Who are we talking to?

Ubuntu faces a unique – and welcome – challenge in appealing to a range of users. But these different users expect different things. We have developed a system which will help define the right look and feel for the right target audience.

A new approach

We have identified six of our core audiences and distilled them into three groups. Each group represents a different audience focus.

The audience spectrum

You need to assess who you are representing, what kind of audience you are talking to, and whether they are going to use your work as a finished product, or develop new products based on it.

Before you start your design, you should draw these three sliders and identify where your communication sits on each of them. Once set correctly, this device will tell you which design elements you can use.

Ubuntu brand sliders

From top to bottom: Voice Slider, Audience Slider and Developer Slider

General design rules

  • Community / Commercial
    Orange / aubergine
  • Consumer / Enterprise
    Light aubergine / dark aubergine
    Less closely spaced dots / more closely spaced dots
  • End-user / Developer
    Closely spaced dots / widely spaced dots
Be decisive
Most communications will have a definite audience, therefore, it would be very rare that the Audience or Developer Sliders would need to be positioned in the centre. If you find that you have positioned a slider in the centre, think carefully about the purpose of your communication and what it is trying to say. In general, the only time it’s useful to say “both” is for transitional or gateway pages, like a home page.

Voice Slider


What part of our organisation are you representing?

If the work you are producing is entirely community-based, then you are on the left. If it’s entirely Canonical-based, you are on the right. And if you are talking about work which includes contributions from both, you would be somewhere in between.

The voice slider

  • Community
    The Ubuntu community is made up of thousands of individuals and teams.
    They participate in every aspect of the Ubuntu project: from writing the software to providing advice, support and helping to promote Ubuntu to the widest possible audience.
    This end of the scale indicates that the materials primarily represent the work of the community.
    Examples of community voice
  • Both
    When the slider is positioned centrally, this indicates that the community and Canonical have contributed equally to the product your materials are representing.
    Examples of both community and Canonical voice
  • Canonical
    Canonical develops services that are helping individuals and businesses worldwide to reduce costs, improve their efficiency and enhance security with Ubuntu.
    This end of the scale indicates that the product is largely a Canonical one.
    Examples of Canonical voice


Employment is not the issue

A Canonical employee can produce pages speaking for the community, and community members can produce materials for Canonical services, or reflect some Canonical contribution to a shared work.

There are more than 3 options

For example, we consider the Desktop CD to be 50% Canonical, but the Server CD to be 80% Canonical. Your own Ubuntu remix CD’s might be 100% community. Pick an appropriate position that reflects accurately how much of the work was done by the Ubuntu community and how much by Canonical. If your work is part of the official project and represents the trademark, include some element of Canonical to indicate that. For example: an unofficial LoCo blog would be 100% community, but the Official Ubuntu Book would be 20% Canonical.

It’s about the underlying work

Your materials will be describing a product, or a service, or an event, or a team. Your design should reflect the nature of that entity, not necessarily your own position. It’s not about reflecting your voice, it’s about reflecting the voice of the work itself.

Audience Slider


What type of user are you talking to?

Consumers make personal decisions about their technology. They use technology at home or on the road, sometimes for work but more often for personal communication. Enterprises make designs about technology for use in the workplace, both server and desktop.

The audience slider

The audience slider

  • Consumer
    An individual or small business group making a decision about an OS or computer.
    They care about cost and function, and want the product to be easy to use and maintain.
    The user interface and user experience are key to their choice.
    Examples of consumer audience
  • Both
    A central setting on this sliders means the communication a mix of Consumers and Enterprise users.
    Often, a home page might have traffic for both consumer and enterprise users, but subsidiary pages would have a narrower audience.
    Use this central position rarely! It’s better to speak either to consumers, or to the enterprise, than to try and accommodate both in one work.
    Examples of both consumer and enterprise audience
  • Enterprise
    This person thinks on a corporate scale and has to consider what works for multiple users on large scale networks.
    Cares about total cost of ownership and competitive advantage.
    Loves case studies and wants reassurance to feel Ubuntu is a solid, non-risky but value generating choice.
    The user experience is not a primary decision maker.
    Examples of enterprise audience

Developer Slider


Are these Developer Materials?

This is a very specific slider. We identify Developer materials and treat them specially. Note that these are not just “materials for advanced users”, they are specifically materials for Developers, that will be used to support Software Development.

Developer Slider

The developer slider

  • End-user
    These people are “satisficers”: they have criteria and standards and will search until they find the software solution that meets those standards.
    Uses the product as an ‘out of the box’ solution. They expect to be sold on the benefits and ease of use.
    End Users do not care about the back end technology needed to deliver them those benefits.
    Examples of end-user materials
  • Both
    A central setting on this sliders means the communication is relevant to a mix of End Users and Developers.
    Examples of both developer and end-user materials
  • Developer
    These people are “maximisers”: they need to be assured that every decision was the best that could be made.
    Uses the product as a tool to build solutions, create and develop new software applications.
    Examples of developer materials


Note: “Developer” is not the same as “Advanced”

Is the work actually about software development?

A common mistake is to conflate “advanced” or “sophisticated” users with developers. The Developer Slider should ONLY reflect the extent to which the work is actually about software engineering.
For example, it is tempting to think of server software as being appropriate for more “advanced” users, and to assign some weight to the developer slider for server materials, but that is a mistake. Documentation for the server edition of Ubuntu might have no Developer weighting at all, as it might purely be for deployment of the product as is.
The Developer weighting is appropriate for API documentation, or developer guides or recipes, both for those who develop Ubuntu itself and those who are building software for use with Ubuntu, it’s about reflecting the voice of the work itself.

The right design elements

Find out which design elements can be used for each of the Slider settings
Each Slider position will suggest individual design elements for the Ubuntu or Canonical brand to make your work visually relevant to your target audience. This section will show you which elements are appropriate for different positions on the Voice Slider, the Audience Slider and the Developer Slider.

Voice Slider: Colour distribution

Here are the colours available for each of the 3 settings on the Voice Slider.
Guidance on how to apply your colour
Voice Slider Colours

  • Community
    • Ubuntu orange #DD4814
    • White #FFFFFF
    • Warm grey #AEA79F
  • Both
    • Ubuntu orange #DD4814
    • Canonical aubergine #772953
    • White #FFFFFF
    • Warm grey #AEA79F
  • Canonical
    • Canonical aubergine #772953
    • White #FFFFFF
    • Warm grey #AEA79F

See the colour palette section for print colours.

Audience Slider: Variations of aubergine and enterprise dot pattern

We use different tones of Aubergine based on the position of the Audience Slider. Work that has a heavier Enterprise weight uses more of the Mid or Dark Aubergine.

Audience Slider Colours

  • Consumer
    • Light Aubergine #77216F
  • Both
    • Mid Aubergine #5E2750
    • Enterprise dot pattern
  • Enterprise
    • Dark Aubergine #2C001E
    • Enterprise dot pattern

See the colour palette guidelines for print colours.
More about the enterprise dot pattern

Developer Slider: Developer dot pattern and content style distribution

Here are the Developer Dot Pattern, screenshot treatment, graphic style and guide to the amount of copy for each of the 3 settings on the Intent Slider.
Developer Slider Colours

  • End-user
    Graphic Style: Solid colour icons with reversed out graphics and text (for this example, the Voice Slider is set to Community giving us Ubuntu Orange)
    Screenshot style: Show a feature screenshot in-situ to support standard screenshots
    Copy: Use less copy to communicate to End Users
  • Both
    Graphic Style: Tinted colour icons with solid keyline, graphics and text (for this example, the Voice Slider is set to Community giving us Ubuntu Orange)
    Screenshot style: Use standard screenshots only.
  • Developer
    Graphic Style: Wireframe keyline around diagram graphics and text (for this example, the Voice Slider is set to Community giving us Ubuntu Orange)
    Screenshot style: Use standard screenshots only.
    Copy: More copy can be used to communicate to Developers as detail is important to them

More about the developer pattern dots
More about screenshots

Developer slider inspiration

Engineering documents have a particular feel

Inspired by graph paper and blueprints

The styling of Developer elements is inspired by engineering drawing and techniques: graph paper for the wide dot patterns, the use of outlines and wireframes from engineering documents. The same inspiration gave us the slight curve on the diagonals in M and W in the Ubuntu Font.

A whiter, flatter, more functional feel

Engineering documents and blueprints are not very loaded with photographs. They tend to use a lot of whitespace and illustrations aim for functionality rather than realism. Emphasise that when you are working on materials that have some Developer weighting.

Made to measure

Our sliding-scale approach helps us to target different audiences more effectively. We can convey subtle collaboration between community and corporate groups, or work which is aimed at engineers and enterprise- focused developers.

This means that we can publish content that spans the full range of audiences, and we can start the design process with the right visual cues in mind.

Example audiences

  • Canonical to OEMs
    Emphasis on aubergine. Widely spaced dot patterns.
  • Canonical to CIOs
    Emphasis on aubergine. Closely spaced dot patterns.
  • Canonical to the community
    Emphasis on orange but with aubergine presence. Closely spaced dot pattern – used sparingly.
  • Internal audience (eg. Some Hands materials)
    Emphasis on aubergine with an orange flourish. Both widely spaced dots and closely spaced dots should be used here.