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Dec 21

The new Adobe icons and branding

2006 at 12.26 pm posted by Veerle Pieters

So many voices have expressed their thoughts on Adobe’s new icons so far and one of the more noticeable one from users is that they all thought it was some temporary place holder art. When I first saw the splash screen and application icon of Adobe Photoshop CS3 my thinking pattern was that Macromedia had its influence in the branding process: the idea of using different colors for each application and the way the splash screen is organized.

Adobe chooses to go with a two-letter mnemonic

The color association that is carried throughout the product's desktop brand and primary imagery makes total sense to me. The absence of illustrative elements as we saw in previous versions needs really getting use to. If you look in the Dock, most icons are like pictures and visually very detailed so it's like they are all shouting "choose me, me". Adobe's new icons are so basic and stand out instantly even in a crowded Dock. That's a thing Macromedia always had with their icons, you could immediately tell they belong together. Jason Santa Maria said:

"Plus, baking in the action of having to read the icon just to decipher it adds an unnecessary step."

As much as I respect Jason I'm not agreeing with him, because it's only two letters and I personally immediately see the "Ai" just by looking and not by a literal read. It was much harder to differentiate the previous ones, in fact I more than once confused ImageReady with Photoshop. The natural look didn't have any meaning other then being pretty to use as marketing collateral.

Talking about typography, the font used in the icons was created by Robert Slimbach, known from typefaces like Adobe Garamond, Adobe Jenson, Myriad (co-designed with Carol Twombly) ...

Some of the new Icons of the CS3 suite

You might wonder why Acrobat Reader hasn't "Ar" as icon or "Pd" or something, just to take the same line with the rest of the products. The curvy triangle is so well known that it's obvious they kept using it for the icon. I think if the other applications had a similar icon over the years, they would have done the same. Since there are none they decided to use a two-letter mnemonic 'nickname' system as their primary identifier.

Why the re-branding was such a big challenge

While this color-wheel beautifully presents the approach in the entire re-branding, I think it fails in bringing the message across on how it will tie together as a whole. The idea is great though but the color-wheel is very overwhelming, taking away all the attention and the icons are scattered over the place. People seems to fail to grasp the bigger picture. It seems that most just want to make it look pretty because the app is giving these possibilities, but it's more than that, it's about problem-solving too. It's a major undertaking to revamp and re-brand both Adobe's and Macromedia's apps as one brand, we're talking thousands of icons.

All Adobe's new product icons

Thanks to John Nack I had the opportunity of asking a few questions about the new direction to Ryan Hicks, Sr. Experience Designer at Adobe.

1) Did you had any idea in what direction the response to the new icon would go?

The debate that has risen up around iconography and the merits of what we've done taken in a broader context is impressive. The new direction is a bigger change than I think anyone in the public would have expected from us, change on that scale is going to be hard and of course there are those who will rise up and scream heresy. Honestly, we have been living with the icon system internally on our own machines for so long now that it's a bit hard to remember what the big deal is. We're as varied and hardcore a user group as will be found anywhere, we've found the stuff just works. Done.

2) The horizontal folders is that a hint of what is coming in Leopard :D, or what was the thinking behind that?

Hints of Leopard? Not exactly. The "flat" folder is reflexive of the overall approach we've taken in the iconography throughout the desktop (document icons, module icons, etc), which is driven by the work in our application UI's (check out Acrobat 8 in particular). Simple and clear, though you can definitely see that approach in Apple's UI work as well. It's a focus on function, but executed with an exquisite elegance

What we had in the CS2 days were elaborate 3d-rendered icons for documents and things which looked nice at really huge views but reduced to little puddles of pixel mud at the small sizes. Arguably it's the 16px and maybe 32px icon view that are the most prevalent, so it's those sizes that we focused on in creating our technique for rendering the figures. The new bits look simple, and in contrast to the 3d-style work out there they are, but there's a lot of nuance to give them richness that scales to the larger sizes.

3) Not sure if you can reveal this yet but I wonder if the minimal look will also be reflected in the package design?

Yeah, I can't give anything away here. The desktop icons are tiny extractions – you could call them "pixels" if you like – from the much larger packaging art.

Well I hope Adobe will let me show packaging for the suite when the time is right because I strongly believe it will help people understand. So I'm going against what most people think here, Adobe's design team has created a concise and coherent unified language. The new style is very contemporary and it's more solid and refined in my opinion.

In the end major changes always takes getting used to, it's so different from previous versions. There will always be people thinking "what have they done now?". I didn't have a "whoa!" reaction myself the first time but it grows on you.

I just learned that my thinking was right, the design was done by the design team of the former Macromedia. I knew it :p

Want to learn more?

VECTORTUTS+ Vector Tutorials and More A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.




permalink this comment David G. Paul Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 12.56 pm

I don’t think the icons look right, it’s hard to say why but they just seem rushed with no real thought having gone into them. Of course it could just be that the CS2 ones are too familiar.



permalink this comment Verity Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 01.00 pm

Its not unlike when OSX came out; that was a major change and IMHO the best move Apple made so I can only hope the same of the new Adobe suite. Having used the trial of PS3 I have to say its a positive leap forward and I look forward to the trying the other apps.



permalink this comment Ron Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 01.15 pm

Hmm, i don’t get it. Why didn’t they group the applications on color? Like giving marking the applications for working with audio with a green color tone, the applications for images with red, etc. That would have made more sense than using color like they are doing now.



permalink this comment Tim Hofman Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 01.21 pm

I can’t believe these icons are from a marketleader in design applications.

Why change? The old icons worked great and were perfectly clear in my opinion.



permalink this comment Jonathan Danylko Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 01.51 pm

Just curious…

Is Adobe trying to create their own version of a Periodic Table? :-)




permalink this comment Stijn De Lathouwer Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 01.52 pm

I’m having a bit of mixed feelings about the icons. I think that in the end, they will be a positive move.

The CS2 icons, while pretty, aren’t as memorable as for instance the old Venus icons. Putting it al in a (Mendelev) sytem makes sense.

I think it can be a bit problematic if you have loads of Adobe icons in your dock all the time. Most of the times, I only have the ones that are open, 2 or 3 at max. Then they form a nice contrast against the other, more busy icons. And once you remember Ai = Illustrator PS = Photshop, it’ll be easier then hunting for flowers or feathers.



permalink this comment Nick Toye Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 02.41 pm

Well I think its extremely simple choice to jump on the bandwagon and say that these icons are horrible, only because they are a huge jump from all their previous efforts.

I do think they are slightly under-designed, but I do love the simplicity.  I also think the old icons have never really had a definitive identity and for me it was just the designers showing off.

1) I don’t think the icons are going to lost in the dock, for me they standout, something that wasn’t too obvious in previous versions.

2) Once I open the application, I’m only interested in what I can create using that application.  I mean does a carpenter spend all day drooling over the logo on his hammer?



permalink this comment giz404 Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 02.46 pm

These icons aren’t particularly nice, but they do their job, unlike those from CS2, which were damn pretty although totally indistinguishable.

(yeah I’m French, you could guess by deciphering my poor english)



permalink this comment eystein Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 03.17 pm

I’m with the ones who thought this was a beta-icon, waiting for the real one. It does stand out in the dock though, no doubt about that. But I hope not every app-maker out there jumps on the trend, that is gonna make the dock useless.

Anyhow, they are much easier to tell apart then the CS2 icons. But I liked the old Eye for PS. Anyone remember that?

Most importantly still, PS CS3 is awesome now that it supports Intel on Mac. I love it, beta or not.



permalink this comment Bruno Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 03.19 pm

I like the icons but they seem incomplete. I am sure Adobe will refine them before shipping the product.

Veerle you misspelled opportunity! And I though you were perfect :-) hahahaha

[Veerle: adjusted the typo thanks. It was to find out if people actually read things carefully :) ]



permalink this comment Tom Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 03.24 pm

I agree with what Ryan Hicks said in the above interview.

Having the icons side by side with CS2 is not impossible to spot your choice, but it could be easier. I think thats the route theyre going down here.

I think it’ll work nicely with the whole CS3 suite.

As for Acrobat staying the same, true it’s the same logo they’ve always used, but I also think it’s because a lot of people buy Acrobat on it’s own, without the rest of the suite.
Maybe it’s to help it retain it’s brand of it’s own.



permalink this comment Stijn De Lathouwer Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 03.34 pm

I mean does a carpenter spend all day drooling over the logo on his hammer?

Well I think that’s because a lot of people who use the product, design icons themselves. Of course you are right that how the software works is, in the end more important.



permalink this comment Ben Spencer Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 04.24 pm

I’m convinced that the colours and the shading of these icons have been designed with Vista in mind. They just don’t look right in Mac OSX or Windows XP in my opinion (as shown by Dave Shea): New Icons on Mac OSX Dock, New Icons on Windows XP Quick Launch Toolbar.



permalink this comment Jason M Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 04.26 pm

I think the new icons are kind of boring.  If they can create a beautiful AND recognizable Adobe Reader icon, then they should try to do the same for the rest eventually.



permalink this comment Jason Wilson Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 04.52 pm

I really have to agree with the view that these are incomplete. While, after looking at them n the OSX dock, I like how they stand out, I think a lot more could have been done.

For example, I’m not the best graphics artist in the world (far from it) but this is a few minutes of tinkering with the originals.

Quick Icon Makeover



permalink this comment DeaPeaJay Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 05.02 pm

I thought this was just a beta placeholder too! I was greatly surprised upon reading this blog.

I think the icons need more than just letters. The whole idea of an icon is that it’s helps you to visually distinguish the app from all the other apps. I think this will only work for a few apps. Think if all the applications took this approach. The icons would be useless! You’d have a dock full of colored text squares. Horrible idea in my opinion.



permalink this comment Stijn De Lathouwer Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 05.03 pm

Hmmm I think that extra glossyness is a bit over the top in those redesigns. I like the bridge icon in there, but I still think the whole system will be better.



permalink this comment Chris Harrison Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 05.13 pm

Veerle, Nice post. The new icons stand out amonst the plethora of others I have on my desktop. Thanks for adding to the discussion.



permalink this comment pixie Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 05.17 pm

The whole set of icons is inconsistant, for example the Ai, why does Illustrator get an A but others don’t? That is going to make it hard to figure out which each one is if your brain can’t even use the simple logic of “the letters are the name of the product” when some have A for adobe and others don’t. That in itself is just weird and very, well… sophmoric.



permalink this comment bv Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 05.18 pm

i totally dig them. then again my entire app collection is simply 3 letters (caps).
nice and minimal, like it like it! ;)



permalink this comment AJ Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 05.20 pm

I believe Adobe has made the right move here. The simplified and minimalistic approach is great for their product line and helps distinguish them. Cheers!



permalink this comment DeaPeaJay Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 05.24 pm

What would happen if other Apps took this approach? iT, iM, Qt, iP, Sa, Ff, Sk, Ap, Kn, Tm….. greeeeat idea =/



permalink this comment Stijn De Lathouwer Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 05.29 pm

Well that’s the only risky (or brave, depending on how you look at it) thing in Adobe’s decission. I think it would be pretty stupid if other companies simply started copying it. Let’s hope they find their own way of distinguishing their product line :)



permalink this comment Jason Wilson Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 05.30 pm

After reading David Shea’s post on thesubject, it seems like there is something more to it than what we’ve been shown.

All I can say is ‘hope so’.



permalink this comment Danelle Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 05.35 pm

The one thing that bothers me is the inconsistency of the icon letters. I understand that Ai is what illustrator documents are known as, and Ps is a “universal” abbreviation for Photoshop, etc. but it bothers me personally that the letters don’t stand for the same things. For example: Ai = Adobe Illustrator, yet we don’t say Ap for Adobe Photoshop, they use the P and s. And then for bridge, they use just the first two letters (Br).

I also feel that they are a little TOO simple.

Just my two cents, I suppose the fact that most people will recognize them quicker is all that matters…



permalink this comment Ani Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 06.12 pm

The icons look like a periodic table to me. Thumbs down. Sorry!



permalink this comment Kent Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 06.13 pm

Personally, I like the new icons too.

Looking through my dock, I have 44 icons in there (not all of them are open apps!). Of those 15 are circular or very close to it. The crisp, square CS3 icons really stand out.

As someone mentioned, it would not be a good idea if other companies did the same thing - but that is only a problem for OTHER companies. Adobe have done it first (AFAIK), and being so distinctive makes it hard for others to copy.

One thing I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere is how the Macromedia app colours have been continued in these new icons. Flash is red, Director is orange, Dreamweaver is green, Flex is silver/black.

Why couldn’t they stick with the old icons? Because they had to merge the look of the Adobe apps with the Macromedia ones.

Looking at the icons that are NOT using letters, it looks like they are all plugins or display technologies, eg Flash player, Acrobat Reader, Apollo…They are the apps that users - as well as developers of course - will be installing and using.

With there only being two letters in the icons, I believe your eyes will see the shape of the letters as representing an app, rather than having to read them. Is an eye easier to recognise than Ps? Is a feather?

I do wonder how non-english speakers see them though. Is it easier or harder if you don’t know that the shapes represent letters, which in turn represents an english word or two?

In conclusion, I say good job Adobe for risking being different. I wont be changing CS3 my icons.



permalink this comment nick botulism Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 06.23 pm

just another two cents here :)

as a windows user who usually sees these icons at a 16x16 size in my quick launch bar, these are great. even now, it takes me a couple of seconds to decide which of the CS2 icons to click on. the new icons work much better at that scale.




permalink this comment Andrew Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 06.53 pm

“It’s a major undertaking to revamp and re-brand both Adobe’s and Macromedia’s apps as one brand, we’re talking thousands of icons.”

What are you talking about? I count no more than 40 icons in the color wheel,depending on whether you count filetype icons. It’s hardly “thousands.”



permalink this comment evan Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 07.05 pm

I honestly think this is a huge failure.  Right off the bat, the icons completely miss any sort of consistency - besides being two letter and square, you can’t tell what’s what.

Why are some icons letters and some not? How come Illustrator has the “A” appended to it, and most other don’t? Besides photoshop, illustrator and the new “squares” with legacy logos on them (acrobat, flash), it is incredibly difficult to understand which is which. Besides the macromedia products, I really don’t see the relationship with color as well.

I guess we’ll all just have to figure them out when they launch. great. mornings of opening a dozen programs just to figure out which is which.



permalink this comment luxuryluke (Luke Dorny) Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 07.10 pm

I love em. Great interview bits, too, Veerle.

I’ve tried to decipher the icons here:

And a CS3 box mockup here before the iconwheel was released:



permalink this comment Jackie Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 07.21 pm

I think the icons are too simplistic, also and the font they used so undistinctive that it is confusing to tell what program they stand for.  They are too uniform looking.  I have always liked the colorful icons with the feather images and flowers/butterflies,etc. for Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.  I think these have lost a lot of character, and I am not crazy about the dark colors of the buttons, either. The square shape is okay, but they could have developed consistent branding without becoming so ordinary, I think.

(Just my two cents.)



permalink this comment imazalil Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 07.26 pm


It’s not just the program icons, it’s all the related file types, plugins, etc icons as well.

Photoshop has icons for itself, as far as I can tell every single image type it supports (psd, tif, eps, gif, jpg, etc etc), all the settings you can save - ie. curves etc, which could easily mean a good hundred icons for photoshop alone, now expand that for every single adobe product and it’s not that far fetched.



permalink this comment Xaos Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 07.34 pm

Very disappointing Adobe. You would think that with all of the creative professionals working for you that you could come up with something better than this.

I like the color scheme thing, thats great, but the Periodic table rip off is so “1st year design student” its sad.

Of course those of us who know how will be replacing your sorry icons with ones of our own. Even that Jason Wilson guy who posted did a better job of creating something than you guys did. Next go around at least put more than 5 minutes of effort into your ideas. CS3 is supposed to be a a big step, make it look like a step forward instead of a step backwards…



permalink this comment Brian Seward Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 07.45 pm

I think the textual abbreviations take on something of iconic meaning. They may not be more successful than the, say, Acrobat’s branding in this respect, but within the (easily identifiable) applications of the suite each letter combination is as quickly associated with its specific program as an arbitrary icon would be.

More interestingly: by using abbreviations for their applications so prominently Adobe has created a universally understood shorthand lexicon for the components of their suite. People using Quicksilver or Leopard’s Spotlight (or Vista search?) to launch applications have a shared vocabulary they can use (or application designers can include that vocabulary by default).

Abbreviations also cross mediums well: if Adobe webdesigners are designing for limited bandwidth/limited viewspace (for mobile access or command line or whatever) they can use abbreviations in lieu of bulkier imagery or full length names. An icon’s color can also be used to clearly brand associated websites or documentation.

It’s an edgy choice, but I think it was made with wide-scale branding decisions in mind, and that it has some merit.



permalink this comment Veerle Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 07.49 pm

Andrew said:

What are you talking about? I count no more than 40 icons in the color wheel,depending on whether you count filetype icons. It’s hardly “thousands”.

I was indeed talking about all applications and their associated file types, plugins, swatches, scripts etc. All those are also adjusted to the new branding scheme.



permalink this comment charles Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 07.59 pm

icons should have a distinct shape. this is the same reason everyone hated the 2 toolbar buttons.

[Veerle: removed the image since it’s a crappy message about hotlinking that appears instead. I linked the “distinct shape”]

come on veerle, these are basic design principles.



permalink this comment Brian Seward Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 08.09 pm

Haha, nevermind, I rescind my comment about abbreviations taking on iconic properties based on a counterargument framed by this image (found on the comments of Digg’s related post). Goodness.



permalink this comment whalemap Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 08.12 pm

I understand what Adobe is trying to do here but these icons look half-baked. It looks like they are attempting to integrate the one or two character design DNA from the Macromedia product line. These are much weaker than the original product icons Macromedia introduced with the MX suite. Think about the how well they executed the look of each character from Fireworks to Flash. Gone now is the italic / slanted characters, as someone else noted this looks like default Myriad Pro. I can’t say I will miss the Photoshop feather or the Illustrator flower but these miss the mark. I don’t get it. Adobe has the ear of the global design community and they come up with this. With the access to font designers they have I would think they might even commission a font that works as a system for the entire product line. Just think if they had an open call to the design community to rebrand the imagery for their product line with the promise of their adverting account or something along those lines.



permalink this comment Matthew Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 08.32 pm

I was about to write a long post when I saw that Kent already wrote almost exactly what I wanted to say.  I initially thought that it was just a beta thing that was going to be replaced, but I’m already appreciating the distinctiveness in my over-crowded dock.

I think (hope) that a lot of people are as unimpressed as I am with the insurgence of web 2.0 style icons—I think it’s a brilliant move by Adobe to showcase their functionality and content instead of the dissapointment that lies behind most of those round, relflected web 2.0 icons. 

Thanks for the interview, Veerle.



permalink this comment thorsten wulff Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 08.32 pm

I love the new icons!



permalink this comment Derek Vadneau Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 08.43 pm

First off, please don’t post the colour wheel. Wow, that has confused people:

“Why didn’t they group the applications on color?”

Well, because if Photoshop, Illustrator, and Fireworks were all the same colour (or within the same range) and you had them all on your computer it would be rather confusing, no?

Someone posted a modified screenshot of what their desktop might look like with the icons and that’s a MUCH more realistic and fair tool to judge the icons. Say what you will about the icons, but the colour wheel should not have been let out.

Now, what do the icons for the filetypes look like? Those I will actually see the most often. The app icons I’ll use once a day, maybe, unless I launch it from the file itself. I want to see the icons that will be used for the files associated with the apps and see how easy/hard those are to differentiate between each other and other files on my system.



permalink this comment Rich Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 08.48 pm

They’re hideous. You can spin it however you want, but they’re hideous. I really thought this was a joke, but I guess it’s not.




permalink this comment Daniel Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 09.03 pm

What happens when Leopard comes out and supports large format icons?  These will look atrocious at that resolution.



permalink this comment Kalle Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 09.05 pm

Since I’ve already written a post about this I’m just going to point out the most important reason not to use the new icons:

There’s a good chance that Adobe will eventually run out of colours. I really hope they have considered that. Perhaps they will have to start giving applications uglier colours, just so the user won’t confuse it with the other ones. That applies for the letters as well, what if someone of their employees comes up with this new cool application called PowerStrike? Not very likely, but still :)



permalink this comment Scott F Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 09.10 pm

The CS/CS2 icons were bad enough , looking so much alike and having nothing to do with the programs they represent [Better would be: Feather > Quill > Pen > Illustrator | Flower > Colour > Photography > Photoshop]. These are even worse.

Some people like them, thinking they will stand out in the dock. These people only use one or two Adobe programs. What will a dock full of InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Acrobat, Distiller, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Aftereffects, Bridge, and InCopy look?

Still, it’s not at stupid as renaming the version of each program CSx, and welding the upgrades together. That’s how we get charged for beta software like the last two Illustrators, or get rushed and unworthy upgrades like the last Photoshop.

They can’t all be high all the time, can they?



permalink this comment DeaPeaJay Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 09.30 pm

And here I thought the merger with macromedia was a good thing. But, so far, all we’ve gotten are these ugly icons from them. I totally agree that they are more practical. I never was a big fan of the flowers and feathers. But all I ask is that they just spice these up a little bit. Keep the two letter mnemonic, but put them on something more interesting than a colored block. I mean, really.

They’ll redo the icons for CS4 right? Well they should start on that right now and use what they come up with for CS3



permalink this comment Trevor Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 09.36 pm

Anyone who thinks these are a good idea is a hack of a designer, sorry they break nearly every rule in the icon design book and even a first year student should be able to see this.



permalink this comment Theodore Lee Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 09.36 pm

I too thought that the Macromedia team had something to do with the new PS splash/icon/branding. While I think the use of a particular color for each app in the suite/product line is a good thing, reducing the icon to a two letter meme is not. The Studio 8/MX2004 icons worked because the letter used for each app was very iconic. The font face used in the new PS CS3 icon is not iconic at all. It’s downright bland.

So, word to Adobe - keep the color differential for the apps, but lose the two letter meme and go with an icon/symbol for each app.



permalink this comment websmythe Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 10.26 pm

Looks like the anti-glitz flat graphic approach that was floating round the street in NY a couple of years ago finally made it to Madison Avenue :).  With Microsoft in hot pursuit as well,  as evidenced by their new skin.



permalink this comment MonkeyT Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 10.40 pm

So now Adobe will copyright “Ps” and “Ai”?  What happens when some shareware developer uses “PS” in green?  And what happens in China?  Latin characters everywhere?  Sorry guys, this is a conceptual exercise taken way too far.  I understand the difficulty in creating a representative icon of a diverse and complex product line, but this is just plain lazy.  That you couldn’t effectively establish brand awareness with the pretty but meaningless feather icons was predictable.  That was design gone amok.  Somebody convinced you that you could prop up weak products by tying them conceptually to your strongest products.  Instead, you pushed brand awareness of both products towards the middle, and completely lost any meaning in your iconography.  Now you’ve put programmers and engineers in charge of graphic design, where meaning derives from previous experience, which customers won’t necessarily have.  Either way, you’re still putting the onus on the customer to be aware of the branding ALL your products in order to understand the branding of any of them.  Good luck with that.  You’ve made your very presence generic, fellas.  Both easily ignored and easily forgotten.  That ain’t good.



permalink this comment Chris Moore Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 10.40 pm

“I don’t know art, but I know what I like”...

I use OS X and I think these icons are great.  Besides the context of the dock, people are going to see these icons in the finder, in spotlight, in open/save dialogs, and many other contexts.  The majority of the time you aren’t going to see them larger than they appear in a list view.  In that context, you want to quickly be able to do a mental/visual filter for the one you want.  The icons are distinct from other apps, and coded very clearly with color and shape.  At large resolutions great.  At really small, indistinguishable to the color blind; but perhaps there aren’t too many color blind in design.



permalink this comment Ander Aznar Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 10.58 pm

I’m not going to say anything about the new icons until I have them in my desktop and I can see if they work or not.

I’ll just say that I’ll miss the icons of the old Macromedia package.



permalink this comment Hadley Stern Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 11.23 pm

I’m a fan too…I never like the fussy feather line thingy and flowers etc in the CS2 icons. These read clearly in the dock



permalink this comment Scott F Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 12.51 am

Has anyone noticed the inconsistent typography on these? Why is the D in the InDesign :ID” icon uppercase? Is it to represent the camelcase of the product’s name? Why, then, is GoLive “Gl” and the non-camelcase Freehand and Lightroom are “FH” and “LR”?

Even when given something as simple as two letters on a square, Adobe’s icon… artists?... can’t get their story straight.

There’s going to be a big market for replacement icons. There wasn’t one before, although there should have been.



permalink this comment matthew Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 12.52 am

The desktop icons are tiny extractions – you could call them “pixels” if you like – from the much larger packaging art

This kind of sums it up for me. The icons seem to be considered fairly unimportant.



permalink this comment Lorand Koncz Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 12.59 am

My main gripe with these icons is, that they took the fun out of it.

Most of the people who use these products are creative professionals and that’s something I consider a fun job.

Now if these where the new icons for Office…



permalink this comment James A Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 01.19 am

I’m still undecided… but my first impression (which, ok, comes after 2 1/2 rather nice glasses of red wine…) is that the new logos look nice, but make you think too much.

If you look in the top right of the colourwheel for the red (old-stylee) logos for Flash and Acrobat they are instantly recognisable, and instantly distinguishable.  Using images, rather than text, makes a much more dramatic impact on the visual bits of the brain - whereas combinations of letters need deciphering in a way that (at the moment anyway) makes my brain hurt.

Maybe this is down to familiarity, maybe this is down to red wine, but (as a psychology graduate and usability junkie) my initial thoughts are that the new logos look lovely (in their simplicity) but are fundamentally very unusable (in that they make you think far too hard in distinguishing one app from the next).



permalink this comment Louis Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 02.02 am

I mean, personally I was thinking that Photoshop’s feathers were its recognisable feature, if people saw the feather against a white tile they knew it was photoshop.  I’m actually fairly keen on the new icons, I was a fan of the macromedia icons too.  Had to give my two cents.



permalink this comment Rob Marquardt Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 02.54 am

The CS/CS2 icons were bad enough , looking so much alike and having nothing to do with the programs they represent

Now I realize why the CS/CS2 icons were so bad. They were to make everyone forget the clearly-identifiable pre-CS icons so that when the half-baked CS3 icons were released, they would be stunning in comparison.




permalink this comment Matt Thomas Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 03.27 am

Well I hope Adobe will let me show packaging for the suite when the time is right because I strongly believe it will help people understand.

I can’t wait. The splash screens alone for the new Photoshop and Acrobat are just terribly nice to look at. I’m very much looking forward to seeing it applied to the package design.



permalink this comment alain Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 05.29 am




permalink this comment Alex Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 06.08 am

The problem is that all these are just for one language: English. What about the international versions of the applications?



permalink this comment Chary Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 07.27 am

In my opinion the new icons look a bit boring, but i like the adobe reader icon, it will be better idea to have a seperate and permanent icon for each application which comes from the Adobe.



permalink this comment allgood2 Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 08.20 am

I like the simplistic approach to the icons; and I thank you for the interview. Here are my thoughts on the controversy:

(1) That color wheel view of the icons should have never been released outside of Adobe. It looks horrible;

(2) Unlike others, I think the icons look clear and refined in a minimalist manner;

(3) The new Abbreviations are going to take some effort, and some time to properly associate. Hopefully the color scheme relationship will improve this, but I fumbled with Ps for Photoshop versus Ai for Illustrator; versus Br for Bridge. Of course this is where thinking about the periodic chart was actually helpful.

(4) I hadn’t much gotten use to the feather and other icons from the CS2 days, possible because I moved those items from my doc. The old icons where never iconic to me; in fact I wasn’t that impressed with their symbolism; which may explain why the simple symbolism of the new icons does work for me.



permalink this comment Martijn Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 09.28 am

I like the idea of simplifying the icons but indead there’s something not right with the whole system. Something about the connection between the several apps.

The user also loses a source of inspiration. The previous icons were very expressive.
From my experience minimalistic design is a wonderfull thing but can be boring as hell and that’s the last feeling you need when you start with a empty artboard.



permalink this comment Tom Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 09.51 am

I like the idea of a completely new design with simple icons… but I’m not sure about the results.
These icons are really too simple.

In addition it is definitely much easier to remember and associate an image to an application, rather then a text.



permalink this comment Michel Bozgounov Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 10.02 am

Ugly, ugly, ugly :(

I’m disappointed, if this is really the Macromedia Team who made all this ...

Remember the nice Fireworks, Dreamweaver, Flash logos? Where’s all that? Instead, we see unstyled letters, on a square background…

Hmm… Now that Adobe and Macromedia are one, I’m wondering, what’ll become of the competition (which practically doesn’t exist anymore…) ...and I guess, this new “iconuglyness” is just a first step:(



permalink this comment Sigurdur Armannsson Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 10.05 am

I have always been facinated by the Periodic Table and I like very much how Adobe is using it’s basic concept to make a new line of icons and in fact a new brand for the programs.

It’s minimalistic and very direct in communicating to the viewer what program he is choosing. The letters along with it’s background colour instantly translates into an icon that one does relate strongly to the applications.



permalink this comment trevor Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 10.29 am

“I use OS X and I think these icons are great.  Besides the context of the dock”

These will look at their worst in the dock, like an icon freak show of squares in an otherwise beautiful parade of silhouette identifiable good icons.



permalink this comment Marc Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 02.39 pm

When you see that number of icons on the colour wheel - you’d be a fool NOT to use characters instead of ideograms. Designing icons is often a reductivist art. The question is “what’s the least amount of information I need to make my point?”. Pure. Simple.
That said, I’m off.



permalink this comment nick Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 03.52 pm

so imagine then your dock filled with colourful square boxes with white letters on them…



permalink this comment Marc Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 04.22 pm

sounds fine to me.

But instead, imagine only the Adobe products with colourful square boxes and white type. If MSWord + Skype + Firefox + iTunes stay pretty much the same - then the Ai, Dw and Ps are going to stand out in the clutter. Which is kinda what you want if you’re an Adobe Experience Designer.



permalink this comment Jon Anderson Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 04.37 pm

Anyone who thinks these are a good idea is a hack of a designer, sorry they break nearly every rule in the icon design book and even a first year student should be able to see this.

This is mind-numbing. These icons definitely serve their purpose from a utilitarian/functional standpoint- which is an integral part of design! They might be plain and simple at first glance, but when grouped next to each other and organized on a toolbar/dock, they make perfect sense.

I use Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, and After Effects on a daily basis. I can’t even begin to explain how many times I’ve had dyslexia apple-tabbing through all of my open Apps due to lack of association from the Application to its icon. With distinct colors and fast typographic recognition, I think the new Adobe icons are definitely ahead of any previous releases.

Has anyone noticed the inconsistent typography on these? Why is the D in the InDesign :ID” icon uppercase? Is it to represent the camelcase of the product’s name? Why, then, is GoLive “Gl” and the non-camelcase Freehand and Lightroom are “FH” and “LR”?

Easy. This comes down to a matter of optical recognition. Adobe has obviously tried to keep the “camelcase” consistent throughout the icons (as in InDesign, After Effects, FreeHand), but there are some exceptions. Personally, if I see “GL” I immediately associate it with OpenGL. “Gl” makes sense.

I guess I just don’t understand what everyone’s fuss is about. If you have a design background based in art & illustration, I might be able to understand the confusion. However, having a design background with a focus on research and usability, these icons are right on the money with the Adobe-Macromedia merger and are clearly aimed at making every designer’s daily routine require less thought and/or strain.



permalink this comment Chris Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 04.40 pm

I like that they considered the smaller resolutions (16x16 and 32x32), but shouldn’t icons be you know icons? as in small images that represent the program, not just a bit of text with a background colour. I have the tool-tip or the text below/left of the icon to tell me the name I don’t need it duplicated on the icon. If you look at David Lanham’s Agua you will note the flat on simple small size icons and more detailed larger ones.
This to me is good practise, but just because most shiny icons forget the small sizes, it doesn’t mean adobe should ignore the larger sizes.



permalink this comment DeaPeaJay Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 04.43 pm

I’m through complaining, I hate the new icons. But that’s easily fixed by just changing them. I just have to find a good replacement.



permalink this comment Nick Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 05.44 pm

Can’t say I’m very pleased with this new set of icons. I think Adobe missed the mark. Robert Slimbach or not, it’s just text on a square. I think they could push the design much further, especially considering how well done the Macromedia icons are.

I think they are trying to tie in the simplistic text based look of Macromedia, but they fall tragically short. I don’t get the strong sense of identity with these.

From the standpoint of functionality/usability/optical recognition, sure, these are great. But from an aesthetic and design perspective, they have a long way to go, and Adobe has always had a strong visual presence about them. These icons to me just don’t fit into adobe well.

And yes, what of the international scene? Are they going to make icons in Russian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, etc.? Not ever language uses the roman letter forms.



permalink this comment Anonymous Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 06.10 pm

Hi Veerle,

Is it okay I link the images in this article and your story to one of my design forums (aka This would be a great discussion over there since there are a lot of logo designers and such . . .

- Anonymous



permalink this comment Sníh Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 06.19 pm

These icons are better than the “old icons”



permalink this comment Michaël Guitton Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 06.19 pm

Adobe new icon scheme is a ripoff of Mendeleev’s periodic table. Come on, applications are not chemical elements… Nobody should have to decipher a poorly chosen 2-letter acronym!

Adobe design team ought to read Apple Human Interface Guidelines: Icon Genres and Families:

Aqua offers a photo-illustrative icon style—it approaches the realism of photography but uses the features of illustrations to convey a lot in a small space. Icons can be represented in 128 x 128 pixels to allow ample room for detail.



permalink this comment Jackie Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 07.27 pm

I agree with what James A. said above that it takes time to decipher the letters, whereas a picture icon is much more memorable.  I think the problem with these icons is that they are too much alike and as someone else pointed out, running out of colors or abbreviations that are distinctive could be a problem.  What on earth does a periodic table have to do with all of these programs, andyway, and what they do?  How unimaginative an idea for brand marketing. It is just too computerish and boring. I hope that this merger between Adobe and Macromedia doesn’t end up destroying the distinctive aspects of both companies and their products - something like the way the Time Warner and AOL thing was a disaster. That would really be a negative outcome. I do think these icons were not thought out well, and that as other people mentioned, the design is not very sophisticated, and is more like usability vs. creativity.  I agree totally that somehow the Macromedia team missed the mark in the design department.



permalink this comment Mike Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 07.33 pm

Jon Anderson said:

However, having a design background with a focus on research and usability, these icons are right on the money with the Adobe-Macromedia merger and are clearly aimed at making every designer’s daily routine require less thought and/or strain.

I stongly disagree. What makes icons useful is being able to distinguish them from other icons. Color, shape, contrast, spatial frequency, etc. all serve to make icons standout. Using only subtle changes (in many cases) in hue, and only small visual changes in shape (the text) will make usability suffer. If PS is the only Adobe icon in your taskbar or dock, then it’s geat. But if you use several, you will be slowed down.

Here’s the key:

If you squint, how quickly can you find the icon you’re looking for? All signs point to “not very quickly” for these icons.

Scores of academic research papers attest to their potential indistinguishability (except in the less useful case when you’re staring right at them).



permalink this comment websmythe Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 07.34 pm

Ok, so.. New Poll..

What do you think is more boring? Adobe’s new icons, or listening to people ***** about them?

How come ya can never find the OFF button when ya need it? Hey, I know! Maybe somebody could design one?

Speaking of that…

If we all figure that we know better,  what would we have done if we were given the portfolio? Somebody wantta start a thread somewhere?



permalink this comment Jackie Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 07.44 pm

Yes - Mike you are right about the icons being indistinguishable. I think a bunch of programmers must have come up with them, not designers.



permalink this comment Vytas Gaizutis Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 07.50 pm

Great post.

Design of application icons is a tricky endeavor. There’s more than one factor than needs to be considered in such an effort:

(1) They need to be easily seen on the UI (but not overly so as to be a distraction) among a potential clutter of little blobs.

(2) They need to be easily associated with the application they represent – at a glance (as in “Please don’t make me think”).

(3) If representing a suite of tools, which is the case here, they should be scalable and extensible to include the depth and breath of products the company offers.

(4) They should be part of a product signature; a personality that is the essence of the individual product. This signature is carried in the application splash/about box, product packaging, marketing materials, etc.  Thus, they should speak to brand.

(5) They should be aesthetically pleasing. Delight is not a trivial issue, though it is one of the most challenging to carry off.

Unfortunately, I do not believe these icons achieve most of these goals to an acceptable level.  To me, they seem confusing and uninspired. I suspect they will force users to think/stumble, are not memorable, and do little for brand. Their “boxiness” harkens back to early 90’s, where almost all icons were squares. Although this itself is not bad, one anticipates more from a company with super design tools.

The resemblance to the periodic table feels so intentional (inside joke, perhaps?) as to be down right annoying, especially since the majority of users of these products will more than likely be right-brain dominant individuals and may be instantly turned off by anything that reminds them of their high school chemistry class (just a gut feeling).

Recommendation: Go back to the drawing board guys. Invest the time and money on a specialist in application icon design (one who truly understands all of the intricacies and needs I expressed above) and do it right. Your products rock and so should the icons. They are the doorways into your applications and your brand presence on the UI.



permalink this comment Mark B Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 08.55 pm

I can’t believe these new icons are good for branding. If you show someone the new Photosop icon, do they really tell you that it brings to mind Adobe’s desired brand attributes (creative, empowering, user-friendly, cutting-edge, or whatever)?



permalink this comment DanD Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 09.03 pm

The curvy triangle is so well known that it’s obvious they kept using it for the icon. I think if the other applications had a similar icon over the years, they would have done the same.

I agree with this statement, which is why i wonder about eliminating highly recognizable icons for products like Photoshop. Is it just the consumer (non-pro) facing items whose branding they aren’t willing to destroy?



permalink this comment Will Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 09.50 pm

What’s the fuss all about? The icons, from where I sit, are excellent.

I’m a Flash, Dreamweaver, Fireworks guy. If I wanted to open Photoshop or Illustrator I’d have to mouseOver and wait to see which was which. Now I don’t.

And perhaps, for other former Macromedia product users this makes opening the right program easier for us. That’s all I wanted - easily recognizable icons, now I have that.

Well done Adobe, please brave the trash talk and stick with it. Good job and thank you.

I’m looking forward to seeing the product packaging graphics released - I think these pansy-loving boo-hoo’ers will be a little quieter then, I’m sure.

Designers are soooo sensitive, gosh! ;)



permalink this comment Kyle Korleski Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 11.24 pm

Macromedia is Adobe now, Veerle.



permalink this comment Ash Haque Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 11.59 pm

They look smack off of a periodic table, nothing like the well detailed, and very artistic ones they had before.



permalink this comment Alexandra Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 12.53 am

It looks like someone went color shopping in the Web 2.0 candy store. The new icons are underwhelming. The only distinctive icons in the set are Acrobat and Flash the rest are just a jumble. I would expect that Adobe has access to the best designers in the world and this is their best effort?



permalink this comment luxuryluke Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 01.13 am

Yeah, but I sure miss Illustrator’s Venus…
[Homer drool]



permalink this comment Tariq Ahmed Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 01.20 am

I don’t like the new icons, they’re boring. Macromedia’s current logos are awesome; they’re hand created, not just using some font to write two letters. Anyone can do that.

For a company that has an emphasis on design, having funky logos is a requirement!

My first reaction was, the design team is running out of ideas, so they’re going with two plain letters so they don’t have to spend time coming up with a cool logo idea.



permalink this comment Reinier Meenhorst - Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 01.27 am

Actually, I really dig this new style. (If nothing else, it is exposure; they’ve created quite a stir over their CS3 offerings)

It seems to fit the new simplicity and ‘open’ strategy that Adobe has adopted.

Anyone know if someone has already created a CS3 iconset to make our CS2 apps all ‘elementary’ like the betas of Ps and Br in our dock?



permalink this comment Frank Jonen Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 04.33 am

Aw.. long gone are the days when icons were done by icon designers. Interesting how shareware icons get better and better while some majors decline below the rims of mediocrity.

The only exception where a type designer was also a good icon designer was with Susan Kare.

I only call these symbols “icons” because of their file extension .icns.



permalink this comment Joseph Abrahamson Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 08.30 am

I think the most interesting part of the new icons is not the icons themselves, but the nearly immediate branding of the two letter abbreviations.

For instance, after loading and reloading the Ps CS3 Beta several times, I decided it was absolutely necessary to change my qs shortcut to ps- instead of ph-. The branding was immediate and very effective.

All aesthetic matters aside, the new icons feel “friendly”. When I see them I think of the application as a quiet, integral part of my computer instead of a bulky, monstrous growth of an application which flashes reflection effects at me. It goes very well with the extrememly fast load times I’m getting now.




permalink this comment Gavin the Photographer Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 11.36 am

KISS.  I think the colors are great, and the text is perfect.  So many designers focus on form before function and quote honestly I mix up adobe icons (stupid feather sucks for function) on my quickstart bar.  I can’t wait for these new icons.



permalink this comment matthew Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 01.18 pm

They should go back to the eye for PS and actually use some creativity for the other icons rather than just cutting them out of the box art.

The desktop icons are tiny extractions – you could call them “pixels” if you like – from the much larger packaging art.

Seems they didnt give the icons the importance they should have done.



permalink this comment Karl Brightman Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 01.47 pm

Just like Veerle, at first glance i could understand how the color wheel was showing each program. I can’t honestly say that i thought the icons were all that great but they grew on me incredibly fast, it makes so much sense to keep them as they are. Let’s not forget that even though there are all these icons on placed on the color wheel, at launch you might find yourself only using 4-5 of them. No need to print them out and study and testing yourself.



permalink this comment Jasper Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 02.55 pm

The new icons remind me of the periodic table of chemical elements ...



permalink this comment Scott F Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 08.43 pm

This comes down to a matter of optical recognition. Adobe has obviously tried to keep the “camelcase” consistent throughout the icons (as in InDesign, After Effects, FreeHand), but there are some exceptions. Personally, if I see “GL” I immediately associate it with OpenGL. “Gl” makes sense.


A capital L is a unique letterform. GL is much more recognizable than Gl. And it’s “Freehand” and “Lightroom”, not “FreeHand” and LightRoom”, so the use of case is inconsistent.

And most Adobe buffs would associate PS with PostScript, not Photoshop. There’s a greater chance of that than getting GoLive and OpenGL (which doesn’t even start with a G) confused.

This is just one more in a long list of stupid user-hostile moves from Adobe. Really, it’s not a big deal that the icons are badly designed. It is a big deal that Adobe doesn’t care about designing functional logos. Or fixing bugs. Or shipping quality products. Or giving their products useful version numbers.



permalink this comment Linda Cornelius Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 05.30 am

Wonderful new icons. Kudos for them.
I’ve hated the previous icons with a vengeance, especially CS2—I even tried to substitute them, so unusable did I think they were.
Small icons should be crystal clear in the dock. Clearly marked, very different colors and all. I have most of the Adobe products and often use them simultaneously, and every time I had to “think” before clicking the little tab, and most often I would open the wrong window anyway, they were so similar and no clear indication of WHAT program they belonged too.
Who wants to have to remember that “blue” stands for photoshop and “pink” for InDesign and so on and so on??
Thanks, this is really an improvement in my view.  :-)



permalink this comment Joona Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 03.33 pm

These icons are brilliant. You can really see that Adobe has some of the design brains of the world working for ‘em. All those aqua buttons someone posted earlier, now come on, it’s not 90’s anymore. These icons are in time, even in the future a bit. Simplicity is what icons need to stand out, and standing out is most important in todays marketing and advertising. See what everyone else is doing, and do the opposite. Adobe, perfect design.



permalink this comment Jackie Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 05.14 pm

I guess maybe it is best to keep an open mind about the icons.  Even though I had a strong negative reaction to them, it might be true that they stand out as a suite of icons for the products, just because they are so basic and so the uniformity will serve its purpose.  While I do not find them aesthetically pleasing, like a lot of people, maybe they will grow on us, and prove to be functional, after all.

Happy Holidays to everyone, including you Veerle!



permalink this comment Daniel Mendoza Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 07.27 pm

You might wonder why Acrobat Reader hasn’t “Ar” as icon or “Pd” or something, just to take the same line with the rest of the products. The curvy triangle is so well known that it’s obvious they kept using it for the icon. I think if the other applications had a similar icon over the years, they would have done the same. Since there are none they decided to use a two-letter mnemonic ‘nickname’ system as their primary identifier.

Wholly smokes! You don’t call Illustrator’s Venus icon, or Photoshop’s Eyeball, or better yet, Photoshop’s original Camera Iris, as recognizable over the years? Exactly how long have you been using Photoshop and Illustrator? Three years? I like your blog, and apreciate all this info you’re providing me on the new Icon Design, but that’s a pretty incredible statement you’ve made.



permalink this comment Veerle Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 07.44 pm

@Daniel, I use Illustrator since version 3 FYI. Venus did serve her purpose back then and a few versions later. They dropped Venus, way back already while the Acrobat icon always stayed. It is a “real” icon in my opinion. To me Venus is no ‘icon’ it’s a drawing, same for the eye and camera iris of Photoshop. They don’t really serve their purpose either IMHO since they’ve outgrown their original image. Consistency was just lacking over the years.



permalink this comment Daniel Mendoza Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 08.18 pm

Hmm.. From the dictionary:

“ORIGIN mid 16th cent.(in the sense [simile] ): via Latin from Greek eikōn ‘likeness, image.’ Current senses date from the mid 19th cent. onward.”

I fail to see how a camera iris as an icon of a photo editing program does not fit this description.

Again. I appreciate all info your laying out.



permalink this comment Daniel Mendoza Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 08.34 pm

BTW, and no, this is not a flame, correct me if I’m wrong, but as I remember it, although Venus was used on the packaging and documentation of Illustrator 3, the actual icon was a script capital A and a script i, with some swirly lines in the bkgd.

(I know I did not spell “you’re” correctly in the above post, whoops.)



permalink this comment Brian Mon Dec 25, 2006 at 04.28 pm

These are so terrible and troubling that I’m going to have to close this browser and step away from the computer. Actually, this is pretty sad for me. I’m going to collect my thoughts and post later this holiday break.

I don’t know what’s worse: the actual “solution” or the bullcrap “designer speak” that has been put forth to justify this design solution. It’s just wrong on so many levels… unbelievable




permalink this comment David G. Paul Mon Dec 25, 2006 at 05.23 pm

Maybe the icons are like it just to create a lot of noise in the community? Any sort of publicity is good publicity as it gets people talking about the product. Can imagine the icons changing anyway for the final product.



permalink this comment judah Mon Dec 25, 2006 at 09.32 pm

Hi Veerle,

I know you like them but the text is distracting. It activates a different part of the brain than an image. Text requires interpritation.

These are not really icons. An icon is:
1: (computer science) a graphic symbol (usually a simple picture) that denotes a program or a command or a data file or a concept in a graphical user interface
2: a visual representation of an object or scene or person produced on a surface; “they showed us the pictures of their wedding”; “a movie is a series of images projected so rapidly that the eye integrates them” [syn: picture, image, ikon]

I know you know this but an icon is a visual representation not a textural one. Why do you think there is such a strong resistance to it?




permalink this comment Matt Thomas Tue Dec 26, 2006 at 01.22 am

Anyone who thinks these are a good idea is a hack of a designer, sorry they break nearly every rule in the icon design book and even a first year student should be able to see this.

I think “first year students” are the problem here. One doesn’t have to adhere to every design rule as though it came down with the rest from Mount Sinai. Adobe’s designers broke some rules but in doing so, created a suite of icons that were both individually recognizeable but also cohesive within the suite of applications. An unflinching devotion to Apple’s icon design guidelines (yes, guidelines, not rules) never would have allowed that.



permalink this comment Bas Hofman Tue Dec 26, 2006 at 12.15 pm

I don’t know what they have smoked at Adobe, but they are just plain ugly



permalink this comment Tom Mulhern Tue Dec 26, 2006 at 10.01 pm

The “design” looks like pieces of the periodic table of the elements, with colors added. In fact, many, such as Au, Co, Fl, and Sb are actual element symbols. And like Dow Chemical’s “human element” ad campaign, it’s sorta cheesy and requires entirely too much explanation to make it stick with a consumer. Lucky for Adobe and Dow, most Americans are woefully lacking in scientific knowledge, so they won’t see the parallel with the periodic table.



permalink this comment Pete Wed Dec 27, 2006 at 11.50 am

@Tom - I totally agree with the comment about periodic elements, in fact it seem s too close to be a coincidence.

I think it’s a shame that large brand design is sooooo boring at the moment. It seems the only thing that doesn’t look dated is really plain, really basic, really obvious. I know why it works - it’s what I would do too. But it’s just so predictable.



permalink this comment Lucas Mourelle Wed Dec 27, 2006 at 02.31 pm

I think Adobe should try to create very simple, black & white, plain illustrations ala Acrobat, and stick to them through time.

That would help Adobe’s branding. Look at the new Acrobat icon; they couldn’t change it ‘cause it works so fine!

Jason Wilson’s example kind of shows the idea. I think each drawing could be absolutely white on dark, like the Acrobat one, though.

Then, they can use them over plain squares like they’re doing now or over Jason’s more detailed ones, I wouldn’t care. But the two letters idea… its inconsistency bothers me. Maybe something more iconic wold work better. Remember Photoshop eye?



permalink this comment Adrian Wed Dec 27, 2006 at 06.01 pm

I like them.

I have used Adobe and Macromedia products for years, so at first I was a little thrown off with these, but after my initial reaction, and then some brief analytics, I now think they are pure genius.

They are modern, smooth, easy to understand, and totally original. What more could I expect from Adobe?

Oh, and I dig the color wheel ;-)

Thanks for the great post Veerle!



permalink this comment matthew Wed Dec 27, 2006 at 06.10 pm

They do look REALLY nice, no REALLY REALLY nice. I even like the (albeit slightly hackneyed) periodic table/colour wheel cross-over and the smooth modern looks.

However as icons they suck big hairy ones - with (as everyone else has mentioned) very little definition between them asides from the colours.

Nice try Adobe, but you shouldn’t let fancy packaging dictate the icons.



permalink this comment Grover Saunders Wed Dec 27, 2006 at 08.32 pm

My favorite part of this whole controversy is that most of the people making the biggest noise are those who don’t even use the default icons. Of all dock mockups I’ve seen, practically none of them left the manufacturers icons intact, regardless of their initial quality.

While I do think iconography is an interesting discussion, people “threatening” to not upgrade over it are absurd beyond all reason.



permalink this comment ralph dagza Wed Dec 27, 2006 at 11.02 pm

Reminds me of a periodic table



permalink this comment Frank Jonen Thu Dec 28, 2006 at 12.01 am

With all the taught thoughts aside. There’s only one thing left. User Experience, a thing that Adobe merely had a foot in the water over all these years, just like Quark. It’s nothing you can explain with long phrases or semesters in a classroom.

It’s a hunch, a gut feeling. Either you get it or you don’t. Sure you can put millions into user observation and extrapolate from that.

Adobe’s approach only says this to me: Maths, Chemistry, School, Boring.

One thing that the new Adobe iconset is bound to do for sure is to “inspire” all the freelance icon designers out there to do replacements. Which is a good thing. To foster creativity. In the housing market you call this “a renovator’s delight”.



permalink this comment Brandon Smith Thu Dec 28, 2006 at 04.35 pm

Thanks for the details, Veerle. I too thought the icons were strictly for beta. While I don’t really care for the icons (and I do love a good implementation of minimalism) I fail to see why all the haters, are wasting so much energy on the subject. Most of those opposed to the new look claim to have some sort of connection with the design field. And give the fact that it is super easy to replace an icon, why not just make your own or use the icons from an earlier version? If someone has already illuminated this point I apologize. I read (al)most all of the comments.



permalink this comment Midhun Thu Dec 28, 2006 at 05.36 pm

Well, I am no fan of the former iconography that Adobe products used, but with this new concept I think they have gone a bit too far.

As Ryan Hicks himself put it:

“The more Adobe apps you have, the better the system works.”

Like somebody pointed out here before,I think that this strategy is just another step towards clubbing togethor weaker products with their heavy weights.

Had this design been thought up by a novice one can imagine the flak that he would be drawing. Hey, but with a clever bit of campaign and talk there is nothing you can’t sell.



permalink this comment Xavez Thu Dec 28, 2006 at 08.41 pm

Well, luckily for once I’m a Windows user, and I’m able to group applications in “separate folders” in my start-programs-menu :).

As long as you stick to a Photoshop-InDesign-Illustrator-Acrobat setup, they’re a-okay. But the moment you add Flash, Dreamweaver and ColdFusion to the dock, you’ll probably go bananas finding the right app.

It would have been a better idea if they had also grouped the icons by theme. E.g. Web: Round; Video: Hexagon; Publishing: Squares… :). That way they’d stand out and be grouped at the same time. This doesn’t seem enough thought-through (though the idea in se is very nice).



permalink this comment Tom Bonner Thu Dec 28, 2006 at 11.56 pm

I’ve used Adobe products since Illustrator 88 and Photoshop 2.0. These are by far the worse icons I have seen on any software product, let alone an Adobe product. Hopefully Adobe will wise up and revamp them very quickly.



permalink this comment Bjorn Goransson Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 03.03 pm

What are you talking about? I count no more than 40 icons in the color wheel,depending on whether you count filetype icons. It’s hardly “thousands.”

Did you actually have to count them in order to see that they are not anywhere near thousands? :-)



permalink this comment Rob Marquardt Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 07.56 pm

They are modern, smooth, easy to understand, and totally original. What more could I expect from Adobe?

They are text. On a colored square.

I expected more.



permalink this comment Gerwin Sat Dec 30, 2006 at 09.20 am

Hmm I like the new icons ae, you could argue that these are great and you could easily argue that these are average, but remember that at the end of the day they are just icons. I mean the idea of icons is to create an icon that represents the product visually, text is hardly the most creative way but it is rather effective, I dont think it matters to much though cos adobe change the icons for each title so often. I think it works for the whole suite, having consistencies through out the lot..Im a PC user but I can imagine these looking very cool in the dock and also on vista. Its just a icon, thats gonna change next time adobe realises everything. I personnaly dont care that much, just quite interested. cheers.



permalink this comment Gerwin Sat Dec 30, 2006 at 09.31 am

me again….I guess you could say it feels a little like a digital watch does, sorta cool BUT you dont look at the face and instantly know what the time is…you READ it! effective and accurate but not terribly exciting.




permalink this comment knedl Tue Jan 2, 2007 at 09.55 pm

I think the icons look great, a new look is appreciated in due time :)



permalink this comment Greg Mackinlay Wed Jan 3, 2007 at 11.22 am

I’m a professional graphic designer, and the re-branding looks confused to me. If adobe wants to typography then they should use it for all their products, if they want to use graphics then the same thing applies.

I feel that going with a graphic for each of the applications would be far more successful, because
the whole language problem is avoided. I like the flat colour look of the Acrobat icon, if all the other applications had a similar look and feel to that, I would
have no problem with the re-branding exercise.



permalink this comment fluggywazatup Wed Jan 3, 2007 at 06.09 pm

Emperors new clothes :)



permalink this comment Chris Fri Jan 5, 2007 at 04.47 pm

One point I’d like to make, wasn’t Adobe Digital Editions the first publicly available application to sport the new look icon? I know it’s another symbol based icon like acrobat, but it was the first one I remember seeing (November 2006?).



permalink this comment Bob Digital Fri Jan 5, 2007 at 08.38 pm

These icons are very poorly thought out and quite confusing.

- Abbreviation conventions are inconsistent
- Acronyms look like periodic chart, more science than art.
- Umm.. there is no design!

IMHO, this looks like the work of lazy, unimaginative people who were pressed on a deadline. How on earth these made the final cut is beyond my fathoming.

Instead of trying to be so different (and looking desperately uninspired in the process), Adobe needs to really focus on BRANDING their products. So far they have only done this with Acrobat. The rest of their apps are in dire need of not just an icon but an IDENTITY.

Does anyone know of some way we can get our message heard by Adobe? Are they 100% locked into this icon set?

Someone needs to buy them a clue



permalink this comment Emrys.Roberts Fri Jan 5, 2007 at 10.22 pm

I like how these icons almost remind me of the periodic table. I am a big fan of the more simple the better idea. Very cool concept. : )



permalink this comment sldesigns Sat Jan 6, 2007 at 07.11 am

As a system, it makes sense. The different colors are good. What’s bad is the inconsistency and especially the kerning!

How come some are upper/lower case, some are upper/small caps? See Lc and Vc. lC looks like Lc… The typeface isn’t working, Adobe.



permalink this comment Markus Fri Jan 12, 2007 at 05.01 am

Hello Adobe!

When was the last time you did get so many bad
reactions about a single issue as those icons?

Don’t you think this is enough reason to change
them to something that your customers really
want to use? All is not lost yet!



permalink this comment Martijn Stegink Sun Jan 14, 2007 at 12.28 am

Wow, this subject is really keeping a lot of people busy. I agree with you completely, but then, I always liked the Macromedia icons already. Although I very much like Jason Wilsons example on the icons I prefer the simplicity of Adobes choice.

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