It had been decided to create a new theme after each Long Term Support release, meaning that starting with Ubuntu 8.10, a new theme will be released, and there will be no new theme until after the next LTS release in 2010. During that period of time, the theme is fixed to be more appealing and complete. This upcoming release, 8.10, has a new theme, which you can see the development of here.
Unfortunately, the new theme is not recieving a warm reception from most. Many are dissapointed with the new theme, and would like to see another more radical theme, such as a theme called Wall-Light, which has several builds already in the works at gnome-look.org (download the GTK, then drag ‘n drop GTK theme in appearance window). The theme decision has been debated, and it has even been said that it is not the final version that will be used. This release’s theme is ever more important, since Mark Shuttleworth’s call for Linux to leapfrog Apple in the interface category. Besides being a large part of the interface, the theme also forms the first impression new users will have of the operating system. Many users have voiced frustration over the past theme, called Human, but it was generally accepted by most new users as a very attractive, clean theme. Introduced in 2006, it is now at the end of it’s life cycle, and a new theme, called “NewHuman” is being developed. The question of whether or not the current theme in the alpha is still up for debate, as not much communication has been made regarding the current theme, and theme fixes have been included in the current theme, hinting that this theme could form the Ubuntu 8.10 default theme.
There was even a theme competition that was due to be set up in the DeviantArt community, but that seems to have made very little progress, and apparently has not been approved. Why the Ubuntu Artwork/Canonical folks would not take advantage of such a valuable resource is beyond me. The Wall-Light theme was originally proposed there as well, drawn up as a mockup for a proposed theme. In retaliation of the new theme in the Intrepid alphas, an Ubuntu Brainstorm idea (more like 4 of them) has been brought up and has so far received over 600 votes to incorporate a theme such as Wall-Light. Interestingly enough, the first comment states that the theme will not be final, although no recent sources have been given, especially since new fixes to the current theme have been made.
In my opinion, the artwork team and art decisions should be made more open. At least a confirmation that the current theme will or will not be the final theme would be sufficient, but yet we do not even have that. Several months of quiet on the matter, and people are still wondering whether or not the theme that is present in the alphas will be the ones their friends will see when first logging into Ubuntu. The theme also holds a larger importance, as it holds a part in Mr. Shuttleworth’s goal of creating a Linux interface better than Mac OS X. From the evidence, it looks as if only time will tell whether or not the current theme will stand as the default, but certainly there will be plenty of griping from the community until there is closure on this issue.
Apparently with the latest alpha release, the dark theme is gone, and the hardy heron theme is back! This could mean a new theme is in the works.