Sunday, 26 October 2008

Echo Icon Theme "Perspective", Part II.

Last time I've explored the area of planar projections and outlined some candidates that are either used in current icon themes, or might be used there. This time I've taken these candidates and created two different echo styled icons in these projections. I've chosen arrow and package – one represents action icon, with the well-distinguished echo trait of having white inner outline on such icons, and the other represents mimetypes with usually more complex shape.

I've put the all together in one image, also with current echo images and some upstream selection – gnome-icon-theme, Tango!, the upcoming Mango! and Oxygen. You can see for yourself (click on the image to get the original resolution):

There's one notable point – all the upstream icon themes use very similar projection types, and we should probably reflect that in Echo as well to better work with them.

Now let's take a look at the Echo sketches. You can see there three parallel projections and three perspective projections. For now we skip the fact that in some angles the package look better than in others and that it would be better if I closed it more in some of them – I decided to make all of the packages exactly same in the original "3D image".

First compare the looks. For me the winner for this section is the second perspective (from the left) followed by dimetric projection. The left-most one would probably look much better if more closed, like in Mango!

Second take a look at usability. Basically all the icons have very good defined metaphor, only the left-most one feels a little awkward in this case - but as I said previously, it would get much better if as much closed as in Mango! So in this category there is no clear winner.

Next we ought to take a look at "desktop integration". All current desktop are 2D and it will most likely stay that for a considerable future that way. So if we go to much overboard with 3D it might get a bit akward. Imagine you are clicking an icon that does not face forward to you, but is is slightly rotated. I feel that that is the main problem in current Echo. That leaves possible good candidets the left-most and right-most perspective icons and cabinet projection, and with one eye closed the dimetric projection.

Finally lets compare them with current upstream. Obviously there is no other choice than the left-most perspective.


During my "trip" to the projection area it appeared that Echo would probably be better off if we
  • Reduced the used projections to 2 types (one of which is Flat)
  • Start working with perspective projection, with similar setting that is used for upstream icons
  • Aim to be 100% consistent with the projection usage

What do you think?

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Echo Icon Theme "Perspective", Part I.

One of the most common complaints about echo-icon-theme we receive is that echo is inconsistent in usage of it's "perspective". Why in quotes? Because the word perspective, which has been used since Echo started some years ago, is incorrect. Read on if you want to know why.

Basically what we are trying to achieve when creating icons is bringing real world objects which are 3D (actually 4D, but the fourth dimension is time and we usually paint objects how they look in a concrete spacelike hyperplane, time is "stopped") onto 2D canvas. Such an attempts are mathematically pretty well described and the correct word to use for it is projection.

First take a look, how Echo Icon Theme or Gnome Icon Theme copes with it. Gnome basically uses two different types of projections:

perspective projection (from a certain point of view), it's called On The Table Perspective in tango guidelines

and a plain 2D image of the front face of the object, it's called On The Shelf Perspective in tango guidelines

Appart from that, here and there, there are various slightly different types of projections used, sometimes perspective, sometimes not

On the other side, echo basically uses three different types of projections, neither of them perspective. That's basically where the complaints come from - you can see two icons, both of which will have different projection. Even though we have some rules which projections use for which icons that should idealy help discern whether it's an action icon or not, due to how the icons are used, the rules become less clear.

First we use plain 2D like gnome, in our guidelines listed as Flat Perspective

for action icons we use Cabinet Projection, in our guidelines listed as On The Table Perspective

and for non-action icons we use Trimetric Projection (with certain axes settings, defined in guidelines), in our guidelines listed as Isometric Perspective

Well, I guess most of you get already why I used the quotes around word perspective in the begining. But it would also be good to better explain the various words I used above and add an example image.

So, I'll start with some sorting of projections. Among the most known types of projections there are perspective projections - that's how we actually see the world and is most natural to us - parallel projections - these are especially useful for technical drawings and such, as axes settings is all you need to know to draw a concrete object preciselly into it, because lines that are parallel in 3D are parallel in the resulting picture as well. For further info look at wikipedia's Planar_projection article.

The parallel projection further divides into ortographic projections and oblique projections. In Echo we use both. First one subset of ortographic projections are axonometric projections, one of which is the well-known isometric projection. We use trimetric projection, because all the axes have different scales and the angles between the axes are different to each other. You can read more at wikipedia's Axonometric projection article.

Oblique projections are pretty much similar to the plain 2D, in that that the front face is drawn same as in 2D and the third axis is going of in some angle (we use 37° in echo). In the cabinet projection which we use in Echo, the lengths in the third axis are cut in half compared to the other two. You can read more at wikipedia's Cabinet projection article.

The remaining projection we use for creating icons is the perspective projection. As I outlined above, 3D objects projected on 2D using this projection should appear to our eyes with same properties as when looked at them in 3D (with one eye closed). You can read more at wikipedia's 3D projection article.

And as promised, here's an image showing 3D cube projected on plane using various types of planar projections

Next time, I'll outline how would echo-styled icons look using these various planar projections.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

My New Timetable

Ok, so the winter term finally started and I am comming to school again (yay, this year I am having a bunch of interesting stuff like quantum theory or relativistic physics and it's also about time I start working on my Bachelor's thesis - I'll be working on Space-times of Minkowski and Kerr from a circular orbit). And with that comes the need for new timetable and I enjoy making it looking good. This year I've created one I am pretty much satisfied with so I though I'd share it with you ;-)

Source SVG:

As you can see I used three colours, each with two different variants. Darker versions are for lectures, brighter for excercises. Blue is for mandatory classes, orange for semi-mandatory and green for the rest (classes that are either voluntary or intended for higher study year than I am in). It was made in inkscape and it makes use of layers (ctrl+shift+L) and it is pretty easy and straightforward to edit it to fit your needs.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Echo Monthly News Issue 2

We've just released the second issue of the Echo Monthly News. This
issue focuses on these topics:

  1. New Icons

  2. Updated Tutorials

  3. Guidelines Update

  4. Releases

  5. Echo Enabled in Rawhide as Default Icon Set

  6. Icons We Need to Create for F10

  7. Roadmap Updates