in 6 months.

Let’s not rush it, let’s get it perfect. And while that happens, let’s get Ambiance smartened up as well.


The biggest problem with GNOME is that it was designed from the ground to be UX/UI disaster and *just change theme* will not help. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

I would recommend to fix some problems with Ambiance(tweak gradients, make context menus smaller, etc).

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Hi, I’m the author of Materia GTK/Shell theme and I’d like to share my little idea.

I know there’re already wonderful (third-party) themes related to Ubuntu, but I tried creating a theme with a slightly different approach.

Material Ubuntu (currently I called) is a theme forked from Materia. Most colors are based on the Ubuntu colour palette, and its color scheme is inspired by Ambiance and Radiance. (FYI, Materia is directly based on Adwaita, so the theme can easily follow the upstream changes.)

Like this theme, using a color scheme similar to Ambiance/Radiance would make it easier for users to migrate.

I hope this theme or the color scheme will help the new theme!


With all due respect of course, but this is a different approach than what has been done for the GNOME Shell Theme.

Just like with the Shell Theme, I think there should be a sense of urgency with the GTK Theme as well.

A modern looking GTK2 and GTK3 theme that has light and dark variants (dark for Totem for instance) is long overdue. Moreover, there already are good themes to start working from.

Why not just think about switching to Arc, United GNOME or Adwaita, after which we can start tweaking the colours, etc.?

Same goes for the Icon Theme. Adwaita is modern, ready, complete, upstream GNOME. Why not take the leap?

This is my opinion of course, but I would strongly suggest to reconsider.


I completely agree with the points on using Arc or United Gnome as base though not with Adwaita icons, they look old same as Ubuntu Mono Dark icons, I find Numix icons (especially in their circle version) to be both modern, well designed and easily readable. Suru icon theme by Sam Hewitt looks awesome as well, I think his work or blend with Numix would look fantastic, Numix Square/Circle icons are already complete, Suru is on the way of getting there, I think that in 6 months the authors of Numix and Suru icons would easily be able to make the most out of both icon themes and make a new icon theme for Ubuntu. There are also visual similarities between Suru and Numix icon themes which would make blending far easier. As for GTK theme I believe Arc Darker or United Gnome Darker with modified colors to fit more with Ambiance/Unity 8/Suru style would look great and could be done relatively fast.

Also I hope someone will want to copy Charmander concept, it looks beautiful :smiley:

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Numix icons could be made to look like suru, to have a suru shape. I think there might even be a way to automate the process of reshaping the Numix circle icon to square and then those icons could be used in a UI that applies Suru shape so crop the icon into it like it’s done in Unity8.

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I have made a blog post in a way to offer people a direct way to compare some aspects of the most commonly mentioned themes (Adapta, Ambiance, Arc, Pop, United, also Unity7 and Adwaita). I have also put down some observations on what I think are important in a well designed theme, more than evaluating flashiness or how much like another popular design language it looks.

From making this comparison, Ambiance is still the best theme for Ubuntu and more complete and featured than some of the other competitors. The Sam Hewitt’s Suru icons are absolutely amazing as a visual upgrade all on their own, the impact is massive. Adwaita is really not that good, and some of its icons are brutally bad. All the themes have good and bad parts, and a few good ideas to borrow into the next default for Ubuntu.


In addition, I would like to mention that 3/5 themes (Adapta, Pop, and United) are Materia-based themes.