Many people have reported that the upgrade from Ubuntu 11.04 to Ubuntu 11.10 means that they loose the icons for Home Folder, Terminal, Workspace Switcher and Rubbish Bin (Trash) and are replaced by a bland icon. Also the System Menu in the top right of the desktop disappears.
Fortunately there is a simple solution.
1) Click on Dash Home and type System into the search bar
2) Launch System Settings and choose Appearance
3) In the bottom right corner is a drop down which is probably set to Ambiance, Change this to Radiance or one of the other settings and close the window.
Now the launch icons are restored and the Gear icon for the system menu is restored to top left. Should you wish to return to the Ambiance theme no problem the icons etc. will still be there. The act of changing the theme restores the items.