Proposal: Ubuntu Flavors Design Squad

In last Ubuntu Summit, I mentioned the idea for a potential Flavors design squad (thanks to @kewisch for the excellent name suggestion). As promised (very belatedly) Here is a summary of the proposal.

Why:

  1. most flavors have occasional need of designers but often it is not a consistently required amount of work. So most of us either have 1 person or nobody dedicated to it.

Sometimes even if the flavor has a designer, they might need somebody with a different focus. For example brand design vs UX/UI can require quite different skillsets. Although, most designers might have some basic level understanding in all, we all have our focus. In case of visual design/brand design, the flavor team or the designer might need the contribution (or advice) from somebody with a different style or specialized expertise. Different flavors might have volunteers with different strengths.

  1. Volunteer designers need occasionally feedback. Sometimes this is due to need of expertise yes, but also peer feedback when designing can be very valuable. Design work can too often can feel like in a vacuum as there is so few of us in Ubuntu, and even larger FOSS community.

There are some fantastic communities like Open Design, but they tend to be more focused on larger networking than day to day feedback and brainstorming.

  1. Volunteer designers are volunteers. Which means real life can happen and all too often we end up as a bottleneck with nobody to delegate a task to. In addition to this, sometimes one flavor has a lot of work to do than more than a single designer can handle or that a team can even coordinate the contributions to. (e.g. getting a new flavor off the ground)

  2. Sometimes a flavor team has an idea of a design and they just need help improving it or develop it in a dialogue, or need feedback on it. This is not really possible with external contributions (which often takes the form of contests)

  3. Contests are a great way to find new volunteers and get community contributions but they are not best in all cases. Especially, when the team has a more particular vision or for UX/UI / visual design tasks.

  4. it is hard for designers to contribute to flavors or FLOSS in general.

The tools and workflows are optimized for development work and as a result more familiar to volunteers coming from that background. (e.g. using git, IRC, packaging, navigating the way an FOSS project runs etc). This greatly limits the amount of contributions in design.

  1. it is hard to get external recruit designers to teams. Especially in software that doesn’t have a large pool of creatives in their users and community due to the nature of the software itself.

  2. Making quantifying design contributions, especially gradual contributions like collaborative works, improvements and implementations to existing design etc can be difficult, which makes these type of contributions even harder for teams to request.

The design squad aims to address these issues within the scope of Ubuntu flavors.

What this is NOT:

  • a central authority on design decisions. (those decisions stay with flavors)
  • a gatekeeper of who can make designs. (the squad is available to offer a design, mentor a design, or not get involved at all)
  • a process each design needs to go through (this is an optional resource the flavors can chose to loop in, in a way that works for both sides, at any point or not at all)

What is this intended to be:

  • a pool of designers and artists with various skills and expertise areas that is available to flavors as a resource
  • a community for designers and creatives who are either existing volunteers from Ubuntu community or want to start out contributing
  • a place for flavors to direct people interested in contributing design and they need help to onboard (either due to time bandwidth or lack of established workflows).
  • a place to get feedback and brainstorm on designs in progress, collaborate and generally exchange ideas.
  • a place to mentor contributors new to FOSS to get adjacent skills to be able to efficiently contribute to a distribution.

General thoughts? (and any design and design adjascent volunteers who are interested in being part of this idea?)

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This is an amazing proposal @eylul! I look forward to seeing this come to life and hopefully the eventual contributions from the design squad. As someone that is very technical it is often difficult to be creative. I can empathize the reverse is also true. I think leaders in both areas coming together will result in an excellent outcome. Thank you for bringing it forward.

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+1. This is a great idea - there are not many designers for Cinnamon. I think all of us collaborating so we can all support each other is a necessity.

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thanks. honestly I don’t think there is many of us in any of the flavors. I am hoping to get this fully functional and starting to contribute by end of this release cycle.

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I love this! Many moons ago, Lubuntu had a wonderful designer, but he had to move on to other things. For years, we’ve been really lacking someone who is actually good with design. I think a few of us developers have maybe an inclination towards creativity, design, or UX, but none of us are really adept at it. So we’ve kind of struggled along. This would make a huge difference.

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This is great, as it’s the kind of thing that was tried a few times in mega-corps that I worked for, but didn’t succeed there because of corporate politicking, cost allocations, etc. The FOSS project world seems like a perfect fit for the idea, though!

I have no “official” design bonafides, and am very much not an artist in any sense, but have been in Marketing (tradeshows and sales team enablement) and Product Management (B2B web apps) roles in the past where I was partially responsible for the designs of marketing materials, website layouts, and application interfaces. If I could at least help provide feedback / brainstorm ideas and contribute whatever perspective I could, I would be more than happy to!

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Thank you @eylul for posting this, I think this is a great idea. With a common place where designers can help with Ubuntu (Flavors), I’m hoping we can grow more designers while creating an exciting opportunity for personal development and learning.

What do you think would be a good next step to get the ball rolling?

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I like to contribute whatever I can. But I cannot be a full-timer. Will try do as much as possible in my free time.

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Just some ideas floating around…one way we could look at this is trying to cover two main angles:

  • What’s the workflow - to address the point about development platforms like GitHub/Launchpad/etc. not necessarily being well-suited for designers or for this type of more ad-hoc work

  • How do we bring folks in - so there are folks who are in the platform/workflow and are actually willing and able to help

The workflow could be as simple or complex as anyone wants, of course…the simple end could literally be a shared list/spreadsheet of needs (who needs it/what is needed/put your name down to help), the complex end could be a “platform” like Asana, etc.?

As far as bringing folks in - if we think that most of the Flavo(u)r design needs will be similar to the needs of a general end-user software project (a Linux distribution, a popular software package, etc.) then perhaps one starting point could be identifying FOSS projects that have done a good job with branding/UI/UX/website/etc. and asking if the folks who helped them with design would be willing to help here too?

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The way I read…

…suggests that there would be training on said workflows.

If not that, I can only imagine contributors would simply submit files using typical file sharing services.

Is there a third way?

I think in short term having a designated space in discourse and/or matrix would be a good place to begin. These would serve both as a place where everyone would be able to share their work in progress without feeling pressured to have a polished work, and a place to begin putting in some very basic onboarding. in terms of introduction templates, and some basic resources on matrix, git/launchpad.

Once that is set we can join and start communicating there both in terms of bringing people in (from existing teams and people who have showed interest here in the community) and starting the dialogue.

This can also allow flavors beginning listing any projects they need help with, at which points I can try to reach out to other existing communities that has overlap of open source and creatives with specific examples of needed contributions, and we can continue from there. (at least this is what I envisioned next few steps to be)

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None of us are fulltime. We are all volunteers, and the idea behind this is to create a pool of designers and related skills so that even if even the designated designer of a flavor has to step back, there is somebody who can step in for example.

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I see it as a 3 step process (all of these will take some time)

networking and communication (making design needs of teams visible, helping designers get in touch with teams. helping teams to reach out to spaces where they can find people with right skills). We can start fixing these with existing tools (discourse, a matrix channel) - often the issue isn’t the tools, it is figuring out where communities are and activity happens, than lack of a project managing software for example. (additional trickiness of a volunteer run project adds on top of this)

The second item is helping those who want to be repeat contributors onboard with existing tools. (e.g. launchpad, or even matrix). - honestly these are not hard to use or that unsuitable. It is just that most of the documentation is written for people who are already familiar with software development so there can be unexpected traps and assumptions of knowledge when setting them up.

Third step is eventually figure out as we contribute, if there is something that turns into a bottleneck or that we keep using temporary services for.

For branding/graphics/wallpapers etc, launchpad works well for archiving final versions of works and source files for the images. (as well as discourse/matrix with links to file upload for more ad-hoc or one time contributions).

UX, I’d like to really discuss with designers familiar with those workflows.

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This can definitely be one venue of bringing more volunteers in, along with existing design people within flavors and larger ubuntu. However it is equally important reaching out to pool of folks who do have the design experience and want to help but having difficulty figuring out where to begin, as volunteers have only so much time. :smiley:

Related to this short term goal is less overhauling a system but more patching a system as quickly as possible and enough to make connections happening and allow contributions to happen and bridge people from different backgrounds first. That I think will organically bring gradual iteration on workflows as all sides understand what information they need or what the process of the task looks like.

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I would like to keep you in loop, if you are interested in volunteering your time, as marketing is also an expertise projects can need, that tends to be a difficult to source, and aspects of it can overlap with design. (especially in side of digital marketing and websites as you pointed out)

Definitely, I’ll tell folks if it’s something that I know is way out of my wheelhouse, but I’m happy to help wherever I can. I’ve gained a lot of utility, and recaptured a lot of joy, as a user of the Linux ecosystem. This community helps broaden the audience who benefits from that usefulness and delight, so if something I’m halfway-decent at can contribute back to it, I’m all for it.

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Hey @eylul !

Thanks for sharing this fantastic proposal for an Ubuntu Flavours design squad! It’s awesome to see such enthusiasm for enhancing design within the open-source community.

We’re members of the Canonical Open Design Working Group and wanted to chime in with some exciting news from our end.

We’ve kickstarted a working group within the Design team with a mission to empower external designers to contribute to open-source projects, just like this one. We’re diving deep into understanding how we can best support both designers and project maintainers.

Our focus is on building resources that bridge the gap between designers and open-source project maintainers, making it easier for designers to dive into projects and for maintainers to receive valuable design contributions and feedback.

Currently, we’re in the discovery phase, immersing ourselves in the world of Open Design. We’re checking out ongoing initiatives and understanding the needs, motivations, and interests of designers and project maintainers. We’re learning tons along the way and prioritising ideas on how to move forward!

As we kick things off, your input would be invaluable in shaping our efforts. Would you (and everyone keen on open design) mind taking a moment to fill out this survey? It’ll help us gain further insights and ensure we’re moving in the right direction.

It’d be incredible to collaborate with folks like you on building out the tools and communities needed for design to thrive in the open-source realm.

Exciting times ahead, and we can’t wait to embark on this journey together!

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I remember hearing about this on last Ubuntu Summit but things happened on so last minute that I wasn’t able to reach out!

Survey completed, and would love to talk at some point about where the 2 initiatives overlap and where we can join forces when we can schedule a time. :smiley:

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