Unroll the Purpleprint
The story behind the elementary OS Beta wallpaper
In our Let’s Talk About elementary OS 5.0 Juno post, we debuted a new vibrant purple wallpaper with a sort of blueprint aesthetic going on. Where did that come from?
We’ve actually shipped a pre-release wallpaper for every beta release of elementary OS for a few reasons:
- It makes it more immediately obvious it’s a beta release in official and developer screenshots. We can pretty freely share screenshots with a big obvious wallpaper and people are more likely to understand it’s a work-in-progress and doesn’t necessarily reflect the end product.
- It helps prevent passing off beta software as release software. Since we no longer reveal the new default wallpaper until the actual release, it means you don’t get third-party blog posts with weeks- or months-old screenshots with missing features or broken UIs just because they have the “Juno” wallpaper. This is probably helped a little by the fact that we now also provide a press kit with high resolution screenshots using the default wallpaper for each release, and then that after a release, we always use the default wallpaper in official screenshots.
- It gives beta testers a little bit of exclusivity when running the beta. Of course anyone can go download a wallpaper from GitHub, but beta testers will get it out of the box, by default. When they share screenshots, they’re also sharing that they’re one of the brave ones helping us test and work on the next major version of elementary OS. And once the stable release is out, that wallpaper is gone!
I thought it might be fun to walk back through the history of pre-release wallpapers in elementary OS. We’ve been doing them since the very beginning, but because they’re only ever visible in pre-release builds, we don’t usually talk about or see them that often.
For Jupiter, we had a yellow-on-white warning. Unfortunately, I can’t find screenshots of it anywhere (this was super janky early days before elementary OS was really an OS!), but it wasn’t pretty.
For the Luna beta, we switched to a very stark white-on-red-on-white warning box, telling the user this was a pre-release. We decided to ship this to signal:
- This is a pre-release build of the official OS (not just Ubuntu with some PPAs added),
- Stuff might not work right, and
- Where to file bugs.
It worked, but it was a bit obnoxious, and didn’t work at all for translations (whoops) since it was just an image.
Then we got a brand makeover by Ian Hex which included logos, type, and color. The old pre-release wallpaper didn’t align to that at all, so we had to update it. We also knew there were problems with having that sort of copy on a wallpaper (especially with our growing community of non-English users). To continue to direct users where to file bugs, we added a translated “Report a problem” item in the dock for beta builds.
We had an idea: let’s use a blueprint to represent the being-built nature of a pre-release! Originally, we were going to use a chalky version of “elementary OS beta,” but we decided against too much branding on the wallpaper.
We also weren’t super happy with how faded it could look out of the box for beta testers .Instead, we went with a logo-less and more vibrant blue version of the blueprint wallpaper.
We changed it to “purpleprint” for the Loki beta to better align with our developer brand (where we started using purple). It was kind of quirky (a purple blueprint, really?), but it was nice to really start thinking about our color palette and our “developer brand” as we ramped up with AppCenter.
When we debuted AppCenter and AppCenter Dashboard at developer.elementary.io, we used the same purple developer color. Even AppCenter’s icon has a purple awning to match!
In the past several months, Daniel Foré has been working on a new color palette inspired by our icons, but better aligning to different shades and rules. So when we started talking about Juno, he wanted to be sure our new pre-release imagery aligned with that palette.
The new purple (“grape” from the palette) is much more vibrant and playful than the old pale color, and will align with the coming updates to our Developer site. The new palette also gives us some more interesting shades we can use for related imagery that’s guaranteed to look good and consistent with the other colors.
You’ll notice we also added a sketched version of our logo, and more explicitly marked it as the Juno beta wallpaper. This helps it stand out more as explicitly “elementary” while keeping the blueprint inspiration (and being less verbose than the full logomark), and helps anyone seeing screenshots know right away which version it’s from.
It’s fun seeing little behind-the-scenes things like this evolve over time! And most end users will never know about it. ;)
Thank you to everyone who’s bought an app on AppCenter, our supporters on Bountysource and Patreon, and those who’ve purchased a copy of elementary OS or merch from our store. Every contribution helps make all of this possible, and we wouldn’t be here without you! If you’d like to help improve elementary OS, don’t hesitate to Get Involved!