FreeCAD

Icon Overhaul


Motivation

I started using FreeCAD as my parametric modeler back in 2015 but since I primarily use dark themes in my software I found the default icons were very difficult to see or differentiate, even with good eye-sight. I took it upon myself to "fix" these icons given that FreeCAD is open source software.

Requirements

The icon set needed to respect a set of initial requirements:

  • Respect shape and forms of original icons
    • (prevent current users from getting lost)
  • Respect existing color conventions
    • (colors already had meaning - yellow for creation, red for constraints etc.)
  • Respect the Tango guidelines as much as possible
  • Provide good form and color contrast on a variety of both light and dark backgrounds

Steps Taken

Being an open source project, the community is very important - I reached out on their forums to better understand how to contribute effectively. Once I understood the design choices that had been made in the past I created design guidelines for my own use and started methodically aligning each and every icon to them.

These guidelines were purely for my own use initially since over the course of the next few months the forum discussions brought in new ideas and feedback which was then integrated.

The process for updating the icons went as follows:

  • Align all icons in a particular workbench to my internal guidelines
  • Share first draft on forums for discussion & feedback
  • Integrate feedback and update guidelines if necessary
  • Share next draft (continue until no more major feedback)
  • Package into a clean and tested merge request on GitHub

End of Project

FreeCAD icons

In this way I managed to overhaul over 1300 icons in around 6 months. This took significant chunks of my spare time of course and to make sure that others after me could continue the work when new icons came along I published my icon design guidelines on the community wiki.

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