ubuntu theme contest
It’s actually less of a contest, more of a collab

Ubuntu 18.04 LTS will be the next gold-standard Ubuntu release when it arrives in April 2018 — and it seems it could have a shiny new theme to boot.

Ubuntu developers are hoping to run an Ubuntu theme contest (or more accurately let the community run one with some oversight and guidance).

The aim is to give Ubuntu a modern look, one it can confidently wear into the next decade.

And let’s face it: change is well overdue.

The Ubuntu Ambiance Theme

Ubuntu ambiance gtk theme in nautilus
Ambiance, the default Ubuntu GKT theme

The Ambiance GTK theme Ubuntu currently uses has been in place with some variation since 2010. It’s clear from online reactions and social media that the theme isn’t the crowd pleaser it once was.

Design trends have moved on, and so have expectations on the sort of finesse and polish that a modern desktop OS should carry.

The goal is to find:

  • New GTK3 theme
  • New GNOME Shell theme
  • New icon theme

There’s no guarantee any community created theme will be used by default. Ubuntu may opt to simply include the community theme as an optional extra on the disk image (a bit like default wallpaper & community wallpapers).

A New Theme Based on Adwaita

gnome files
Adwaita, the default GNOME GTK theme

On paper the contest idea sounds great, doesn’t it? A certified way to inject modernity and energy into the stale Ubuntu desktop aesthetic, while also generating momentum around a (typically conservative) long-term support release.

‘Ubuntu want the community to create a new theme based on Adwaita’

With Canonical having no real desktop design team left (it still has some designers, but they’re mostly working on ‘profitable’ things) the grunt work of actually making a new theme will be in the literal hands of volunteers and enthusiasts.

I know what you’re thinking: a stack of great themes are already out there, in the wild – themes like United GNOME, Arc and Adapta. These third-party themes have tens of thousands of users (if not more), they’re open-source, have been tested across multiple distributions, GTK versions, and use cases, and…

But Ubuntu doesn’t want to “cherry pick” an existing themes.

Instead it wants to create a new theme based on Adwaita, the default GNOME GTK theme.

That’s the same Adwaita theme that probably attracts more criticism and complaint than Ambiance!

The idea is to create a new theme from scratch but on a neutral, upstream base. This will serve as a foundation that future GTK changes can’t disrupt too much.

Ubuntu also want a new GNOME Shell theme, again based on the upstream GNOME default CSS, and a new icon theme.

The issue of inconsistent Icons

Numix Square icon set on Ubuntu desktop

A lot of well designed icon themes exist. You’d think, in theory, that re-purposing an existing icon set (like Papirus, Moka, etc) would make sense.

But it doesn’t.

Like the Humanity icon set Ubuntu currently uses, if a new icon set is included it is unlikely to offer alternative or themed icons for many of the apps we all use daily.

Sure, we’ll have nice consistent icons for software like Nautilus, Rhythmbox, and Gedit. But the uniformity those create will be punctured as soon as Chrome, Firefox, GIMP, Clementine, Mailspring, et al show up in the dock.

For software vendors their icon is an integral part of their brand. macOS, Windows, and Android — none of them “override” the icons used by third-party apps, not by default.

New Theme is a Community Task

The Ubuntu community team is hoping that designers and theme makers from other popular themes will want to get involved in creating a new theme for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

Emphasis is on creating a new theme that still “feels” like Ubuntu.

Get a new theme today

If you don’t fancy waiting until April to get a new look for your desktop, you don’t have to. We recently took a look at the best GTK themes out there. This list includes flat themes, material design themes, and a couple of knock-out should-be-default themes.

Does Ubuntu need a new theme? Vote in our poll here.

Thanks Adam E.

adwaita GTK+ Themes ubuntu 18.04 LTS