New icons for CS5 coming
2010 at 10.36 am posted by Veerle Pieters
A few years back the Internet was going totally ballistic when Adobe introduced the new branding for CS3. Most people didn’t like the change and it was very controversial. I think I was one of the lonely few that actually liked the change. Now, a few years later another change is apparently up on us.
Stepping into a time machine
Adobe has a long history of pretty unique splash screens, some even had easter eggs hidden. Let us take a look at one of the applications that I use most.
When Adobe merged with Macromedia in 2005 they were faced with a problem, namely how to merge dozens of disparate product offerings from two companies into one cohesive system. This point in time was the mark of the launch of a much simpler system because Botticelli's Venus wasn't going to work anymore. Below you see the splash screen for Illustrator CS3 and CS4.
The new system started using color as primary reference point with a two-letter mnemonic. You can re-read an interview I did with Ryan Hicks, Sr. Experience Designer at Adobe.
What to expect from CS5?
To get some information about what direction the new CS5 will go I'll let Shawn Cheris, the Lead Designer for the Desktop Brand team at Adobe do the talking.
When we began thinking about what we wanted to do for CS5, the one thing we all agreed on was that we wanted to bring back a sense of joy to the brand work. Our goal was to move beyond the monolithic expression of of the CS3 and CS4 systems and create a more dynamic language. We wanted to bring back inspirational and aspirational artistic qualities to the identity system while leveraging the successful patterns we've established with CS3 and CS4. Everyone missed the more whimsical imagery that was such a big part of Adobe's heritage and wanted to surprise and inspire our users and give them something new.
They started by defining a set of experience goals for their work:
- PROFESSIONAL - Accomplished, skillful, sophisticated
- EXPRESSIVE - Alluring, delightful, engaging
- REFINED - Cultured, polished, discerning, elegant
- INTENTIONAL - Calculated, systematic, purposeful
- UNIFIED - Systematic, integrated, uniform, consistent
- UNIQUE - Inventive, timeless, own-able, surprising
Adobe, being such a larger corporation means that many people need to have their say, marketing, product and suite managers. These discussions resulted in a set of business requirements:
- VISUALLY DISTINGUISHABLE - Maintain distinction across multiple concurrent vintages of a product
- EASILY RECOGNIZED - At small icon sizes, on file icons, and in docks and toolbars
- FLEXIBLE - Structured to accommodate variations across the product line and file types
- ACCESSIBLE - For the color-blind. Identities to incorporate shape letterforms, or tone
- SYSTEMATIC - Each identity expresses a clear relationship and is the sum of a systematic kit of parts
- CREDIBLE - Integrity of core design principals; concept, color, typography, layout
- LEVERAGE THE RECENT PAST - Build on strengths of last two iterations of the mnemonic system
Shawn Cheris, the Lead Designer for the Desktop Brand team at Adobe continues with saying:
Additionally, we were told by the Brand Strategy team that the CS5 branding should represent "a shift"—this version needed to feel distinct, new, and "not to be missed". We had a challenge on our hands.
Design inspiration for the CS5 icons
I was a little bit surprised to find out that only two or three designers are doing all of the strategy and execution work for this. This situation was an influence to find something simplistic. They researched large-scale design problems that had been solved systematically, and in doing so found particular inspiration in the work of Otl Aicher for the 1972 Munich Olympics. You've probably seen the figurative pictograms. The icons are on an isometric grid system.
Shawn Cheris says:
Along with Aicher's work, we drew inspiration from a wide range of sources, including traditional drawing tools, machined metal surfaces, Swiss design, lithographic advertising posters of the early 1900s, and more.
An isometric grid similar to Aicher's became the foundation of the new visual CS5 system. Shawn Cheris continues talking about the grid:
Using the grid, we started to form shapes that could be used as a template for creating more complex forms. These shapes became the basis for our new system—our kit of parts.
For a moment I thought that it would be a not so smart move to walk away from the color that was introduced at CS3. Luckily they get that and they will keep it the same in CS5. The only addition color wise is using a 2-color approach to product identity. According to Shawn Cheris:
This has substantially increased the visual differentiation between product icons, making it far more usable for customer who have a multitude of Adobe applications installed on their system.
The actual designs are NOT being shown here as this is an article about the design process only. Personally I think this will not be an easy one to pull off and to convince a large bunch of very vocal users. In theory this direction sounds really promising and I am looking forward to actually seeing the finished result, but I can't deny that I'm a little skeptic because some of the time there is a difference between "the talk" and the end result. You know what I mean, high expectations are hard to meet. I thank Shawn Cheris for giving me the heads up about this and I hope to talk to him again when they are launched.