Once you know that the icon above, right is for Ubiquity, the Ubuntu installer, it kinda works okay as a motif.

I say ‘kinda’ because if I take my eyes off the icon for a few seconds, then look back, it makes less sense again.

But new Ubuntu users, those who boot up a live image to “try Ubuntu without installing”, are tasked with deciphering what this icon represents as it now ships in the Ubuntu 20.04 daily builds.

It doesn’t represent a torrent app. Or a defrag tool. Nor is it a handy container set-up wizard. And if you think the icon is a symbolic ode to ‘Snap’ apps or any other isolated packaging formats, you’re wrong.

Nope, instead is the” new Ubiquity installer. It’s based on the Ubuntu’s Circle of Friends logo, which is said to be “…forming from pixels”.

Forming? To me it looks like the icon is leaving; disintegrating Thanos style into nothingness! I DON’T WANNA GO!!1

A bit OTT? Perhaps. I should also stress that I am ‘just’ an Ubuntu user and not a designer (have you seen the thumbnails I make?). Or, to put it even more bluntly: who cares what I think anyway, right?

But I have a hunch that I won’t be the only person gawping at this new glyph with an arched eyebrow and a quizzical expression.

The new icon simply does not do what a good icon should do: tell you what it is for.

As mentioned, once you know what this emblem is representing (and it is accompanied by a tooltip, which is something at least) the dots are joined, the metaphor makes sense, it kinda works.

But when I asked omg! ubuntu!’s Twitter followers what they thought the icon represented there was one consistent thing among them: no correct guess.

Clearly the Ubuntu design team have their reasons for altering this particular icon. I assume they’ve uncovered some usability issues with the traditional “downward arrow icon on disk” arrangement.

And I’m not saying that this is a bad icon per se, rather it just feels like a bad icon for this particular app. As a torrent client, disk cleaner, Docker wizard, etc it’d work great.

I also don’t know if an LTS release is the best place to experiment with abstract and left-field icon idea, especially for an important action as “install ubuntu”.

I simply don’t think a lot of potential new users are going to understand what this icon is there to do. It’s too open to interpretation — it’s arguably the anthesis of what a good application icon should be.

What’s your take on this particular icon? Let me know below
Editorial design Icons Ubuntu 20.04 LTS yaru