Nuno Pinheiro

Nuno Marco Fernandes Pinheiro

Nuno Marco Fernandes Pinheiro. Among other things he describes himself as an icon and UI designer, Oxygen coordinator, KDE member, freedom fighter, husband and dreamer.

So Nuno, which role that I've mentioned is the most important in your work and private life and why?

bffff... Maybe dreamer, it's hard to say maybe all of those you mentioned and more. Working in design is a weird mix, if I had to enumerate the most important ones it would be: Technical Knowledge, many of the design decisions one does in day to day life are limited by reality. You need to be aware of that reality, that fundamental technological issues, the way a screen works, or simply the person to ask to answer a question. Pragmatism, you should do today what can be done today, you should push for making tomorrow what can't be done today, making everybody aware of today's limitations, will probably make it possible to have no such limitations in the future. Dreaming, I try to inspire people by our work, design a lot of subjective values and I find dreaming essential to impregnate the design I do of positive subjective values such as hope, love and freedom.

KDE SC 4.5 has just been released. Can you tell us what you worked on that you're most proud of?

Always a complicated thing to answer. I tend to work on many many little things aka icons :) but when doing so I end up finding apps or segments on KDE that need design work, and that leads me to do other stuff. At the end of the week I don't know what I did on Monday. :) I do know that we worked a lot on the Oxygen Qt theme, and by a lot I mean a lot. The best part of it is that it was mostly invisible work, like moving stuff one pixel, making possible that the inner oxygen shadows and glows are real and interact with random content. On the windeco I'm very happy that shadows now scale much better. The icons go on as usual - have no idea how many I did. :). Lots of work in Plasma land.

What I'm most proud of... maybe it's not something that is specific to 4.5, but it's the way projects such as Oxygen are perceived by the community. Designers are today in the KDE community part of the process and not something that comes at the end.

In which direction is KDE going? Will we experience a stability period after the boom of features in first versions of KDE?

Well, I'm not the best person to answer this questions, this type of global direction question is always best to ask in a room filled with KDE people. It's amazing to see that somehow it all works together nicely. It's a huge community - many of KDE's sub-groups today are larger than what KDE was in 1.x days. I think we will see a big focus on elegance and that means, elegance in code, elegance in application interaction and cooperation, and obviously elegance in design. From my point of view I hope we can continue to polish all sides of Oxygen and start to improve coordination with developers of individual applications, like for example Konqueror and K3B. I hope I can do some work in Kontact as well. Our resources are limited so we need to do one thing at a time. The 4.6 release will see a brand new wallpaper for KDE. We hope we can also deliver a new KDM and splash screen, and with a new wallpaper usually the KDE websites get a minor makeover as well :). So yeah, we have a lot in our plate.

What do you do for KDE? What are your responsibilities except making icons?

Right now I try to do the coordination of the Oxygen project, making the effort work in all its sides, coordinating efforts so that the end result is consistent. I also try to create a friendly atmosphere making a bridge between developers mentality and designers' way of thinking.

Are you paid for your contribution to KDE? If so, can you tell us who's your employer?

I work for KDAB (Klarälvdalens Datakonsult AB). Sometimes yes, whenever I get the chance to do Kontact work that I do in my regular work time, for example lately I've been working a lot on the Kontact mobile port. Also KDAB supports my travels to Akademy which is great :) And the biggest bonus is that I get the chance to work with many of my KDE friends and some of the best Qt hackers out there :).

OK. Let's go on to your design tools.

The first time I saw Oxygen icons I thought "he must have been using Adobe Illustrator". Tell our readers what application do you use for designing?

First and most important is imagination :D, many times I go days and days thinking on how to do an icon, both in the technical side and in the metaphorical side. Then sometimes I sketch ideas on paper to test it. And finally I move on to Inkscape and make it real. There are many other tools I use from time to time, like Blender (3D perspective light studies), the GIMP (for scaling and pixel pushing), Ksnapshot (to make some tests) and many, many others that I can't remember now. :D.

What about Karbon? Isn't it mature enough?

Yeah it needs more developers. It's a shame as I really like the UI and it shows a lot of potential. :)

Some people were outraged because during the making of Ubuntu's new design they used a proprietary software. What's your view on this matter?

Really? :) Can't care less, as long as they get the job done. Open source tools work for me, but I'm not going to impose them on anyone. Oxygen icons appeared with KDE 4.0 release bringing breath of freshness. Let's talk about it.

How many people belong to the team?

Depends, icons lately has been all me, the style we have Hugo doing all the code magic, another Nuno (Povoa) does the sound themes (working on a new one btw), then we have many other people working on small bits of the thing (they are very important ). It's a crazy bunch and we have fun together.

I heard that you were working on KMail's icon for about 5 hours. How much time do you need to create one icon?

Depends a lot. Some action icons can be done in 20 minutes, but application icons can take 8 hours or more. It is hard to put a number on them, especially when I can spend weeks thinking about an icon, that takes me minutes to do. For example I've been thinking a lot about an icon for Zanshin (a task management app for KDE) and I have a pretty good idea on what I'm gonna do but an element of the icon still is not perfect in my sketches so I haven't moved it but maybe again I will...dunno.

What about inspiration? How do you get it?

bfff... maybe the worst part, and it's not only inspiration, it's marketing as well. Many of the icons are logos at the same time. They need to say many things, without becoming cluttered. So yeah, I sometimes spend a lot of time thinking about an icon, checking how other apps deal with the problem, talking to the developers to see their applications core values, etc. And some times out of nothing comes an idea. Sometimes people suggest me a solution. As long as in the end of the day the work is done I'm happy. :)

Assume that I'd like to make as awesome icons as you do. How much time will I need to achieve such perfection? Three months, half a year? Two years?

Depends, first technical skill is very important, knowing some basics about how to do real artwork helps a lot (like basic painting/sketching). Then if you have the drawing skills especially on vector based programs, you will need to learn a bit about icons (this can take a lot of time, I am still learning). Based on my experience to get decent on icon making I think 1-2 years would be enough, if you have good skills with vector apps.

Recently you have been showing financial icons. Can you tell us what applications they make it to?

Can't say much. :) I just do the icons, the application developers make me a list of all the actions the apps do so then I start making those icons. Then if I have doubts about what the action is I talk with the developer so he can explain it to me better. Then I do it and show it to him. if we are both happy we move on to the next one.

The new trend I'm trying to start lately is to do more as a more concentrated effort, where I do the icon and a UI revamp of the app. Unfortunately given that I still have more than 1000 icons to do and very little free time. I can't do it. I'd like to but...

A different kettle of fish: some private questions

What do you do in your leisure time?

Open source. :) I also like to go to the cinema, spend time with my wife. Would like to do more traveling, knowing different places and people.

We are all curious what Linux distribution do you use? Can you reveal it?

Sure, I use Mandriva, allways have (well since redhat 5.1), but I like all distros that have KDE :) and I like them to flourish. Think we all grow together, what is good for Kubuntu can be good for openSuse. It's just a matter of working together on the things that are common. And the things that are common are 99% of what we see in any distro... And something special at the end. But admit you had it coming!

Giving your interview for KDE and Master of Universe you said let's cite you're "a little evil". Tell our readers how does it manifests itself?

Hehehe in lots of evil little ways... :) For example a master evil plan that comes together like Oxygen :)