Ubuntu’s Visual Identity Guide

Did you know that there is a visual identity guide for Ubuntu? I didn’t. But perhaps I never looked.

It’s currently at revision one, and you can find it here. It’s nice to see this aspect of the design taken seriously. I wonder how many other Linux distributions have one.

There are a few things of note on the second page of the guide. It’s a decent attempt at being inspirational and higher-minded, and those are not bad things in my book. Imagine that, trying to get your product to generate emotions, who-da-thunk it.

With all this whining I’ve been doing lately about audience and goal, I almost chuckled aloud at the last line of the first paragraph,

“We stand for the very best operating system in the world, created by the expert few for the global many.”

I think the ‘global many’ is about as nebulous as you can get in terms of audience. And just try and tell me that ‘the expert few’ remark isn’t going to make a large contingent of the Ubuntu ‘community’ howl that this is further evidence that it isn’t being valued – When was the vote held on the content of this style guide anyway? Let’s hope it wasn’t.

Hmm.. reading along some more… what’s this? Apparently the guide is meant to help people create a consistent identity that will communicate Ubuntu values. And as of revision one these values are: FREEDOM, COLLABORATIVE, PRECISE, and RELIABLE.

I’m no linguistics expert but maybe it should be Freedom, Collaboration, Precision and Reliability. And no mention of Light, or Lightness at all. The previously described concept of light doesn’t seem to fit inside any of the above four. Maybe that’s a value for the wordmark and logo, but not for Ubuntu itself – my head hurts.

But let’s remember – revision One.

I went through the rest of it and a lot of it is spelled out quite nicely for a starting point document. I do wonder how strictly it will be followed by those outside of Ubuntu proper. There are a boatload of people out there who like to create Ubuntu-related visuals. I think a guide like this only helps them. But the “Free-means-I-can-do-whatever-the-hell-I-want” community contingent will likely spin this one off as too restrictive without thinking about the greater benefits of consistency and the potential for real, tangible forward progress.

I’m happy to see this document. With a little more focus and a well-defined [cough] audience [cough], that page Two could be a real zinger – almost dare I say it, a rallying point. Let’s hope they push this out into the community – not onto.. but into. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Let it languish and it’s wasted effort.

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