[Design-team] GNOME background in Fedora 15

Owen Taylor otaylor at redhat.com
Thu Dec 16 23:54:33 UTC 2010

Hi design team -

So, obviously there has been a lot of discussion over the last few days
about the desktop background in Fedora 15 and GNOME 3 but since there
seems to be still a bit of confusion about it, I wanted to step back and
try to write things down a little more formally and hopefully explain
better why we'd like to do something a little different for GNOME in
Fedora 15.

("We" here is basically the set of people who work to package up GNOME
for Fedora - almost all of us combine upstream maintainership of modules
within GNOME with work on making the Fedora desktop. For example,
I'm the lead maintainer of GNOME Shell and the Mutter compositor
upstream, and also handle gnome-shell, mutter, metacity, and several
other packages within Fedora.)

GNOME 3 in Fedora 15 is a big deal. For perspective, GNOME 2.0 was
released in June of 2002, and it was first shipped in Red Hat Linux 8.
We started specific work on the GNOME 3 release in October of 2008, over
2 years ago. So, as you can imagine, there's a lot of effort being put
in on the GNOME side to make a big splash about the GNOME 3 release and
really do a good job about getting information out to people about
what's new and exciting in GNOME 3.

Part of publicity about GNOME 3 is establishing an image in people's
minds about what GNOME looks like. The GNOME 3 look has many
elements ... the widget theme, the black top panel and status icon drop
downs, the fonts we use, and so forth. One prominent part of the
appearance is the background. (The background has a new functional role
in GNOME 3. As well as being behind all the users windows, it also
provides the background to the GNOME "Activities Overview". You can see
how this works, for example, in the screenshot in

If someone reads about GNOME 3 and gets excited about it and wants to
try it out, then they'll need to try it out within a Linux distribution
There's no way to install and try out "GNOME" by itself. Quite a few
different distributions will be shipping GNOME 3 this spring, but we
expect Fedora to be one of the most popular, if not the most popular of
those distributions. (Ubuntu is going their own way with Unity and will
not be featuring GNOME 3.)

After going and getting GNOME on some distribution, the user blogs about
their experiences or writes an article, we'd really like it if the focus
was on what's new in GNOME 3 not how it was integrated and modified for
one distribution or another distribution. Changing the background seems
like a pretty minor modification, and functionally it is a pretty minor
modification, but it is also a major visual modification. Suddenly a
screenshot is no longer a screenshot of GNOME 3, it's a screenshot of
GNOME 3 as modified for a particular distribution.

We want Fedora to be the showcase for GNOME 3 and to be a good example
to other distributions about how to package GNOME 3. So, to go along
with the release splash for Fedora 15, we'd like to make special request
that for this release we use the GNOME background in the Fedora GNOME
packages and hence in the default Fedora desktop.

I want to be clear that this is not in any way saying that we don't like
the Fedora backgrounds ... the recent Fedora backgrounds are great, and
keep on getting cleaner and more professional looking every release. The
issue is rather a question of trying to provide a single look for the
GNOME 3 release rather than a series of looks, one per distribution.

To try and provide a few answers to questions that already have come up:

 * Is this really just for Fedora 15?

   Yes. The request is specifically to ship the GNOME background as the
   default for Fedora 15.

 * Would the Fedora background be available for GNOME users?

   Yes. The desktop background is a place for users to customize their
   desktop and express their personality ... there is no idea that we'd
   restrict that customization. GNOME will ship a varied collection of
   different backgrounds. Providing the Fedora design
   team's background as another option makes a ton of sense to me.

 * Is the GNOME background really that distinctive?

   A background that looked like nothing anybody had ever seen before
   would likely be a pretty strange background. So, yes, it's possible
   to find previously released backgrounds that are very similar. But
   that doesn't mean that the overall combination of visual features
   involved in GNOME 3 isn't distinctive and memorable.

 * What about the rest of the artwork?

   I think trying to adapt the entire set of artwork in Fedora to have
   different looks for different spins is probably more confusing then
   anything else. The GNOME default background matches pretty well with
   the Fedora look, so it's not going to be jarring to switch to it
   after seeing the standard Fedora artwork for boot.

 * What about other desktops in Fedora?

   We're not trying to say that there is anything fundamentally
   different about the GNOME desktop in Fedora than any other desktop;
   While we do think GNOME 3 is a special occasion for GNOME, every
   desktop should be able to work with the Fedora design team to figure
   out what makes the most sense for a release.

   And while I think it would be a bit strange and confusing for other
   desktops to use a GNOME background as their default, there's
   no barrier for other spins to include the gnome-themes-standard
   package and depend on the 
   if they want.

I know the desktop is a big part of the expression of Fedora's design
personality and its a lot to ask of the design team to have something
else as the default background for the default desktop for this release,
but I think it is a distinct positive for the release of GNOME 3. And
working together with upstream well is something that's fundamental to
Fedora. So hopefully a lot to ask is not too much to ask :-)

Please let me know what additional questions and concerns you have and
if we can move forward on this. Thanks!

- Owen

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