Okay - here’s an idea we’ve been kicking around, with some background about the problem for people who come to it cold.
When Unity 8 was abandoned, Ubuntu wanted to use Suru icons for the new Gnome desktop. I believe there were two main reasons for this.
Artistic. They’re beautiful.
Emotional. The choice of Suru allowed us to keep some of the “spirit” of the Unity 8 design, which was popular.
However, the squircles created a problem. Many people (including OMG! Ubuntu!) didn’t like “house apps” having squircles when the apps they installed would be a mix of shapes. We tried to experiment with ways of forcing the squircle as a unifying device, which proved popular in some circles - or should that be “squircles”, lol - but controversial in others. So, the Yaru team and helpers began to explore whether Ubuntu should just use the Gnome icons.
I’m not sure about taking them. Among other things, they’re optimised to be sharp at multiples of 32px, and the Ubuntu launcher is 48px (which feels like the optimum size). If nothing else, it would be a bit weird to ship a default icon set that didn’t look its best on the default launcher.
Also - and we have endorsement of this from “on high” - users and Canonical themselves want Ubuntu to have a distinct look. So, if the Yaru team can support and maintain an icon set, I feel there’s no reason not to have our own.
The proposed solution
This is the idea we’ve been kicking around: reconfigure the Suru icon set to have a mix of background shapes, so we can keep the Suru “look” - but also avoid a jarring distinction between house apps and third party apps.
For maximum consistency between the app and non-app icons, we’re proposing four main shapes:
Circles. When the pictogram on a Suru icon has no particular geometric shape (or is round), the background can often be turned into a circle with pleasing results.
Squircles. If we’re having a mix of shapes, there’s no reason why the existing squircle can’t be one of them. Many Suru icons work beautifully with this shape, which isn’t surprising, because they were made for it.
Upright oblongs. This will be the same shape used for most of the mimetypes and the recycle bin.
Horizontal oblongs. This will be the same shape used for the generic image mimetype.
We’ll also have some flexibility to use other shapes when it looks good (e.g., a triangle for the “!” alert icon).
Here’s a taste of what the new Suru-derived icon set would probably look like, if we went with this approach (we’re not convinced by the circular Software icon and will try other designs - also, please note that the icons were manually arranged by hand for the mockup and might be a tiny bit “off”):
I feel that this preserves the Yaru aesthetic (becase it’s still recognisably Suru) but is not as jarring when we begin to install third party apps:
Also, reshaping the Suru icons is not a big job because it would be a good opportunity to switch to the one-svg approach recommended by Gnome and favoured by, e.g., @eaglers . But we would switch to one svg that’s sharpest at multiples of 48px.
So, that’s the proposal, what do we think?
Note: we haven’t really discussed this, but I’ve used the Suru mimetype for LibreOffice on the launcher. I think this looks nice and consistent, but we can keep the official upstream icon for LibreOffice too. I just wanted to see how it looked.