Adobe and the Big Pink Elephant

By December 22, 2006

Abobe released their CS3 suite as a beta version on the Adobe Labs site at the end of last week. The product has been getting rave reviews, but the new branding is taking a beating in the blogsphere. User are pummeling Adobe on their move to a ultra simplistic branding of the new suite.

It looks, from the Adobe’s own blog, that all of their product line will be going to the new style. Here they are. This icon image is from Jack Nack’s Adobe blog. The comments to his post were extremely negative, most of them seeing the move making their workspace “indecipherable,” because of the “mystery meat” style that the new products will be branded with.

I actually don’t mind the look and feel of the new branding. I am really enjoying the swing back to “simple” that is going on in design right now. But when you’ve been used looking in your app dock and seeing a feather, eyeglass, or Venus, and instead you see a whole row of squares of different color, all with two letters on them, it might be confusing on which is which.

The point of this post was not the discussion of the actual design, but how Adobe has handled the backlash. Ryan Hicks, Sr. Experience Designer at Adobe, when asked about the negative comments on the new branding said, “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.” I agree with Aral Balkan when he interpreted Mr. Hicks’ comment as, “We designed them. We like them. We use them and they work for us. Done.” Aral goes on to relate Adobe’s attitude to software development, but I think it can relate to any area of creative development.

If we are releasing a web project that will be used by a majority from a dial-up connection, and the pages are extremely “bloated”, then we have done a disservice to our users as well as our clients. And if that’s the case then we have not done our job as designers and developers. The same can be said of any creative endeavor that is not intended to be art for art’s sake. If any design piece, print, web, video, etc, is pushed public because it “looks cool,” but doesn’t meet the user and/or client’s purposes then we have completely missed our mark and lost touch with our own purposes.

If this ignoring of the “Pink Elephant” can happen with a company that is driving our industry, and therefore has great accountability, then it can easily happen on our level as well. We must keep the end-user in mind, even more so than the client, when approaching any new project. Because if a project does reach it’s audience then the client won’t be happy in the end. We must also plan for the user, and then TEST, TEST, TEST those projects to make sure that they end up the way we planned them.

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