I’m Chanpory, and this is my site on how to live and work better as a designer.

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Some of us in the office are fed up with beautiful, distracting desktop backgrounds. So we’ve changed them to a medium grey:

The solid grey reduces distractions and creates a nice neutral backdrop for design work. But it’s boring. So boring, it makes you want to spend less time mesmerized in front of the computer. That’s a good thing.

For extra geekerie, check out my previous desktop background hack.


  • Brad Blackman

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    6:35 am

    I’ve been a fan of plain desktops since I watched Merlin Mann talk about it on The Distracted Mac on TWiT. At work I use a light gray, on my wife’s iBook I use a dark gray gradient similar to the one on my Twitter background, and my G4 tower has a background that’s white with Chris Glass’s Life Instructions graphic centered in the middle.

  • skoobs

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    7:25 am

    Totally agree here.

    Another thing to keep that desktop boring is to use Camouflage (http://briksoftware.com/products/camouflage/) it hides all the icons on your desktop – great if you use your machine to present or just want it to look tidy. They just added a feature where if you double click anywhere on the desktop it opens a desktop folder so no need to ever show them again if you don’t want.


  • minxlj

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    7:57 am

    I used to work as a designer at a newspaper where we had to keep our desktop on the scanning Macs as neutral grey – it’s the only colour that doesn’t affect your eyes’ perception of other colours, therefore it’s critical for colour management applications. And why Photoshop’s default background is neutral grey.

  • LivSimpl

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    8:28 am

    Similar to the idea of Camouflage, when my desktop gets to the point where it’s too cluttered with icons (and it doesn’t take much), I create a folder on my desktop called “Desktop” and drag every other file/folder into it leaving me with one solitary folder. It’s quick, simple, and I still have access to everything.

    On a similar note, a feature I like in Leopard is that all downloads are automatically stored in a Downloads folder, which is easy to get to and keeps the desktop tidy.


  • Sean

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    8:39 am

    I first switched to a grey desktop background to neutralize Leopards distracting translucent menu bar. I kept it that way even after Apple provided an option to make the menu bar opaque. The grey desktop is a crystal goblet, allowing the content on screen to be the focal point.

  • Jay to the C

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    9:03 am

    I made a “solid black” png file for the desktop—black saves energy and battery life.

  • Nik

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    9:06 am

    I’ve never found myself actually looking at my desktop, mainly because I don’t keep icons on it. However, I do like seeing a nice picture when I boot up.

  • george

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    9:25 am

    @Jay to the C On LCD displays the backlight is always on, regardless if the pixel is black or white.

  • Chanpory Rith

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    9:44 am

    Hey skoobs, thanks for suggesting Camouflage. It’s a great suggestion for folks who just can’t seem to keep their desktops clear of icons.

  • Jay to the C

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    9:58 am

    Thanks George, you’re right:


  • kadavy

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    10:11 am

    I used to go with the grey background for the same reason. What I have discovered about myself, though, is that if I’m not reminded that there’s an outside world, I’ll just stay on my computer all of the time. So I periodically download nature images from InterfaceLIFT ( http://snipr.com/26nv9 ), and set them to rotate every half an hour or so. So far I’ve found it refreshing, since it reminds me to go for a hike once in awhile.

  • Matt S

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    10:52 am

    I use a medium grey brush metal background. It does not distract or tire the eye. It is very easy to make one for yourself, instructions abound for Photoshop and Gimp.

  • Jon MacKinnon

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    10:53 am

    I’m feeling this, have the same medium gray background on both my monitors now and I’ve honestly noticed my productivity go up.

    Or maybe it’s because I’ve got a sweet dual monitor setup…

    Either way, this post made me smile.

  • Jacob Cass

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    5:13 pm

    But how often do you actually see the desktop as a designer? I don’t think I ever do unless I am starting or closing the computer.

  • Matt F

    gravatarMay 1, 2008
    6:10 pm

    Agreed. Dark grey on all my computers. I am a visual effects compositor and all decent comping applications have a dark grey colour scheme so you can more accurately judge colour corrections.

    Who the heck looks at their desktop? It’s like people who spend inordinate amounts of time blinging out their icons and theme’ing their computers. How much time do you actually spend looking at the icons or menubars? If the answer is “2-3 hours a day” may I suggest you are in more need of productivity help than you might think ;)

  • Erik Mallinson

    gravatarMay 2, 2008
    12:17 pm

    I grab the square swatches of color from my colourlovers account and rotate through them every 1/2 hour. That way it’s a color I know I love but it’s pretty boring still.

  • Rob O.

    gravatarMay 3, 2008
    3:40 pm

    I sometimes use the desktop as a temporary storage but more often than not, I almost never see it. So, a big, snazzy, high-color wallpaper is just chewing up RAM needlessly.

    I;ve of a similar mind on screen savers… Why do I care what my PC looks like when I’m not there? After all, a screen saver only works when I’m not.

  • luciano

    gravatarMay 13, 2008
    1:28 pm

    I agree ! I agree ! I used to have a standard blue desktop backgrounds. No distraction with beautiful color or landscape…