Libre Graphics Meeting Roundup

From May 27th – 29th I attended the Libre Graphics Meeting 2010 in Brussels. The conference turned out to be a really inspiring and creative group of people really pushing the envelope of what is possible, not only with open source software, but with visual arts as a whole. Building upon the previous LGM years focusing primarily of developers of the big list of open source graphics programs (such as GIMP, Inkscape, Scribus and Blender) this year added a large number of presentations by users and artists. There were even media art focused presentations such as this one on metaphor and images by Mirko Schafer.

The conference was held at a very comfortable arts venue called Pianofabriek. Complete with bar, the sessions were broken up into a main presentation space plus several breakout rooms for birds-of-a-feather meetings and workshops. Every day of the meeting was filled with interesting content and real use cases and user feedback for the software packages being developed. The theme of this conference “reclaim your tools” was reinforced from nearly every angle from conception to final product. This is what really brought the message home for me, people actually using these tools and showing the great results they can achieve with complete open software and content packages. This is a stark contrast from most other arts, music, and engineering conferences I’ve attended where the papers are abstract, the tools extremely academic, and the products proprietary. None of these things applied at LGM, and the feeling of mutual creativity between all the participants was as big an argument as any in support of open source tools, free content, and shared knowledge.

Friends at Libre Graphics Meeting

Some of the most interesting things at the meeting were the sessions on desktop publishing. People self publishing and developing sophisticated tools made it clear that contrary to some opinions about the directions of literary technology, new tools will only strengthen the printmaking community, not wipe it out with dedicated e-readers. The sheer ingenuity of  projects solving publishing issues with freely accessible tools showed a steady movement that will with time inevitably destroy even the highest volume censored app store in the world. Excellent presentations were given on open font design by Christopher Adams (the publisher of Joi Ito’s book Freesouls) and on self publishing by Ana Carvalho at Plana Press on transitioning from closed source software to created independent comic books. Also Tom Lechner’s talk on his program Laidout shows off its many impressive features, including laying out print on an arbitrary polygon.

Jon Phillips of Open Clip Art showed off the new website created with a very interesting new database based CMS framework called Aiki.

Another very interesting thread was that of open source fashion. Susan Spencer‘s presentation for her project Sew Brilliant that aims to make scalable free sewing patterns available, and also create open source software for fashion design. The fashion industry currently has no open source solutions and is thus enslaved to expensive proprietary solutions for their entire production pipeline.

We stayed at the Pantone Hotel in Brussels, which is obviously leveraging the Pantone brand (basically big squares of color) into a panoply of overpriced products (like $15 coffee mugs). This made the presentation by Ginger Coons introducing the Open Colour Standard, a new effort to standardize a color definition model not owned by a corporation, particularly noticeable.

To see a more of the talks at LGM head over to River Valley TV, who recorded all of the presentations.

For some more perspectives on the Libre Graphics Meeting:

Inspiration at Libre Graphics Meeting 2010, And What Led Me To Brussels – Pete Ippel

“Libre Graphics Meeting 2010” at LWN.net – Nathan Willis