Lüv: Rekindling the love for iconography.

It’s no secret that I love icons; they’re my life. After taking a sabbatical from making third-party icon themes for Linux and helping KDE with their Breeze theme, I’m back at it. To help avoid burn out, I’ve had to stop supporting, as in adding more new icons to my existing themes to focus on creating a new one. In this regard, I’ve decided to continue working on the least complete free (as in gratis and libre) of the icon themes I’ve done: Flattr.

Flattr is specialized in a way, it’s the first free icon theme I worked on, and it has been used by other people to build upon it and remix it. It’s also the first for which I made design guidelines, and it was, therefore, the easiest to make new icons for, but I honestly never liked it like I liked Nitrux, Compass, Dots, Zero, or Breeze. I often feel bad for releasing Flattr as early as I did because looking back at the first versions, it’s, well, ugh. In my attempt to jump on the flat design bandwagon, I created an icon theme that was super flat, too flat in fact; they were rushed. The icon theme was dull and uninspiring, especially the application and folder icons. I’m a major critic of my work let me tell you.

I eventually lost interest to the point that it was almost abandoned with Nitrux and Compass (and Breeze) receiving all of my attention. In early ’15, after consideration, I decided to work on it again, resulting and a much-improved version. The icons were vivid, less blocky, were varied, and above all, they were pixel-perfect now. Still, I wasn’t pleased with them, but for one reason or another, I stopped working on them again.

One of those reasons was that the previous version, Flattr 0.9, was more popular than the newer version and it and I just couldn’t stand that those uninspiring icons served as the basis of other people’s work, not because I didn’t want them to use them for that; evidently, that’s why I used an open license, but because those icons, my icons, the early ones in Flattr, were terrible and other people were using them as examples to make new ones for their releases. In other words, I thought that instead of helping these users to improve their skills by setting an excellent visual example that they could follow, I believed that it wasn’t the case, and of course, I felt terrible because of it.

I knew I had to do better, so I took my time and just started from zero. I was deleting the offending icons to make room for the new designs. Today, I finished the first batch of these icons; today, Flattr is something that now I can be proud to say: yes, I did that. Throughout the past two weeks, I’ve been uploading large previews of some of these new icons on G+ and Twitter to anticipate to this day, that’s how happy I am with the images now, just like I was when working on Nitrux and Compass.

But wait, there’s more, there’s a lingering problem or issue perhaps, or maybe it isn’t that much of problem or issue anyways, but I feel it’s necessary: the name. See, when I said to myself, “I need a name for this theme… hmm… what could be a good name, well, the icons are flat… flat… flatter… flatter… now it must look cool, ah, yes, Flattr!” and, well… I didn’t know that Flattr (the donation system) existed. I only found out the day after releasing the icons when they commented on a couple of G+ posts of Nitrux, the posts are too far down the timeline to link to them, but they were pretty relaxed about the name —I’ve got to say that. Anyways, the naming, so yeah It’s time to let it go, after all even though it’s a cool name and they were cool about it it’s not mine, so I present you: Lüv.

As you might expect, it’s a rendition of the word Love because that’s why I do icons: because I love them. Lüv is the spiritual successor to Flattr, a flat but complex icon theme for freedesktop environments. It features colors from Google’s Material Design color palette, but let me tell you these are far from being Material Design icons. I like MD icons, of course, but I did not want to jump into the MD iconography bandwagon because these icons are not for Android or Chrome OS, where otherwise they would belong. The basic design principle is that of consistency, and it’s based on Android’s community motto: Be together not the same. My previous work, in specific Nitrux and Compass, had the principle that all icons were to be squares, like iOS (except that I used proper gradients, yeah, iOS gradients are messed up) with Lüv I wanted to do something different.

First, I defined that icons would use a baseline, and this will allow the images to have different dimensions but still be consistent with each other. In the preview below, I’m showcasing icons for applications, folders, and various mime types. The mime types are something that Lüv now substantially defines in contrast to my previous works. In Flattr and generally, everywhere else, I’d do a simple sheet of paper folded in the right or lower right corner inwards and a symbol in the center in a lighter color representing the file, it’s simple, and it works most of the time that is. The inherent problem with that is that a user is very likely to have a lot of documents, and several of them would be of different types. Though I advocate that an individual glyph and a different color should suffice for someone to tell an MP3 from an MKV, there are still problems with that very simplistic approach.

In Lüv, these icons are different. They’re different even though you could have a markdown file, a CSS file, or a GPG key file, as I illustrate in the preview. Not only are they different in color, but the text (the lines) are in a separate order, and this is true for all document style files. Lüv also couples consistency and differentiation in code-only file types like CSS or Javascript. Both files use similar colors however the indentation of the dummy code is different, the length of the lines are different, the highlighting is done to separate them, and it also features a symbol to further define the type of code, for example in Ruby files a ruby is featured in the icon, so this extends to application icons, and the goal is that no image is identical to the point that it can be confused with another.

Not everything is a square, a circle, a rectangle, or in a particular shape. For instance, Inkscape, an icon that 99% of the time, I would’ve replaced for something more generic. In Lüv Inkscape has an image that is based on the original logo, perhaps Breeze was more or less my attempt to make a modern albeit familiar icon for Inkscape. In Lüv, however, I decided not to alter too much the original logo; this icon still retains many of the features of the logo but is consistent with the rest of the images. In other cases like VLC, I did replace the image as always this change comes by re-imagining the application’s interface and keeping a particular trait in their branding: the orange color.

But anyway, here’s the preview:

It’s only the first release, but unlike three years ago with Flattr, I’m going to put more attention and more effort in Lüv to bring it up to par with Nitrux, Compass, Dots, Breeze and because these icons will be the default setting when I start working on Nitrux OS again. So, get this early release at https://github.com/NitruxSA/luv-icon-theme to use it and wait for new updates to come. I welcome you to add new issues to the tracker, and I also will be adding content to the wiki, so stay tuned for that.

Speaking of updates, issues, and, in addition to what you can read below; support for Lüv will be happening in the following manner:

  • Lüv will support all significant freedesktop environments like Gnome, Plasma, Cinnamon, Mate, XFCE, LXDE, LXQT, and, if possible, others like Budgie or Deepin.
  • Lüv will provide icons for these environments and their core applications.
    • What are core applications: Core applications are applications that provide a user of the necessary abilities to use their computer such as a file manager, a text editor, a terminal emulator, a web browser, a video player, a music player, an email client, a document viewer, an image viewer, a file archiver, a calculator and their respective settings application.


Having said that, and in addition to the text below, I have two ways of going forward with Lüv:


  1. Lüv will not provide icons for applications that don’t fall in the classification above for core applications of the respective desktop environments. And this means that images for non-core apps will be available to purchase much like bundles for Nitrux, and Compass are available to buy at DeviantArt with their price TBD and will use the Lima License. Or;
  2. Lüv provides icons for non-core applications gratis as Nitrux and Compass did. Still, for this to happen, there’ll be the need for people like you, the end-users, to act as sponsors for the development of the icon theme, and that can be done through subscriptions created using PayPal or Stripe. And this means that icons for non-core applications will be free of charge and available at the repository on GitHub for everyone to use under the same CC license.

Either option will be put to the vote on Nitrux social accounts because ultimately, we’re doing this for you, our fans, and users, and we’d appreciate your input on this.

So, that’s all for the announcement it’s 4:05 AM, and I must go to sleep, but before that, I’d like to invite you to read the text below, I think it’s essential that this topic is discussed. Thanks!.

And now something that I’d like to take the opportunity to address, a PSA if you will. Because I love icons and because I’d love to continue doing them, I think it benefits everyone that we have this talk. See, it’s common knowledge that things are never truly free (as in gratis), everything has a cost involved in its creation and distribution. Because of that, we should not expect others to give away their work for nothing in return, especially if it’s their livelihood unless that’s their choice. Of course, there are ways to offset these costs, like having another job, something that’s often the case here in open source-land. Some folks work on their projects as hobbies, a perfectly respectable decision and, there are the fortunate ones that get paid, monthly, to work in open source projects and then there are people like myself who would like to make this their job, a job that eventually benefits everyone, from me being able to uphold a standard of living to you the end user enjoying the artwork. Of course, I also understand that supporting an open-source project can be difficult; you have your bills to pay, right? But then again, everyone does. But I believe that if you were to ask someone who has an open-source project whether they would like to work on that and get fair pay, I’m sure they wouldn’t give it a second thought, I know I wouldn’t.

Indeed, every dollar counts, for the four years that the Nitrux icon theme has been available just on gnome-look it has been download over 70,000 times (78041 times to be exact) if every person who clicked download had donated $1 U.S. Dollar I’d have enough to hire developers, designers and even buy servers to take Nitrux to the next level. Now imagine 70,000 people giving a single Dollar monthly, who would ever need venture capital firms, and that’s just for Nitrux, now imagine what that single Dollar would mean for other projects, more extensive projects, projects that are thousands of times more complex, and projects that have even more thousands of users in comparison to Nitrux. Unfortunately, not everyone gives, for Nitrux specifically that amounts to less than 0.375% of the possible amount, but make no mistake, and I wholeheartedly appreciate those who do take a Dollar off of their accounts because they like what Nitrux does, it’s because of them that we’ve been able to continue to release new artwork. Those people will forever have mine and my small team’s gratitude.

But, I also wouldn’t like to remain stagnant, and gratis won’t and can’t be forever something that we can continuously give top priority unless it’s providing for us as well. As someone, I admire said: “Listen, I don’t want to sound like a dick, but I have to eat too.”