The World is a Big Mosaic
Beginning 2000 I have been drawing icons for various projects mostly around the GNOME desktop. While quantity alone doesn't say much, I've crafted over 6 thousand icons over the years (2008).
Work in Progress
You can see what I'm working on at the moment. Of course there's a lot of old icons there for the page has quite a history.
All my bitmap work has been possible due to the great GIMP graphic editor. Although not a hacker myself, I've been in contact with the core developers and had some influence so the GIMP became possily the best solution for creating bitmap icons while remaining a generic image manipulation app as well. Of course congnitive dissonance at its best here ;).
Up until early 2005 I have been using Adobe Illustrator 9 for my vector icons. While an excellent editor, I wasn't willing be locked down on a platform I don't particularly like nor was I convinced to upgrade just to get the SVG export bugs fixed.
GNOME 2 Iconset
I've been introduced to the magic of pixelpushing by my friend and collegue Tuomas Kuosmanen who defined the look of the Gnome 1 desktop.
I wasn't very excited about the smooth look of the icons. While the alpha transparency was appealing and certainly not a standard elsewhere, I felt the icons lacked sharpness. The toolbar icons on the other hand were still XPMs with 1bit transparency and not an ideal perspective for that. Thanks to a fantastic cooperation using VNC, we ironed out what became the GNOME2 icon style.
Not having uber-saturated colors, but adding a black 1px stroke that defined the silhouette better and helped making the icons work on any background color.
Probably the biggest challenge in terms of quantity and repetitivness of work was creating the complete OpenOffice.org icon theme so that the Office Suite wouldn't look alien on the GNOME desktop. Luckily I wasn't alone for this task. Tuomas helped with GIMPing and Michael Meeks did a great job hacking it all together. I actually started using OOo after we were done ;).
- See a preview of the icons (heavy load warning!)
When Eazel released their nautilus file manager, I was immidiately impressed by the use of SVG emblems and quickly began experimenting with vector icons. While Librsvg, the library handling the SVG rendering wasn't very capable at that time and not all that fast either, the prospect of having "resolution independent" icons was way too sweet to ignore.
And so I gave life to Gorilla. It was a testbed for vector icons and the theme exposed many bugs and sparkled interest in SVG on the desktop. Hopefully one day we'll see SVG on the web, where it was ment to be deployed in the first place.
Gorilla wasn't the only vector icon theme. For Ximian Desktop 2 theme, Industrial, I've created a folder in vectors as well. Unlike the simple style of gorilla, the icon was not to shift the style from its bitmap precedessor. The aim was to have it rendered as close to the original bitmap version as possible. Because Adobe Illustrator's renderer created a different result than what was rendered by librsvg, this was a long trial-and-error task.
When Novell acquired Ximian, there was a need to have a Novell theme. The folder icon got a face-lift, again as vectors.
With Inkscape, the task of optimizing for the target resolution became a lot easier. While there's no aid in the form of Illustrator's pixel preview, the both librsvg's and Inkscape's renders are identical.
Tango Project (formely the Unify Project) was a cornerstone in that we stopped thinking about icons as "pretty graphics" or a mean of branding a distribution and started to focus on two key problems about free software desktop – visual consistency of applications coming from different communities sharing the same resources. Icons are mainly a tool to aid in making an interface easier to use more than it's there to make apps "pretty". As an application developer, how does it help you that every Linux distribution ships with a different iconset? What should my application look like? Should I ship with a dozen set of themes and try guessing what enviroment the user is running? Those are the problems that we tried to tackle. It took a few years, but the project was a success.