What

OpenOffice.org 3.2 introduces a new set of document icons (a.k.a. mime type icons). The new set gives ODF documents a clean and unique visual identity, and removes any product or vendor specific brand.

Why

In addition to reasons given in the ESC meeting on March 09, 2009, I would like to underline why it is important to strengthen the ODF brand at all.

End users hardly ever know that they use ODF, and if they do, they usually don't care too much. Is this something we should worry about? Yes. But what is the issue? In one word: Awareness.

Take a look at popular file formats, like JPEG, MP3 or PDF. In terms of awareness, they are well known. This makes users drive demand for their support. Imagine a digital photo frame that wouldn't support JPEG, a digital audio player without MP3 support, or a PC that cannot (by no means) display PDFs. Who would want to have this stuff?

How can we get end users to demand ODF support in a similar fashion? What can be done to raise the awareness of ODF? "Marketing" seems to be part of the answer, but what exactly do we want to market? Which particular visuals do you pick representing ODF so that end users recognize it in their daily life? How does the official ODF community logo translate to the large variety of different visuals used for ODF files on desktops?

A core strength of ODF - being supported by many applications - at the same time is a disservice to the ODF brand. Each and every ODF application uses their own set of ODF icons. That's more to the benefit of each of the applications, or the application vendors, than to ODF's. It gives users a fragmented impression of the ODF brand.

That's why we need to unify the ODF brand experience across all ODF applications and their vendors, starting where most users meet ODF: on their desktops. We want users to perceive ODF as the primary attribute of their documents. By doing so, we unify the ODF experience across applications - we continue to compete on application features, distributions, services, etc. But it becomes apparent to the user, that we all speak one language: ODF.

Last but not least, the unified icon set also takes into account that users collaborate more and more, where information (document) sharing is essential. A wide adoption of the new icon set conveys a strong sense of interoperability between users of different applications.

How

The new icon set deliberately puts "ODF" on top of the document icon. The distinction between different file types (text document, spreadsheet, presentation, ...) still exists, but has been toned down. Most important, we removed any product specific brand elements (the seagulls), and we eliminated any vendor related design (the "S" curve and specific colors).

The result is a very clean and modern icon set:


On one hand it gives ODF a unique and easy to recognize identity, while on the other hand it competes well in today's attention-grabbing icon-o-mania on user's desktops. BTW "desktop" also refers to typical folders, like "My Documents" or a user's home directory on Linux.

When

With OpenOffice.org 3.2 the new icons will be available for the first time. Though we consider the design pretty mature, we know that evolving and refining these icons will be an ongoing process. But instead of elaborating forever on the design, we want to let users guide this process by giving feedback based on real-life use of OpenOffice.org.

A few words about the next steps. We are going to host the icons on the ODF Toolkit site, because they relate more to ODF than to OpenOffice.org. Of course OpenOffice.org will use them, like the next release of StarOffice will do, too. We would like all other ODF applications to go the same way. This was the original intent when we introduced the subject to the ESC, where stake holders of different applications and platforms are represented. We plan to release the icons as free and open as possible. By all means we want to avoid any sense of vendor or copyright lock-in. This will work only if it really comes free. Also, we are working with OASIS, to get their support for the new design. Most of these steps are currently work in progress, so please bear with us while we work on them.




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