Ubuntu Dumps the Brown

Color is not typically a topic of much discussion on the Linux blogs, but in recent weeks, it’s been drawing a lot of attention.

Why, you ask? Simple: Ubuntu recently announced a major change to its longstanding “Human” earthtone-palette theme and branding.

“I don’t know whether to call it ‘poo brown’ or ‘dirt brown,’ but either way it is seriously awful,” Slashdot blogger hairyfeet told LinuxInsider.

Orange and Aubergine

The new theme is meant to focus on the concept of “Light,” and it uses primarily hues in the dark purple and orange ranges.

“We identified a palette which includes both a fresh, lively Orange, and a rich, mature Aubergine, which work together,” Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth explained in a post accompanying the announcement. “The use of Aubergine indicates Commercial involvement of one form or another, while Orange is a signal of community engagement.”

Along with a “warm gray supporting colour to give shape to pages and documents” and new logo designs, the overall effect is that Ubuntu 10.04 LTS and beyond will look very, very different.

‘I Welcome Our New Purple Overlords!’

Did Linux geeks take the news sitting down? You bet your Burnt Umber boots they didn’t, and the chatter could be heard far and wide, on sites including

“Yay! I for one welcome our new purple overlords!” wrote Scorp1us among the 100-plus comments on Ars Technica, for example. “I never liked the brown.”

‘No Longer Will Newbies Be Put Off’

On the other hand: “The Human icons look out of place now, and beige doesn’t seem to go well with purples,” countered Wheels of Confusion.

Then again: “At last, ubuntu has got what it needed, a new colour scheme and background,” wrote TuxRadar’s OST. “No longer will the newbies be put off by ubuntu’s terrible and boring brown.”

Opinions on the matter seemed to be divided firmly into the “yea” and “nay” camps, with surprisingly vigorous arguments put forth on both sides. Linux Girl determined to see whether bloggers on the street would react with as much passion.

‘Not Just Ugly – Fugly-Ugly’

“Good for Ubuntu,” said Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack. “The old version was a tad ugly.”

Indeed, “the old color scheme was unattractive for me,” agreed blogger Robert Pogson.

“I live in a green world of forests; Ubuntu originated in South Africa where earthtones are more appropriate,” Pogson explained. “I suspect Ubuntu is right to seek a more globally attractive theme.”

On the other hand, if Ubuntu wanted companies to take it seriously, it should never have made its “prime product offering look like the artwork from a pumpkin pie box,” said Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site. “It’s not just ugly — it’s fugly-ugly. Even in Soviet Russia.”

‘Otherwise Known as ‘Blight’

Hudson is equally unimpressed with the new “Light” theme, however.

“In their announcement, they said that they have a team of professional artists,” she told LinuxInsider. “My question is, in light of the new fugliness — the colour scheme otherwise known as ‘blight’ (the ‘b’ is silent) — why didn’t they use them?”

The new look “is a bit of a shock to me,” Australian blogger Jeremy Visser admitted. “Then again, so was the major theme change in the 6.06 ‘Dapper Drake’ release, which grew on me after a short while.”

People *do* judge software by its appearance, however, so branding is Canonical’s most important asset, Visser told LinuxInsider. “Sure, the software needs to work, but nobody is going to use it if they’re not drawn in by the shiny factor, whatever ‘shiny’ is,” he added.

‘Let the People Choose’

“I sympathize with Ubuntu,” Slashdot blogger Eldavojohn opined. “They’re engineers, not Salvador Dali.

“Don’t expect Ubuntu to flash out with new colors — though the customization options are always there in Gnome and KDE for you folks who need something a bit more risque,” he pointed out.

“I thought Ubuntu is supposed to be ‘for humans,’ right?” hairyfeet asserted. “And isn’t Linux supposed to be all democratic, by the people and for the people?

“So why not let them decide?” he wondered. “Why not cook up a page with all the basic colors … white, black, blue, red, yellow, green and dirt brown, along with a checkbox that says whether you prefer plain, metallic or see-through, and let the people choose?”

A Promising Sign

Of course, the very fact that Ubuntu felt the need to undertake a rebranding at all is a testament to how far it has come, Slashdot blogger Josh Ulmer pointed out.

“It’s a clear indication that open source is finally beginning to pervade the public consciousness enough that such a change is warranted,” he said.

As for Linux Girl’s view? She’s never been a big fan of brown — nor of orange, for that matter. But as long as Ubuntu never looks like this, she’ll be happy! 😉


  • Perhaps the problem, if there is one, is that a small number of people come up with small ideas. Perhaps we should run a logo/theme/colour-scheme contest and propose the result to Ubuntu. Perhaps a wonderful well-chosen scheme could boost uptake.

    Debian is perfect, however. I think it is fine as it is. I use XFCE4 and put in a custom login screen. Everything else is adjustable by the users.

  • Maybe they should go blue?

    Apparently, the truly inept flock to macroslop winblows for the delightfully drab blue.

    I’ve been running ubuntu since 5.04 and have enjoyed the default colors, although, I’ve never left them alone because the customization of GNOME is simple and extensive. I’ve even customized metacity XML files to get the appearance the way I like it. Share it on and you can easily restore your masterful theme anytime you like. Unless your too stupid; then, go use winblows and stop spreading your foolish drivel.

  • Hey, I’ve got an idea, how about asking those who oppose your point of view for their opinion of their "ugly" brown ubuntu? You can quote me:"Like the colors of summer and fall, and the desert sunrise, I thoroughly enjoy the "old" brown, orange, red, black and yellow ubuntu themes. In fact, I’m going to resist ANY change to my "good friend" and carry him to my grave. Familiarity breeds recognition. And family is family. You can go to Paris and pick your own "nose," I’ll stay with God’s creation. Put that in YOUR "ugly" unfair and unbalanced article."

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