the making of: GIMP UI brainstorm

22 September 2007, 20:02

It all started with Esteban’s message on the GIMP developer mailing list, asking where he could ‘upload a mock‑up of UI changes.’ That destination didn’t exist, yet. In my reply, the words visual brainstorming pop up and the idea was born.

That was the eve of my summer holiday, during which I spent some time thinking about how to make this work. The more I fine‐tuned the rules for a UI brainstorm, the more I felt it would be worthwhile to roll out.

trigger happy

A UI brainstorm is a great way to let everybody, regardless their experience in the field, contribute to a interaction design project. The whole idea is that one idea intuitively triggers the next and that in the context of the brainstorm anything is possible.

No matter how boring, impossible or just plain whacky the idea, it is a valuable contribution. Either it triggers a reaction from other participants in the opposite direction, or it invites to meander for a minute along that train of thought (‘imagine there really is no menu bar…’). Both are a step in the right direction.

get off

Participating in a brainstorm is a gratifying experience because ones ideas become officially part of the project. For us who organise the brainstorm, the contributions are valuable because we again get triggered by them. The result of that goes into our design process.

happy, clappy

If there is something that destroys the creative process above, it is negative thought. Any kind of naysaying or discussion of merit of an idea destroys the atmosphere where anyone can come forward and contribute.

For this reason I said ‘no polemic, please’ from the start. No written contributions, images only. And quite topical, to ask participants to express themselves graphically.

Looking at the kind of heated comments that usually accompany a GIMP news item, I knew comments would hijack and sink a brainstorm forum in no time. So in line with the positive vibe: no comments.

tech crunch

‘It is going to take ages to build an automated forum for this’ I thought, while still on holiday. Then I realised that all it takes is a mailbox, a blog and some manual labour in between. Ready to roll, that is if the use of google services was not objectionable.

I ran the idea past Sven and although not enthusiastic about the google angle, he also saw the point of getting things running. So a couple of weeks later I put the whole thing together on a Saturday afternoon.

…two weeks later

Although only announced on the same GIMP developer mailing list, the news spread fast across the internet. Sixty thousand visits from 145 countries, 334 sites reporting on the brainstorm and sending visitors.

Seventy contributions up to now. More came in, some people thought they could game the system: send in text‐only images or plain screenshots of other applications where obviously they did not invent any pixel themselves. Those did not make it. Good thing that moderation is built into the manual publishing of the blog.

sifting through

Kamila and I went through all of the published contributions during our team meeting yesterday. We analysed the issues the contributions address and got triggered by several contributions, giving us valuable ideas that one time or another will come in handy.

I think that quite a few people are enjoying the GIMP UI brainstorm. We look forward to see it develop in the coming months.

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6 comments · post a comment

at 22 September, 2007 22:15,Blogger Lancelotz commented
Keep up the good work =D 
at 23 September, 2007 00:07,Blogger Michael Grosberg commented
Maybe this is not exactly the right place to ask this, but I was wondering if the GIMP team intends to have a roadmap, an agreed upon feature set, or anything of the sort after the upcoming release. Perhaps they had one for this version but it was kept secret from the public, and as far as I can tell features are added whenever someone gets it into his head to add them, with little or no planning. it would at least save us from hearing the same requests over and over if we knew what was planned for the future of GIMP. 
at 23 September, 2007 02:30,Anonymous Gez commented
It took me a while to get used to the idea of the brainstorming (without discussion), but finally I get it and I understand where is heading to.
There are many good, new ideas in the blog, but unfortunately there are more people asking clones of other apps.

This passed the filter.
Be careful: this screenshot (and all the ones that included proprietary software widgets and UI parts) is copyrighted material, therefore it's uncompatible with the blog's license. It should be removed to avoid legal problems.
Screenshots like that are pointless anyway. Gimp != (put your favourite proprietary app here). 
at 23 September, 2007 22:59,Anonymous Gez commented
I don't want to start any pollemic, but I second Michael Grossberg suggestion.
If you count the tags, in the brainstorm site the request for "single window/wiw" easily outnumber other ideas.
People doesn't even watch the other requests (and I say requests, because those screenshots rarely present other idea tham just mimick a proprietary app GUI).
Maybe if the team pronounces about this longstanding, hot topic in gimp UI the
good ideas won't be diluted in a sea of repetitive requests for the same. 
at 28 September, 2007 00:04,Anonymous Ethan commented
I don't know where to leave a feature request but maybe you can pass it along...
I really like the "Edit > Fade" option, but I would like to be able to use it for everything; Not just filters. Photoshop does this and it was my most used option. (I know you probably hate that sentence...)

It is very nice in conjunction with the heal brush, because you can adjust it after you heal something instead of having to do multiple undo/changing opacity...

Thanks for your time! 
at 14 November, 2007 22:44,Blogger ramonono | Maeghith commented
This is also a screenshot of photoshop where only the text and Wilbur images had been added, the remaining is exactly the same (the f from the layers palette does not mean "fedora", it means "flash" XD) 

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