Hi DN! I am a designer-engineer hybrid been building stuff for 15+ years now, and in a comfortable place in the Valley. I feel like you can relate to a concern I've had, so I am writing here after a lot of deliberation.
From my very first interactions with (famous) open source software in the late 90s, I felt like most of these tools were poorly designed. And I mean the whole gamut: profoundly bad visual design, poor UX on tools/website, lack of brand identity, lack of what we would call design strategy today, uncomfortable service design (weird patterns of help / feedback patterns in IRC - possibly in Discord today). Sadly, not much has changed today, unless the projects have become the pets of big corporations (e.g. Docker, Ubuntu, Wordpress). Apache tools and graphic manipulation tools still often look like they are stuck in the 90s.
I envision a future where many of the most critical open source software has experiences like or better than their commercial counterparts (e.g. a unified design and packaging of Inkscape, GIMP, and other tools akin to Adobe Creative Cloud).
I am thinking of an idea. Since so many young designers crave for high-profile design projects, and there are very few top-notch opportunities to go around in bigger companies, I was wondering if it would be a good idea to create a program/fellowship of sorts that connects young designers to open source software leaders. Like Google Summer of Code, but focused on design and without pay. I do, however, realize that this can't be successful without coordinators / facilitators who setup the relationship and some loose plans.
What do you think about this? Am I on the wrong track? Am I missing something important here? Could this work?