Dear Adobe, Pick Some Icons and Stick With Them

I use Adobe Creative Suite (CS) on my home machine, and Adobe CS 2 at work. CS is a suite of about 7 or so Adobe creative apps: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat, and GoLive, along with some other odds and ends. I made the transition from Photoshop 7 and Illustrator 10 at home about…maybe 9 months ago? I don’t remember. Anyway, the old icons, some of you may remember, looked like this:

An abridged view of the Photoshop 7 and Illustrator 10 icons' pasts.

The early icons, particularly Illustrator’s, came from a long line of variations on a theme. Most designers have a mental a connection between Botticelli’s Venus and Illustrator. Their greatest advantage and weakness was their strong visual distinction.

Adobe then put MetaDesign to the task of redesigning their product line (I still like MetaDesign’s work and general philosophy, even if they aren’t the darlings of the design world anymore). They did a great job, in my opinion, and unified the product line, integrated their relatively new app (InDesign) and created a clean, elegant identity and packaging line. The resulting icons, of course, had virtually nothing to do with their predecessors.

InDesign CS, Photoshop CS, and Illustrator CS icons in the Mac OS X dock

The icons for InDesign CS, Photoshop CS, and Illustrator CS, respectively.

Also, honestly, the conceptual quality of the icons makes them a bit hard to mentally link to each app. I mean, why is Illustrator a pink flower? Regardless, they’re unique and kind of cool. And, honestly, the strongest brands have as much to do with saturation and repetition as design clarity.

Then, a bit quickly for my tastes, Adobe released Creative Suite 2, and new versions of all of their apps. Again, MetaDesign created the packaging and tweaked the look:

InDesign CS 2, Photoshop CS 2, and Illustrator CS 2 icons in the Mac OS X dock

The icons for InDesign CS 2, Photoshop CS 2, and Illustrator CS 2, respectively.

So, here’s my gripe, Adobe: if you’re going to break a long-standing brand identity with a harder-to get visual identity and iconography and then change it again, at least stick to the same colors. At that size, my eye sees color before shape. Essentially, after designing stronger icons (in that they read more clearly at smaller sizes) they went and flipped the colors for Illustrator and InDesign for… no reason whatsoever. Oh, so InDesign is more pink now than Illustrator. Huh?

Adobe, please stick with one color scheme for at least a few versions. Please. I don’t like playing visual guessing games when I want to see what apps are open on the dock.


Chris Rugen