Slowly but surely the ubuntu artwork community seems to coalesce. Hardy proved that people can contribute to the process (wallpaper and gtk work, among others). Intrepid is proving that teams can work together and produce amazing results, just look at the community-themes package.
Intrepid specifics are still in flux. There are still quite a few bugs to fix. The wallpaper and gdm are not final, just ideas to test.
I'd also like to take a whack at removing some of the cruft in the available themes. Certainly there are better things to include, theme-wise (gtk and metacity). Getting quite late for this stuff, so the sooner, the better :-) If it was up to me, we would use the dark theme - NewHuman is the working name. It would, perhaps, force people to include dark theme ideas in their plans/code when developing an application.
In my mind, Kyūdō. Check the other pages linked at the bottom, there is more info than you think.There are some really good people behind this. Thorsten Wilms is leading the effort with help from Cory Kontros and others. Troy James Sobotka has probably influenced this more than he thinks, I hope he can help in this effort. It is a solid foundation for improvement in the future and can, with lots of hard work, define how things should be done.
At Canonical things are moving forward as well. We're building a team of experts in user experience and visual design which can put ideas into practice and lead the field.
The pieces are coming together...from pure graphic design, platform artwork, platform usability, application usability and prototyping skills to the technical competence necessary to help every team achieve their goals. We can deliver an outstanding user experience across all communications medium.