What intern designed Adobe’s CS3 icons? - Macenstein

What intern designed Adobe’s CS3 icons?

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

Above: Adobe’s old icons (top) vs. their “improved” ones (bottom).

I had been a member of the Adobe After Effects 8 (aka CS3) beta testing program for the last half a year or so, as well as being part of the version 7 beta team. When testing After Effects 7, the beta app’s icon was a bland “placeholder” of an icon which was replaced with a nicer, more stylized, “Adobe-looking” icon when the final app was released. Same with the splash screen.

So I was not at all shocked to see a similarly lame set of icons and splash screens during the After Effects 8 beta test.

However, today when I received my new store-bought copies of both Adobe After Effects CS3 Professional and the Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium, you could have knocked me over with the missing feather from PhotoShop’s CS2 icon. There was the same horrible, blocky “placeholder” icon I had seen for months, and the same boring splash screen upon launching. I installed the CS3 Creative Suite and was sad to see Adobe put the same amount of “effort” into all the CS3 apps that it had into After Effects 8.

Now, I realize the Adobe Creative Suite has been out for some time now, so perhaps this is something many of you have gotten used to, but this “branding” that all the apps in the CS3 line now share is perhaps one of the ugliest and most poorly designed looks of any app I have seen on OS X, especially a for DESIGN suite.

I can see what Adobe was (hopefully) going for here. The new icons look similar to the periodic table of elements, and maybe that is supposed to be some sort of metaphor for Adobe apps making up the… universe? Whatever. To me, they form the element “Suck-tonium“, which is dangerous and highly unstable.

Above: Adobe’s previous splash screens employed some cool transparency settings that broke out of the “boxy” boundaries of other apps (left) and contained graphics which inspired you to create (right).

Some of you (and maybe even ALL of you) may be asking, “What’s the big deal? It’s just icons and splash screens.”

Well, yes, their hideousness has no direct effect on how I use the product, but they certainly make a horrible first impression. The icons and splash screens are the first thing people see when trying out an app for the first time, and something I, as an avid user, see up to 10 times a day. (And boy, do they look horrible lined up in the dock! I feel like I am playing Scrabble.)

Above: Even Macromedia’s bubble icons had more style than the new CS3 blocks.

I don’t know whether this look is supposed to suggest a melding of Adobe and Macromedia’s “looks”, but it certainly has me confused. Macromedia’s icons, while never as intricate as Adobe’s, still had a designed look to them and a certain flair of their own. Perhaps Adobe wanted to save a few bucks this time around by not hiring artists to design their icons and splash screens, but honestly, it was money well spent in the past, in my opinion.

Just as with any situation in life, I think there’s a valuable lesson here that can be summed up via the wisdom found in the songs of 1980’s hair bands. In this case, Cinderella’s 1998 hit “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)“.

53 Responses to “What intern designed Adobe’s CS3 icons?”
  1. noname says:

    I work for Adobe and I don’t like them either!!!

  2. J.T. Shaver says:

    They are a great design. Continuity throughout the suite, color coded for clarity, easy to identify. They have all the trademarks of good design, which is meant to first and foremost convey a message in as simplified way as possible. They are much more clear than any abstract shapes you could use and that were used as icons before. Some designs may be boring, these are not and by saying that it shows you are more interested in the capabilities of the programs than design itself.

  3. I MUCH prefer the beautiful CS2 icons <3

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