Wow, thanks for the long response. I can’t say I disagree with you, but at this point in Ubuntu’s history I’m willing to give them more than a little slack. Karmic is the first release that had input from any professional designers, as a result of the new Ayatana project, and I think they’re just getting their feet wet. They need to keep some things consistent — I’m sure more than they’d like — just for familiarity’s sake.
Of all the things you mentioned, the heavy black shadows on the bold titlebar fonts is the one I wish I’d made a point of noting. Broad usability is one thing, but if you’re that visually impaired, you’re going to need to make a lot of changes to the default desktop anyway.
Also, nice jab at the Tango project. It’s an admirable endeavour, but its results are far too “playful” or “childish” to be considered neutral. That’s why I’m glad for things like Humanity, although I’m sure there are many people clamoring for Ubuntu to go all Tango all the time. And as far as gloss goes, Humanity, I think, keeps things relatively subtle. I mean, have you seen some of the icon themes on GNOME-Look.org?
I think maybe the fundamental problem here is that visual aesthetics are the last thing you want to leave up to a committee. Without the singular, inspired vision of a very small handful of people, you can’t hope for anything other than mediocrity. And there is a difference between neutrality and mediocrity. I just wish there were somebody at Ayatana with the balls to take Ubuntu into a bold and decisive direction. I don’t agree with most people, however, that they need to ditch the orange/brown motif. Those are fine colors, if used right, and are already synonymous with the Ubuntu brand. Changing to something like blue would be suicide.