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The New Ubuntu Software Centre Icon: Is It really That Bad?

The new Ubuntu Software Centre icon present in Ubuntu 11.10 seems to have few fans – but is it really that bad?

Appreciation of any graphic – be it icon, wallpaper or other – is always going to be a subjective call. And whilst it’s not a general rule that the more people like something the better it is (or vice versa) indications as to the general group taste can often be gleaned from “listening to the masses”.

Why the need for a new icon?

To accompany the Software Centre revamp the Ubuntu Design Team sought to create a new icon based on the brief of “an attractive shopping bag with handles, such as you might get from a high-class department store.

The icon that was created was this bright beauty:

When compared against the “old” Software Centre icon (pictured below) it’s easy to see which of the two looks more in keeping with the new look of the store.

The paper bag of the original infers ‘a convenience store of essentials’ rather than ‘a mall of must haves’.

But i’m unconvinced that the new icon conveys the notion of an “App Centre” - let alone one full of fantastic apps – as well as the one it’s replacing.

For a start the icon is mostly just “plain orange bag”, and at smaller sizes even the “bag” aspect becomes barely legible.Whilst bag = shopping and thusly shopping = apps, it’s just a bit too much bag for such a small icon; the emphasis should be on the “Apps” element.

Then there are the “applications” flying out of the carrier: these look rather obtuse and, unless you were au fait with the stock Humanity/GNOME icons, rather nondescript too.

Jeremy Bicha wrote the following in a bug report filed against the icon (bug #834204), and it made me chuckle: -

When I go shopping, I don’t have stuff floating in the air and a bright white light streaming out of the bag but I may have my bag overflowing because there’s so much good stuff to get and I can only carry a few bags…

It’s a fair point, although I assume the “white light streaming out” aspect is supposed to convey there being a ‘whole world of apps’ inside (i.e. by clicking on) the icon.

But does the icon sell the “Apps” aspect as well as it could? Judging by other App Centre/Store/marketplace icons it’s conforming an emerging app store mime: -

Various app store/centre/place icons

Proposal

In the big report mentioned above Daniel Planas Armangue presented his proposal for a replacement icon: -

(Daniel’s first language is not English, hence the spelling errors in his image)

His mock-up adds the much-needed “App” association through the badging of ‘tools’ to the front of the shopping bag.Using this iconography is a superior approach to placing an Ubuntu logo – or a plain front – as it tells me the icon is related to “doing stuff” (ergo “applications”) rather than it’s something related to the OS itself.

Sadly the positioning/angle of the bag in Daniel’s design is a bit unfortunate (it resembles a brief case) and the app icons used around the top of the design are more nondescript than the actual icon its proposes to replace.

Which icon do you prefer? How would you approach designing an icon for the Ubuntu Software Centre? Let us know below.