December 20, 2006

What a Mess

The always generous Mr. Hicks pointed me towards the new crop of Adobe icons, themed similar to a Periodic Table for your confusion, that will be injected into Creative Suite 3. You can also read the post that reveals them by John Nack, Senior Product Manager for Photoshop. I couldn’t help but chime in on John’s site, and my comment pretty much sums up my thoughts:

When making icons, you usually try to design something simple and recognizable to identify things. At the expense of creating a family of icons, you’ve watered them down so much as to be unrecognizable at a glance. The variety of color, while great in theory, does little to help matters because of the sheer number of icons. The plain facts that monitor variations kill the subtle differences, and there are quite a few color blind people out there who can’t distinguish certain shades from one another, should have led you towards a backup plan. That may be what the periodic letters are for, but in choosing to go with one font, and one orientation, you’ve created enough noise that none of them would be recognizable among the others. Plus, baking in the action of having to read the icon just to decipher it adds an unnecessary step.

This is an utter design failure.

And that’s only taking into account the icons being viewed at a generous size! The outlook becomes even bleaker if those icons are small. Luckily for all of us, we can always change them. What do you think about the new icons?


Dave Shea weighs in with more thoughts in the “boooo” camp, and Veerle Pieters says she likes them just fine.

Commentary (123):

1. Keith says… dec 20, 2006 | 7:23 pm

No, sir, I don’t like ‘em. Color just isn’t enough, not with everything that does on in my doc, to make them easy to identify.

Like you say, these require an actual, literal *read* and that’s not good.

They’re too clever by half and not smart enough at the same time.

2. Sam Felder says… dec 20, 2006 | 7:24 pm

I couldn’t agree more. When I installed the new Photoshop beta I assumed that the icon was temporary and that the actual icon would emerge when I lay down cold hard cash for the full version.

Every time I look for Photoshop in my dock I can’t find it. This design forces me to think about what I am looking for. They trained me to look for a blue feather and now have thrown that out the window. Geesh!

3. Kyle says… dec 20, 2006 | 7:29 pm

I agree wholeheartedly. The direction that Creative Suite apps had been moving in was great- they were unique and still worked as a system. At a glance I can immediately pick out the feather, butterfly, and flower sitting in my doc. It would have been interesting to see the next iteration of the organic metaphors, or at least something equally creative.

These new icons feel like a quick answer instead of a creative solution to a difficult problem.

4. Matt Ramos says… dec 20, 2006 | 7:35 pm

Terrible, in my opinion. I first saw CS3 on a friend’s Mac, and it was a cracked version. I figured the cracker added that to make it his. When I finally got around to getting my own version and saw they were actually.. there, I hoped as much as possible that it was a temporary thing.

100% ugly. I hate them. I will be replacing them ASAP.

5. Corey says… dec 20, 2006 | 7:47 pm

Of course this is just two cents, but I disagree. And bigtime. I think the flaw is inherent the current system. That is, training someone to look for a feather and make a mental correlation between a feather and photoshop. Or a flower and illustrator. Or a butterfly and indesign. After years of attempting to get used to the current system, I still regularly invoke the wrong Adobe app from the dock. It’s a crap shoot. One feather or two? Can’t say the same thing for Dreamweaver or Flash. I can hit those from a mile back. It seems likely this influenced decisions when designing the new icons.

Of course my only frame of reference at this point is Ps and Br in the dock. We’ll have to wait to see what happens with others parked in there. I do agree it is a good thing we can change them.

Good riddance ridiculous feather(s). Curse you silly butterfly.

6. Mark says… dec 20, 2006 | 7:59 pm

How very true. The icons look like I should not be having to pay $700+ for a program like that. Taking away the design of an icon is not good art. This is a perfect example of simplicity taken too far.

7. sj says… dec 20, 2006 | 8:20 pm

If I were them, I would have gone the literal route. Made an icon of an actual photo developer’s store, or a guy sitting at a table illustrating, or an acrobat jumping around.

Or a dream…being weaved. I’m an idiot.

8. Ted says… dec 20, 2006 | 8:28 pm

I’m pretty certain that these icons are just temporary. As someone who has used beta versions of previous Adobe products, the branding/marketing of the beta items is always temporary. Look at the beta splash screen (go to About Photoshop, while holding down Apple/Option)… Adobe would be crazy to use this branding for it’s CS3 line. While I’m all for minimalism, this icon for PsCS3 makes the Studio 8 icon set seem ornate by comparison.

9. Ken says… dec 20, 2006 | 8:34 pm

I agree wholeheartedly… Granted I can appreciate the whole ‘creative concept’ behind the periodic table of elements, and I can definitely understand the desire to have a ‘family’ of icons that ‘relate’ to one another, but this set can be boiled down to two words: White Noise.

Completely unoriginal and completely indecipherable. Not that I was the biggest fan of the last set, but these are brutal.

10. Dan says… dec 20, 2006 | 8:53 pm

Bridge shares the same letters as Bromine (they even share the same reddish-brown color). I doubt Adobe intended Bridge to be associated with a volatile and dangerous liquid that causes severe throat and eye irritation.

11. Josh P says… dec 20, 2006 | 8:54 pm

@Ted (#8)…did you not read Jason’s or Adobe’s post at all? These aren’t temporary, Adobe has announced that these are the new icons.

12. Dan Benjamin says… dec 20, 2006 | 9:11 pm

I like em. Clear, concise, and they make more sense than a butterfly.

13. brian warren says… dec 20, 2006 | 9:24 pm

I miss the eye.

Not at all a fan of the new icons.

14. Jonathan E says… dec 20, 2006 | 9:37 pm

I also miss some of the old style icons from Adobe. They should really take a page from Apple’s book and use icons that are very descriptive about the purpose of the application. Take a look at the icons for iPhoto, Mail, Address Book, iCal, GarageBand, Photo Booth and to a lesser extent, iTunes (only ‘to a lesser extent’ now due to iTunes video support - it’s not all about music anymore). It’s easy to see just by glancing at the icons for these apps what the program is all about.

15. John says… dec 20, 2006 | 9:48 pm

Its funny, my first impression was that the PS icon was only for the beta, and it seems like. I’m not the only one. I think Corey makes a good point, and the Studio set of icons work well, but the new Adobe range seems a little to simple, or is ‘rushed’ a better word?

16. Nathan Borror says… dec 20, 2006 | 10:24 pm

I don’t seem to mind them. I only use three Adobe products: Flash, Photoshop and Illustrator so I doubt I’ll have a problem deciphering between them.

It’s a very difficult problem to solve due to the mass of products they carry. I would hope they are starting at this very basic level with hopes to build upon it down the road.

17. Nathan Borror says… dec 20, 2006 | 10:26 pm

Sometimes we have to crawl before we can walk :)

18. Joshua Lane says… dec 20, 2006 | 10:30 pm

This makes me happy I don’t use Adobe’s suite of products. Hooray for obscure graphics programs!

In that same vein though… I can’t imagine these icons working very well for folks unfamiliar with Adobe’s products. I mean, if you’re new to their suite of apps, how are you supposed to know Ps is Photoshop. And I’m just guessing with that… is Ps Photoshop?

19. Khoi Vinh says… dec 20, 2006 | 10:59 pm

These are awesome! I don’t understand them one bit, which is great! It’s like a game — and games are fun, right? Especially when you’re on deadline! It’s going to be so much fun to re-learn everything! Thank you Adobe, I didn’t know what I was going to do with that free time I had! You’re all geniuses over there! I can’t wait to see what you do with CS4!

20. Corey says… dec 20, 2006 | 11:10 pm

Joshua, admittedly, you don’t use the Creative Suite. Though by guessing, you got it right. Ps is Photoshop. Since you don’t use Adobe apps, how are you supposed to know a feather, two feathers, a flower, a butterfly, or an A is Photoshop? Which—especially if you were unfamiliar with Adobe products—would you pick at a glance?

Someone’s got to stick up for the big guys here. :)

21. Chris Harrison says… dec 20, 2006 | 11:16 pm

They are certainly going to take some getting used to. Trying to figure what half of them are has been a chore. Here’s what I and several others have come up with so far:

I don’t love the new icons, but I don’t hate them either. When Photoshop jumped from 7 to CS, I didn’t immediately fall into love with the icon change, but it grew on me.

One thing I think most people fail to take into account is that most people aren’t going to have ALL of these icons on their desktop/dock/quicklaunch/etc. Most might have just the CS apps. Some might have the video apps. Most might have Flash and Acrobat. But then what? We’re talking 10 icons tops, that once you get USED to them are going to probably be easier to identify than a stupid feather, butterfly, starfish, flower or a snail shell. I don’t know about you guys, but when that change was made, I was like WTF app is that?

Anyways, enough bitching. I for one look forward to seeing how all this stuff will come together. Maybe it’ll suck, but maybe, just maybe it’ll be a brilliant answer to a branding problem hardly any other software company has to deal with.

22. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 20, 2006 | 11:18 pm

I gotta admit, Apple lays it out quite nicely (under “Application Icons”):

Mac OS X user application icons should be vibrant and inviting, and should immediately convey the application’s purpose. The TextEdit icon, for example, indicates clearly that this application is for creating text documents.

And, FWIW, I never really liked the last CS icons, they fail at many of the same points I mentioned in my post.

23. John Dowdell says… dec 20, 2006 | 11:21 pm

For what it’s worth, I agree that it’s difficult to get the full picture from that single screenshot.

I’ve seen a more complete presentation of this design, though, and it makes a lot of sense to me, seems a lot more intuitive than feathers and such.

I’m not sure what we’ll be able to do with the holidays coming up, but could you give us a bit of time, see if we can get a fuller presentation up, to accompany this early access to MacTel Photoshop…?

tx, jd/adobe

24. Chris Harrison says… dec 20, 2006 | 11:58 pm

Jason - how many icons these days actually do that, though? Especially on the Mac platform? Just look at the programs that were involved in MacHeist or MacSanta. How many of them adhere to those guidelines?

JD - I look forward to what you guys come up with. Adding your site to my watched feeds in FeedDemon now. I’m sure John Nack will keep us posted as well.

25. Shaun Inman says… dec 21, 2006 | 12:02 am

I’m going to have to disagree. How many Adobe applications do you have open at a time? Hopefully not the entire line-up. (People don’t still use the dock as a launcher in this day and age do they?) The color and character differentiation between the big four are all sufficient for the occasional drag-n-drop or apple+tab.

Sometimes I think we designers bellyache just to remind ourselves we have bellies. ;)

26. Chris Harrison says… dec 21, 2006 | 12:21 am

@Shaun: Another voice of reason. Hallelujah.

27. Dustin Wilson says… dec 21, 2006 | 12:22 am

I don’t think even if I saw the entire suite it would make any more sense to me because as Jason said it’s a complete design failure. In fact it needs to be described as more of a failure of sanity.

Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc. are graphics applications and not scientific applications. All of the icons look like an element out of the periodic table of the elements with a colored gradient behind the element’s symbol.

It would have been much better in Photoshop’s case to create imagery similar to what was used prior to the first creative suite with the lens and the eye then use a unifying item like the rounded boxes in the CS applications (except CS3’s icon at the moment). Rinse and repeat with the rest of the applications. Create a simple icon that describes what the corresponding application does and apply it to the unifier (as I’ll call it). Acrobat’s would be the easiest. Take the unifier and apply the stylized A icon to it. The CS icons even though the feather, flower, and butterfly didn’t describe what the application did, the overall look of the icons unified the suite of applications. There is a way to unify the suite without abstracting the icon’s imagery so much that it loses its meaning completely.

With all this said even if the icon is trash as far as I’ve discovered the new Photoshop is gold for me. I love it.

28. Stephanie Sullivan says… dec 21, 2006 | 12:26 am

While my initial reaction to seeing a single icon was, “Ewwww,” I have to admit that the Periodic Table, when placed on the color wheel does have a nice creative bent to it. Sure, a color blind person might have trouble with some of the actual colors, but for goodness sake, the letters are there as well. The colors aren’t completely necessary, but they’re right handy.

And Shaun — yes, perhaps I should be embarrassed, but I still launch from the dock. :) (And lord knows I have enough there that my icons are quite small.) So these hold their own better than the current ones (where the Bridge CS2 icon is indecipherable). For those of us coming from the Macromedia side of things, with those nice circular old runes, it’s not that big a switch. A big block of color with a letter or two isn’t that hard to switch brain gears on. I guess it’s the Adobe CS people that will have to do the most adjusting.

I agree with what a couple said about the Apple icons being great. But on the other hand, when you’re a company with a large variety of graphic and web products, it’s a whole different ballgame. How do you distinguish Illustrator from Freehand from Photoshop from Fireworks? Or how do you distinguish between Dreamweaver and GoLive and Contribute? There are too many similarities and subtle differences between too many Adobe products. Just my two cents…

29. Charles says… dec 21, 2006 | 12:56 am

Someone threw together this mockup to display the insanity more profoundly than words can:

I agree with Jason on this, it’s a complete flop, and despite what independent software authors drip together outside of the Apple Human Interface Guidelines, you would think a design-facing monolith like Adobe would have some kind of instinct for icon design. And what’s the deal with throwing all of their apps into this mold? Laziness and/or a cheap attempt at branding.

And to think I was one of the few not bothered by the iTunes 7 icon… ;)

30. Jeff Croft says… dec 21, 2006 | 2:33 am

Much as I respect Jason and many of you who agree with him, I’m not sure I do.

To me, these new icons seem like they’ll be more decipherable, not less. As someone else said, it’s tough to tell with only a “Ps” in my dock, but I get that impression, anyway.

When you look at the entire product line on that color wheel it definitely is daunting and confusing. But if you consider having only three to five of them in your dock (like most of us will), I don’t think they’ll be tough to differentiate between. Do you know anyone that uses heir entire product line? Yeah, me neither.

I dunno — I guess I just think “Photoshop says ‘PS’ and Illustrator says ‘IL’” is more learnable than “Photoshop is a feather and Illustrator is a flower.”

31. Roger Herbert says… dec 21, 2006 | 4:22 am

I’m on the fence for now.

I never liked the butterfly/feather/flower versions, and these seem to be such a radical departure that it’s easy to pile on the “OMGWTF!?” bandwagon. I’m prepared to give it some time to soak in though.

These are pro apps not aimed and the standard consumer, so do they need to adhere to the same icon guidelines as iPhoto et al?

As it stands I find the Ps icon in my dock to be the most immediately distinguishable at a glance. That may change with 3 or 4 similar ones alongside of course, but the simplicity is working in its favour for now. The abstraction is almost a welcome break from the literal realism of iLife/iWork.

32. bearskinrug says… dec 21, 2006 | 5:10 am

It’s a tough call. It’s jarring to have to get accustomed to a whole new visual language; but then, as jeff and others said, they are a bit more decipherable (especially since they’re not near as complex as most icons in my dock).

I don’t mind these icons; I just mind the change. When you get down to it, I guess what I’d like to see is Adobe putting together an icon scheme they plan to stick to for the long haul.

33. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 21, 2006 | 7:35 am

John Dowdell: Absolutely!

Chris Harrison:

how many icons these days actually do that, though?”

That’s not gonna fly. Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be attempted. There is also a difference between the resources of an independent developer and a behemoth like Adobe. Adobe can afford good design, and as the company that makes the application that help most of us maintain these creative jobs, I think we look to them to set the bar.

Anyone can learn to use bad design over time; others and I will learn to use these icons, but that’s not the point. I’m not just fighting for aesthetics here; the icons are clean and professional. But design is more than just visuals, it’s about communication, and I still hold firm that these icons fail on a number of levels to communicate some of the most important things.

Shaun: Yes, I still launch from the dock too. My belly aches all the time, and you and I usually disagree on this stuff anyway :D

Jeff Croft:

I dunno — I guess I just think “Photoshop says ‘PS’ and Illustrator says ‘IL’” is more learnable than “Photoshop is a feather and Illustrator is a flower.”

While I do agree that the old icons were off too, I do think that associating something with a image can be more beneficial.

And BTW, Thank you all! We have a very good, and *gasp*, respectful discussion going here.

34. Dean says… dec 21, 2006 | 8:31 am

I kinda like them. As Veerle mentions in her post - the full branding strategy with packaging (and I bet a new site design ?) later next year should be interesting.

35. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 21, 2006 | 8:49 am

I also have to wonder how these will translate into different languages. What will the Japanese Photoshop look like?

36. Natalie Jost says… dec 21, 2006 | 9:24 am

“Luckily for all of us, we can always change them.”

Thank goodness for that. I wasn’t sure what to think at first except, ‘crap, i have to get used to a new icon too?’ I figured it was a beta thing and that once it gets past that to release they’ll do something that makes sense. I don’t know anything about icon design at all so I can’t critique technical specifics, but it seems like they ought to give us something not too far off from the previous ones. Is it me or is everyone trying to simplify these days to the point where we now have these over-simplified icons which are almost entirely meaningless?

37. John Dowdell says… dec 21, 2006 | 9:26 am

Good question on globalization… I was wondering about that last night too. I suspect that these two-letter glyphs will remain invariant across languages, because application names usually aren’t rendered into Romaji or Hangul, nor translated into Hanzi:

When I get into the San Francisco office today, though, I’ll try to confirm this as well.


38. Andy Budd says… dec 21, 2006 | 9:36 am

I have to admit they do nothing for me. They may look good on XP or Vista, but they look cheap and amaturish on OSX.

39. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 21, 2006 | 9:43 am

John Dowdell: That makes perfect sense when you are dealing with the full name of an application, but now you are only dealing with two-letter identifiers. “Photoshop” may be language-independent, but are the letters “Ps”? What about the other apps?

Thanks for tackling the question!

40. Joshua Kendall says… dec 21, 2006 | 9:47 am

Well, I’m not liking the new icons. I’ve gotten used to seeing the Feather for Photoshop, the Flower for Illustrator, and the Radio Tower (?) for After Effects.

I keep my dock at the smallest size and can tell what each icon is for even if I don’t use the program that often.

Now with the new icons I would have to move the mouse over them and then read what program it is in order to avoid launching the wrong one. Or I would be using Spotlight on a more frequent basis.

I have to agree that it is a design failure. I honestly expected more from people who make professional products.

41. Kristofer Baxter says… dec 21, 2006 | 9:52 am

Having the dubious honor of teaching people how these applications work for the first time gives a unique perspective to the usefulness of these icons.

Last year teching new people to use Photoshop it was “click on the icon with a feather on it.” People looked for it, and looked for it in the sea of icons called the dock and eventually found it.

Now with the new applications its the same issue, “click on the icon with the Ps on it.” They look and look, eventually stumbling onto the icon. (It’s still really early on though)

So, whats the conclusion? There is no improvement in the recognition of the icon, but at least its not worse than before.


I never understood why Photoshop was represented by a feather, or illustrator by a flower, and the most absurd InDesign as a butterfly.

These icons speak more clearly to me as elements of my design toolkit.

42. Joshua Lane says… dec 21, 2006 | 9:57 am

I will agree that a simple letter or letter combination is probably more discipherable than an image of a butterfly or feather. But I think that only applies to the big-name applications. Looking at the color wheel, I can probably pick out 3 or 4 that I could guess and probably get right (photoshop, illustrator, flash, dreamweaver). Being unfamiliar with the apps (like many students might be?), the icons don’t provide any context at all. What is Di? or Co? or Lc?

In contrast (and as much as we like to rag on them), Microsoft’s set of icons for Office 2007 work well because they provide visual cues as to what the app will do. I have no idea what “Sharepoint” is or what it does. But based on the icon I can assume I will be sending some sort of document (perhaps a web page?) to someone or something. If it were part of Adobe’s suite, I would just see “Sh”…

43. Ian says… dec 21, 2006 | 10:35 am

This is what happens when no one actually pays for this stuff.

Except me… I pay for it.

44. Shawn says… dec 21, 2006 | 10:52 am

Did you people freak out when they went from the “eye” to the “feather” too?

Blue feather equals Photoshop, yeah that was an easy one to put together.

Can you really not figure out that “Ps” is Photoshop? How did you ever get that “d” was Dreamweaver then?

45. Blake says… dec 21, 2006 | 11:29 am

First glance, I’m not a fan. But it’s my job as a designer to take in the full picture before barking. While I personally find the boxes/text bland, from a communication standpoint this might just make sense. I’m looking at the CS2 icons now, and they really weren’t heading in a functional direction. I don’t know how many times I mistook that god-damned sea shell for InDesign. The color variation were pretty weak. This feels like a step in a functional direction. While I understand the fact that some of the audience is colorblind, is that a good reason to ignore the profound effect color has as an organizational tool? I think it adds a needed layer of organization. Also, at first glance I find the two-letter abb’s horrid. Simply horrid. But what is the purpose behind this idea? Strip away style? Focus on function? Personally I would have gone a different route…perhaps making outline symbols within the boxes for each program (feather, sea shell, flower, etc.) much like they did with Acrobat…why didn’t they take that a step further? I have a feeling the letters will confuse some people…though I disagree with you that it’s an added, unnecessary step. In my experience, when dealing with abb’s in symbols, my mind tends to turn the shapes of the letters into their own symbols…my mind seems to create memory based on the two-letter shapes. So instead of looking for “id” or “ai” my eyes and mind tend to look for the shape associated with. The process suddenly is sped up again.

I think it’s only fair to see this icon family in a full environment. While I think the negatives seem to outweigh the positives, I agree with Adobe’s direction.

Blast, and I was gonna say all this on my own blog…guess I’ll write about lunch instead.

46. Josh Johnson says… dec 21, 2006 | 11:30 am

The problem isn’t whether one can make the connection between the eye, the feather, or the Ps equaling Photoshop for the first time. The problem lies with differentiation of the icons over time when you’re using a suite of products. By using a common shape, a common font, and a common standard of ‘big letter - little letter’, the brain can’t easily differentiate the items by their shape. Instead you actually have to read the letters and make the mental connection between what the letters are and what app that equals. This is just bad HCI put into real-life practice.

Actually, I’m wondering if this was driven more as a marketing endeavor since it seems like more time was put into making the icons look as much alike as possible, thereby reinforcing the ‘brand’, but at the expense of usability for customers that actually own the suite of products.

47. Ron Domingue says… dec 21, 2006 | 11:43 am

I would have preferred Neville Brody’s original design of the Macromedia apps if Adobe was going to go the text route. His version is stylish but recognizable. It would have been cool to see his PS and AI.

Slimbach’s design is a bit too simple and dare I say boring. I’m a fan of both Adobe Myriad and Adobe Garamond but these look rather scientific and lack a creative feel that is often associated with these apps.

Plus there is a bit of an inconsistency in re-branding if you keep the Acrobat and Flash icons and change the rest of the apps because the other two were too associated with their old icons. What’s the point of branding if you only make a half-hearted change?

48. megan says… dec 21, 2006 | 11:53 am

goddamnit im going to have to start wearing a pocket protector now. i might use this to mix up chemicals and add colors to see what blows up pretty. but i’ll never find my design tools in the dock this way.…argh…

49. Chris Glass says… dec 21, 2006 | 12:00 pm

I nodded in total agreement while reading your comment over there. I’ve never enjoyed clicking on the current crop of Macromedia “letter icons” and now I’ll just have to extend that distaste.

The thing that adds sadness to this whole scheme is the author’s tone replying to comments on his posts.

I know his ‘blog doesn’t (necessarily) reflect the views of Adobe, but his views affect my view of Adobe.

50. Jason Beaird says… dec 21, 2006 | 12:23 pm

I’m a little torn on the issue myself. As a designer, I agree that they’re a little under designed (duh), but I think that’s the point. From a usability perspective, when I look at my dock and see those big blocks of color, I’ll recognize them as my Adobe apps. The color and letters have instant recognition value to me. If they internationalize the icons, I’d love to replace the American letters with Asian symbols…I guess that’s my designer side desiring something a bit more iconic.

The fact that there’s a lot of opinions here both ways make me think it’s always going to be a love ‘em or hate ‘em issue.

I, for one, welcome our new Macrodobe overlords.

51. Liz says… dec 21, 2006 | 12:41 pm

I’m not sure if I’m in the minority here or not, but since I rarely think of any of these programs in their abbreviated forms — it’s always Photoshop and never Ps or even PS — having the icons labelled in such a way really throws me for a loop. As others have pointed out, it’s not incredibly difficult to figure out that “Ps” does indeed refer to Photoshop, but that doesn’t stop other cultural associations I have with those particular letters from seeping in and clouding my interpretation of what they’re supposed to mean. For example, “ID” doesn’t make me think of InDesign, it makes me think of Freud; it’s probably fairly obvious that the current logo, despite its own set of problems, doesn’t whisk me a way to the land of psychoanalysis. [Although if CS3 came with a built in psychoanalyist, that would be something.]

52. Jeff Croft says… dec 21, 2006 | 12:41 pm
Being unfamiliar with the apps (like many students might be?), the icons don’t provide any context at all. What is Di? or Co? or Lc?

If you don’t use the apps, then why do you need to be able to decipher the icons? ouldn’t you know the knows of the apps you’ve bought?

I’m not sure what Di, Co, or Lc are either — which means they’re obviously not anything *I* use — so it’s not a concern for me.

53. Brent O’Connor says… dec 21, 2006 | 12:46 pm

Since I haven’t seen it in the comments here I thought I would post the part of the comment I made on Dave Shea’s site.

Speaking as someone that has some color blindness I think their using color to differentiate the application differences is mute and a silly argument since they also use letters and each icon will have name of the application when you hover over it just like you have with the title attribute for anchor tags in XHTML.

I made an screen shot of the title that appears when you hover over it here,

54. Jeff Croft says… dec 21, 2006 | 12:49 pm

Jeez, can’t type…what I meant was…

“Wouldn’t you know the names of the apps you’ve bought?”

55. Joshua Lane says… dec 21, 2006 | 1:05 pm

@Jeff - I’m thinking of the first-time Adobe buyer/user, or perhaps someone who wants to switch from another suite.

For example, such a person is just learning to use the applications and has been asked to do XYZ (for class, for work, whatever). But maybe XYZ doesn’t come with a set of “use Photoshop for X” or “use Illustrator for Z” instructions. Some sort of visual context to the icons would be helpful in knowing what the apps were capable of. If the Illustrator icon had some sort of wireframe outline around a logo-looking object; and task Z was to create a logo, then tada! - I’ll use that app for task Z.

It’s not so much about knowing the names of the apps, as it is about knowing what the apps might be able to do. Granted, you could always read a manual, but who has THAT kind of time ;)

56. thorsten wulff says… dec 21, 2006 | 1:06 pm

I love the new spree of CS3 icons. Everything is better than the feathers and butterflies of the last years.

57. Jeff Croft says… dec 21, 2006 | 1:19 pm


That does make sense, but I’d assert that the old icons don’t do anything for letting you know what the apps do, either.

To clarify my personal position: I don’t think the new icons are great by any means, but I do think they communicate more than the old ones.

58. Samuel Herschbein says… dec 21, 2006 | 1:21 pm

It’s one issue to go from graphic icons to Alphanumeric, I prefer the graphical approach. It’s another to use cheap looking buttons with ordinary gradients that can be created in Photoshop in under a minute.

59. Corey says… dec 21, 2006 | 1:32 pm

Joshua, your suggestion would work if all Illustrator did was wireframes and logos. Like the other Adobe apps it’s purposefully and appropriately named. Photoshop does… photos. Illustrator illustrates.

The icons may not be as pretty or decorative as previous versions, but it seems to me a design problem has been solved. Make a quick association with application (in this case with abbreviated, simple typography), launch app (from wherever it is you launch from) and get to work. End bellyache.

It’s up to us to create beautiful, decorative stuff with the software if that’s what the design problem is. This is UI. And UI… I would like to think, should be usuable. I think Blake said it best: “I don’t know how many times I mistook that god-damned sea shell for InDesign.”

60. charles says… dec 21, 2006 | 1:46 pm


I’m going to have to disagree. How many Adobe applications do you have open at a time? Hopefully not the entire line-up.

We can’t know this without research, so it’s not valid reasoning.

And, what about color blind folks?

61. The Guilty Carnivore says… dec 21, 2006 | 1:50 pm

Love ‘em. Now I don’t have to think about what is the fucking parrot and what is the goddamn feather.

62. SvT says… dec 21, 2006 | 1:53 pm

good =)

63. charles says… dec 21, 2006 | 1:55 pm

from a comment on john nack’s blog (adobe)

64. Nick says… dec 21, 2006 | 1:55 pm

While previous versions of the CS suite have a beautiful feel to them I question the success of their function. The identity as a package was memorable but associating an application with a form of nature was not aligning to my mental model of how an application icon should relate to its software. Remembering that Photoshop was the feather icon is still challenging.

The old macromedia suite of applications had lacked the same quality of style but were easier to associate because of clear distinction in shape and color. Admittedly, the branding wasn’t particularly great at larger sizes (such as the dirty Fireworks yellow splash screen). In his book, The Power of Color, author Dr. Morton Walker writes of the importance of color as a lasting impression, “and accounts for sixty percent of the acceptance or rejection of an object, place, individual or circumstance.” Color should be a major factor of the icon suite and CS3 is more effective at this than the old CS version. Also, I question the argument of color blindness as few people using these kinds of apps suffer from this.

Everyone that uses these applications cares about design which is why these new icons have received such disdain but at least they’re a step towards better usability. Now just give me a touch of beauty and relevance back and I’d be happier.

65. Ian Murray says… dec 21, 2006 | 2:01 pm


Listen to me. No, stop playing with your blocks. Look at me!

You’re a big boy now, Adobe. At least before people were able to make a mental link between the shapes and the programs. But now?

Shame, Adobe. Look at the mess you’ve made! You took all you had going for you and threw it away. You had (and still have!) plenty of time to fix what you’ve done, but…we both know you’re too stubborn to admit you’re wrong, don’t we?

See what Apple did with it’s icons? “Gee I wonder what that icon with a camera and photograph corresponds to?” Good design, that’s what!

Now, in the wake of your terrible oversight, people will just have to use the old skins on top of these design abortions. Or maybe they’ll just craft their own using the programs you provide! Maybe you should have done the same!

Or maybe they’ll just wait until the Iconfactory comes out with something you should have already had by now. Honestly, Adobe.

Now go upstairs to your room, Adobe, and you had better pray that your father is in a good mood when he gets home.

66. luxuryluke says… dec 21, 2006 | 2:04 pm

I’m all about function sometimes, and the warm rich colors mixed with a functional. While some are cryptic, I’m still in favor of them.

Oh, that, and i really miss Venus.
[Homer drool]

67. bob lodi says… dec 21, 2006 | 2:12 pm

Anyone else think these are very similar to earlier versions of Microsoft Office which had two-letter themes? I distinctly remember the older PowerPoint icon NOT fitting in the icon scheme because its icon was only one ‘p’ and a small slide.

At this point if Adobe can deliver something that actually runs on an Intel Mac (come on, its been a long time with no patch), I think they can make the icon whatever they want.

And if you need a laugh - check out the periodic table from ‘Look Around You’ - a BBC show.

68. Adam says… dec 21, 2006 | 2:12 pm

I may be in the minority here, but I certainly like them a great deal more than the previous incarnation. I absolutely hated the old icons, so I’m glad to see something new.
Not my favorite icons of all time, but I find the idea to be new and am excited to see how it turns out when everything is released.

69. Pete says… dec 21, 2006 | 2:20 pm

To be honest the design seems pretty lazy to me. If you are going to just separate program identities with initials, why not at least use different type to represent each program? Maybe a font that would match the idea behind the product? At least have more of a visual difference for each icon that will tell the user,”Hey when you click me, I will help you create this”.

I get the feeling that with the new icons Adobe is making a statement by saying,”You know what I do, just click me and do it”.

I know the design of the icons won’t stop people from using it, including people like me. I just think that a creative suite should reek of creativity. I don’t see that.

70. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 21, 2006 | 2:33 pm

Nick (comment #64):

Also, I question the argument of color blindness as few people using these kinds of apps suffer from this.

I very strongly disagree. Colorblind people do indeed these apps (two very talented close friends of mine among them). Design for things like this needs to work regardless of color. You may say that is the reason for the letters being there, but I still gotta stand by the idea these are more difficult to digest and comprehend than a unique shape. A previous comment links to a very telling image.

71. Dru says… dec 21, 2006 | 2:44 pm

Blake says “marketing-driven”…

I quote:
“Adobe Photoshop Lightroom”

‘nuff said.

72. Rich says… dec 21, 2006 | 2:45 pm

Hideous. Absolutely hideous. It looks like the kind of uninspired glop I’d expect from Microsoft, not the once-great Adobe.

Someone should be fired. Seriously. This is a freakin’ mess.

73. David Moulton says… dec 21, 2006 | 2:55 pm

Ugg. How on earth did Adobe conclude that this would work? Thats painful.
I hope that they change this.


74. Scott F says… dec 21, 2006 | 3:01 pm

Crap. Where are the brains at Adobe?

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

75. Kalle says… dec 21, 2006 | 3:06 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 :)

76. Joshua Lane says… dec 21, 2006 | 3:10 pm

@Jeff - Agreed.

@Corey - I realized that as soon as I wrote it :(. Still, I hold on to the assertion that some sort of visual cue as to the application’s purpose/use (and not just it’s name) is helpful.

77. Brent O’Connor says… dec 21, 2006 | 3:11 pm

Jason, please look at my previous comment that I made as to why the color blindness argument doesn’t matter.

Anyone who is color blind isn’t going to have a problem distingishing between programs because A.) You have the two letters to fall back on and B.) You have a tool tip when you hover over the icon that says “Adobe Photoshop CS3” and C.) A lot of people use launchers like Quicksilver for launching there programs which go by starting to type the name of the program.

78. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 21, 2006 | 3:17 pm

Brent O’Connor: Come on man, having to rollover something just to figure out what it is results in mystery meat navigation. Successful icons show at a glance what something is; that means without having to read or interact with. And relying on app launchers, especially assuming that any kind of majority makes use of them, gets away from the problem at hand. This is a design problem, and not something that the OS treatment of app is needed for just to make them functional.

79. Robb Irrgang says… dec 21, 2006 | 3:29 pm

If there would ever be a protest movement, this should be their icon:

80. Brent O’Connor says… dec 21, 2006 | 3:31 pm

Jason, Most people won’t have to rollover the icon to figure it out. I think most people will learn with in a couple seconds that “Ps” stands for Photoshop and “Br” stands for Bridge, etc.

I have no problem telling at a glance that Ps is for photoshop and I’m pretty sure that most of the other people won’t have any problem with it either.

I was using the rollover as an example that there is always a backup in terms of accessibility for people that are color blind or have trouble with the two letters and colors. I wasn’t saying that everyone would have to rely on the rollover to know what the icon is.

81. Roper says… dec 21, 2006 | 4:09 pm

How’bout we all get together and see if we can’t come up with some better icons for the community here… I propose a icon design group effort for the new Suite.

82. The Guilty Carnivore says… dec 21, 2006 | 4:12 pm

Jason said:

Brent O’Connor: Come on man, having to rollover something just to figure out what it is results in mystery meat navigation. Successful icons show at a glance what something is; that means without having to read or interact with.

Jason, you’ve just admitted that these new icons are then, while not effetely artistic, are at least an improvement over previous incarnations. Again, what is a feather? Is that my goose down pillow design application?

83. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 21, 2006 | 4:22 pm

The Guilty Carnivore: Nope, I think both sets of icons fail, but I think the CS3 icons are a step back from CS2.

I remember when CS1 came out, the only way I was able to get the apps straight in my head was to group all the icons in the dock together and keep them in a specific order, and that’s how they’ve stayed to this day (even through numerous hardware changes). I imagine I will have to do the same thing when CS3 come out.

84. monkeyinabox says… dec 21, 2006 | 5:40 pm

The periodic table of software? What the hell? Maybe if you loved Chemistry class, this would be appealing, but most designers and creatives would rather see something like a watercolor set.

Booo hissss.…

85. Jeff says… dec 21, 2006 | 6:03 pm

Isn’t the proper question not whether the feather/flower/snail shell icons were ideal, but rather, are the CS3 icons as good as they could be?

While the new icons may be an improvement over CS2, that shouldn’t be the sole indicator of success.

In my opinion, although the new icons may give more information as to what the programs are (because they at least hint at the name), they still are an incredibly large step in the wrong direction.

86. matthew says… dec 21, 2006 | 6:45 pm

i can’t say I like these either. I thought the PS icon was bad enough - but now after seeing the ‘master plan’ so to speak. It’s even worse.

87. Scott F says… dec 21, 2006 | 6:52 pm

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.

88. The Guilty Carnivore says… dec 21, 2006 | 6:59 pm

And jumping jesus on a pogo stick, give color blind people some credit. You think they’re drinking V-8 everytime they think they’re reaching for milk? Does the milk carton need to be shaped as a cow?

My dad was color blind and he had no problem discerning what was vodka.

89. Craig says… dec 21, 2006 | 7:06 pm

Simply fantastic. For those who prefer pretty photo-realistic images for icons, you had your turn so stop complaining.

90. Josh Hughes says… dec 21, 2006 | 7:23 pm
Has anyone noticed the inconsistent typography on these? Why is the D in the InDesign :ID? icon uppercase?

That bugs me too. The kerning seems a bit off in some of these as well (Sb? Lc?).

Aside from whether or not the inherent concept has merit, the execution is definitely lacking.

91. Christopher Drum says… dec 21, 2006 | 8:18 pm

I’m in favor of the new icon design. I agree with a previous statement saying they seem a bit “underdesigned”, but I really hated the feather/seashell/butterfly style of the previous CS products.

To me, this feels like Adobe is providing the base elements out of which I will compose a fabulous original composition. This encourages exploration of their suite as a set of tools, with skills from one program transferring to other programs. The unified look suggests a harmony between the apps, rather than presenting an array of “Here’s 50 programs you might want to use!”

I find the alpha mask argument spurious at best. By this reasoning, if I were to put a square of color behind the mail app, I would suddenly not “see” the shape of the mail icon inside that square… I would only see the square. Are we honestly suggesting here that putting a uniquely shaped icon on top of a square suddenly makes the unique shape of the icon inside that square vanish? Even Apple realized that wasn’t a problem when they put their Mail navigation buttons inside little glossy buttons. The shape inside the button is still unique. Whether that icon sits on a solid grey background or inside a cute little glass button is frankly a moot point. The point is, the icons themselves still retain a unique shape identifier.

And as designers, I believe we are all aware of the unique shape that letterform sequences create. Wsna’t tehre rsereach dnoe to povre taht? Yes, teher was…

I think we’ll all adjust to the shape and/or color of the new icons in due time, and I for one am very glad to see a major company move AWAY from this trend of hyper-realistic “icon” design. Remember when icons were still *representations* of the objects, and not full detail drawings of the objects themselves? I can just see the day coming, if it isn’t already here… “Hey, our company just made a new word processor. We should have an icon of a little man sitting at his computer doing word processing. That would totally rock, and we could render it in 3D Studio Max and make the man’s hair all glossy and shiny and the screen of his computer could show a screenshot of our product that updates in realtime to reflect the latest document the user is producing. RAD!”

92. Matt Thomas says… dec 21, 2006 | 9:22 pm

This color-blind designer is happy with the route Adobe’s taken. Among the CS2 icon set, all the icons are predominantly white with small touches of color. That’s a much bigger problem for a color-blind person than large swaths of basically solid color. The solid color squares accompanied by big, readable text are actually going to help those of us for whom previous Adobe icons presented a problem — I, for one, am looking forward to never again accidentally launching ImageReady instead of Illustrator, or InDesign when I meant to hit Photoshop.

93. Foofy says… dec 21, 2006 | 9:25 pm

With all those colors they couldn’t do anything half as good as these?

94. johnny q says… dec 21, 2006 | 10:24 pm


Or should I say Wt?

What part of ICONography don’t they get? Identical squares with English letters. GREAT.

Icons shouldn’t HAVE words or letters, ideally.

How are these to be internationalized now?

Ok there have been historical instances of icons with letters becoming “the” icon (BBEdit, Explorer) but those are rare exceptions. (I wasn’t a fan of the F for Flash and etc for the Macromedia apps either).

What rubbish.

Crap design, Adobe. Cannot state it any more harshly.

Adobe, do your homework:

1. use unique shapes.
2. use no letters
3. use images that makes sense, that denote use
4. use color only as a fallback, in conjunction with the above rules

Periodic table?

As a wise man once said: “There’s a fine line between clever and stupid.”

95. Alex says… dec 22, 2006 | 3:37 am

Why does everyone bother?
Some days before the beta started I thought “Why do they design the look of such a program? Why can’t it look simple, straight and usefull?”…

And now? I’m happy. We don’t need more, the new icon set looks ok. Not special or even superb, but why should it? For what? No use at all!

96. Michel Bozgounov says… dec 22, 2006 | 4:17 am

Adobe, it’s ugly, ugly, ugly …

Can’t say more …

BTW, Veerle reports that the icons were made by the Macromedia Team… What a disappointment… The guys and girls that designed the nice Fireworks, Flash, Dreamweaver icons… made that?

I’m speechless… or should I say, Sl? :D

97. Josh H says… dec 22, 2006 | 9:56 am

My initial reaction wasn’t in favor of the new icons and that hasn’t changed much but I do think we should see the grand scheme before casting judgment on the design team. I’m gonna wait and see what else they’re gonna bring to the table.

Although I will say that the telling image that Jason referred to is certainly that. I could easily decipher what applications were represented in first row but the second row seems to be just a tad more difficult.

Btw, Merry Christmas!

98. Mark Thomas says… dec 22, 2006 | 10:27 am

Comparing these new so-called icons to the feather and butterfly is the wrong thing to do, as the feather and butterfly were retarded in their own way and were similarly condemned for being counterproductively abstract. The new ones are not only lazy and braindead, but an insult to good design. At least the feather looked pretty even if it made no actual sense. These new icons are very clearly the work of the artless Win.idiots who have infested Adobe over the years and transformed it into a competition crushing Microsoft whore masquerading as a producer of graphics programs. They have no idea what makes for good design, and the GUI “improvements” to Photoshop CS3 show just how little they understand about usability. On the bright side, I have spent several weeks converting all my old legacy Adobe documents to non-proprietary formats so that I can once and for all be rid of this company — a bittersweet end to what was once, years ago, a love affair.

99. Ben Darlow says… dec 22, 2006 | 10:40 am

I’ve just performed a spatial frequency analysis of the icons. Spoiler: they don’t pass the test.

100. alain says… dec 22, 2006 | 12:05 pm
101. DaveyJJ says… dec 22, 2006 | 1:15 pm

I like them. Simple. Clean. Stand out terrifically on my dock among all those icons that look like shrunken little pictures. The main three or four Mac designers will use in their docks (PS, AI, ID, DW) all work well together from a standpoint of colour and shape when in the dock. I like them lots (and this is 15 years of information design talking).

If anyone else has a better way of designing 35+ related icons that works across the world where different pictures mean different things to different ethnic groups, and look good in all sizes, I’d like to see it.

102. Ted says… dec 22, 2006 | 6:44 pm

This is an embarrassment to Adobe, not just because of poor design decisions, but poor implementation. The graphics for these icons SUCK. I would fire the fool who put these in front of me internally, never mind put them in front of the public. Again, not just the designer, but the person who actually put these pixels into place. It is so much like something that a programmer would make in Paint Shop Pro because an artist hadn’t been hired yet and they wanted to put out a beta that many people have assumed that is what they are, just placeholders.

When Macromedia joined Adobe, I thought at least the icons for Dreamweaver and Flash would improve, but it has gone the other way. Compare the iconography of Photoshop 6 on Mac OS 9 to any of that application’s contemporaries and I think you’ll find that Photoshop was maybe the very best icon and branding, with a rich splash screen that reinforced the icon’s look and created a visual ICON to go with the name Photoshop and the application itself, making all three synonymous. This is so far below that graphical standard it is like Adobe was bought by Google or something. Why have icons at all? Why doesn’t Adobe just put a text menu in Bridge with the name of all the apps on it? You could do it in blue and underline each item also.

We have just moved into a time where you can RELY FOR THE FIRST TIME on a computer user having 24-bit color and here we have what are essentially 1-bit icons pasted on a flat square background. It is also 5 years since the 128x128 photorealistic icon debuted in Mac OS X. This spring, in Leopard, we get resolution-independence and 512x512 pixel icons. This is the biggest and best icon canvas ever, but if you choose to use only a few colors then you are leaving out so much potential information, stuff that can be conveyed by shading and other visual cues. You can’t make a line-art camera that scales as well as the camera in iPhoto’s icon … it is still a camera even at very small sizes, and when you see it large, it is still “the same camera” so that reinforces your mental image, making the small version even more recognizable later. Compare to the “movie clip” in these Adobe icons … it is like something copied off a Microsoft toolbar from 1994.

There will be 100 alternate icon sets for CS3 made by individual artists on their own time that will outshine these icons dramatically.

103. Kyle Korleski says… dec 22, 2006 | 9:48 pm

Personally, I don’t care much for them. But they are a bit more dock friendly (in my opinion).

104. Paul Erickson says… dec 23, 2006 | 3:46 pm

Ugly. Nuff said.

105. heathrowe says… dec 23, 2006 | 8:37 pm

I think they are great.

Simple, intuitive and a system that makes sense.


106. shawn says… dec 23, 2006 | 10:26 pm

I think it is a huge step forward for the CS brand. As someone pointed out the pretty illustrations associated with the products did little more than provide an attractive element for packaging and collateral. As an icon I find them to be worthless. I too use these products daily and still find myself forgetting which is which. The simple letters and colors on my dock are recognizable immediately. And to claim they need to be read is silly. The letter combinations on the periodic table are symbols not words. Plus I like the idea of design software icons and collateral being under-deisgned, the work being created with them should be the highlight.

107. Christian in NYC says… dec 24, 2006 | 1:46 am

Two words for Adobe: New Coke.

Way to “fix” something that wasn’t broken.

I’m thinking I would be embarrassed and/or really defensive right about now if I were on the Adobe Design team responsible for this bland Periodic Table of gobbledy-gook crap.

108. Adrian Cooke says… dec 25, 2006 | 2:12 am

What business is Adobe in these days? The periodic colour wheel looks like a portfolio of abstract acquisitions. It probably makes sense if you work there, but for most users I would bet that it’s at least as meaningless as feathers and petals. Disappointing that the Photoshop eyeball icon from versions back is looking more appropriate every year.

109. baxtrice says… dec 26, 2006 | 6:20 pm

It just seems so “thrown together”. Like they didn’t put any thought into it. It might have been a cool idea to have a periodic table theme, but for a company like Adobe (and their rep), it seems underdesigned. C’mon Adobe, you’re not cheap—so don’t make cheap icons.

110. Gene says… dec 27, 2006 | 1:39 pm

Hmm. Well, I suppose it could be worse — they could have created icons based on the San Jose Semaphore “cipher” art installation at Adobe headquarters. Talk about impossible to decipher icons…

111. Sara Wischnewski says… dec 27, 2006 | 2:40 pm

Those icons are a joke, right?

112. Markus says… dec 27, 2006 | 10:35 pm

I hope that by the sheer number of complaints Adobe got at this time, in various places, to the CS3 (beta or not) icons, they hopefully are backpedaling and give us users really usable and at the same time goodlooking icons!

113. Rob says… dec 28, 2006 | 2:19 pm

Working in a huge corporate company that is currently rebranding, I understand where Adobe is coming from is simplifying the CS3 suite visual system. If nothing else, this simplification will remove much of the politics associated with deciding what an image will look like. I bet a good 9 months was spent deciding that Bridge would use a shell icon. What does is really mean? Probably that some art director liked shells. In the end, the user just ends of paying more because it took so long to decide what type of icons were going to represent the programs. In the end everyone loses.

There is no reason to the madness of the current CS2 iconography. I never like it.

Personally I welcome the simplification. It’s intuitive for those who are used to the program, and it is doubtful that you will forget the icon and click on the incorrect program, which after 10 yrs with Adobe I still do with the CS2 icons.

I only ask that Adobe stay with a system. It gets very annoying to have to continuously relearn iconography everytime a new version comes out. Save us the look at work on functionality.

For those of you who don’t like them. Have fun with reskinning your icons over and over. Just remember, while your trying to decide what icon system to use for you program. The rest of us will be getting work done.

114. Anthony says… dec 28, 2006 | 9:18 pm

Ok.. so let me get this straight.. the first letter is of the first word, and the second letter is of the second word.. but sometimes it can be second letter of the first word.. but only when it’s conveniant to Adobe.. and if that doesn’t make sense we can pull out our Pantone cards and try to figure it out that way.. but if we don’t have pantone cards.. or if we’re blind..

It’s too blunt of a concept for a professional designer and it looks less identifiable than anything I’ve ever seen (reminds me of the blanc document icon of the pre-mac os x days. Hopefully Adobe will remember to think it through next time. Something distinguishable.. maybe even a logo would be nice for next time.

115. Paul Jensen says… dec 31, 2006 | 9:12 am

I like the pantone colour scheme concept, which is taken from the icon scheme used by Macromedia. However, what I don’t like about the new icon scheme is how bland they look, in terms of being squares with simple looking text.

I would probably have preferred it if they had reversed the colour scheme (coloured text iconography), and got rid of the squares. A more designesque typography may also have been preferred, but that’s my take on it.

116. Rachel Maxim says… jan 2, 2007 | 1:39 pm

I too thought and hoped that the icons/identity were temporary for the beta…and was rather put off by them. But my fiance works for Adobe and confirmed that those are the final icons.

I don’t think they are readily identifiable enough, but the old MM Studio icons were very recognizable even at small sizes. Some of the CS2 Adobe icons were problematic already (InDesign, Acrobat and Bridge CS2 all had pinkish icons, leading to many an accidental launch).

When the CS icons/images as we know them today were launched, I criticized their lack of ‘meaning’, but at least they were pretty distinct (minus some color issues).

My conclusion is that icons need to be identified clearly with both shape AND color…hmm, sounds familiar to anyone who’s ever read anything about usability!

Still, with the 70+ products that Adobe has to cover, they have a very difficult task to create distinguished yet consistent icons. Not a task I would want to be stuck with! At that number, you even begin to run out of distinguishable colors!

Maybe they should have divided the products into groups with similar styles which would have given them more flexibility while still remaining consistent.

117. unvs says… jan 2, 2007 | 8:09 pm

They look absolutely terrible. I still can’t believe it. Candybar to the rescue indeed.

118. Johnny q says… jan 4, 2007 | 9:10 am

Wow, “Rob”, you win the Adobe Apologist Reward.

“In the end, the user just ends of [sic] paying more because it took so long to decide what type of icons were going to represent the programs. In the end everyone loses.”

You mean Adobe will lower or not raise the price now that they have quickly banged out a set of cheap crappy icons? No company has ever jacked up the price due to icon design…that’s laughable.

“Personally I welcome the simplification. It’s intuitive for those who are used to the program, and it is doubtful that you will forget the icon and click on the incorrect program, which after 10 yrs with Adobe I still do with the CS2 icons.”

See, that’s just silly. Beyond any personal aesthetic preference, using universally accepted professional usability guidelines for icons, one cannot possibly seriously endorse the new icon scheme.

They’ve “broken all the rules” but in the Bad Way, in a novice way.

Then you deride us for needing to customize them?

Woe to your “huge corporate company that is currently rebranding” if you have anything to do with the visual design.

119. joeb says… jan 5, 2007 | 12:19 pm

Many good comments. Another thought that puts a positive angle on the new design:

Designers always interact with business people with zero formal design training (except what they’ve seen on Martha & Oprah) but act like they have talent like best of them. There’s little respect for / understanding of the enormous amount of work it takes to be a good designer. I like the periodic table metaphor and the quiet reference to the intelligence and discipline used in scientific fields. What real designers do is not a crap-shoot, and the formality of the new icon style has a nice “take us seriously” feel, as opposed to the “look pretty” feel.

Sorry if I’m projecting my utter fatigue with idiotic-non-design-people onto this icon style discussion!

120. MisterC says… jan 17, 2007 | 9:57 pm

This is a Mac biased comment, but i use Quicksilver and rarely squint at my dock for an app. The mnemonic metaphor also works quite nicely as hot keys…

121. Marty F says… jan 22, 2007 | 11:05 am

I tend to identify tiny icons by colour and position in some stack; also, the text-label normally accompanying an icon often plays more of a part in “icon recognition” than anyone seems to have acknowledged, especially in the Start Menu.

I have noted that when using the Start Menu, I initially search for a program by submenu (if I know roughly where it should be), then remembered location (if any), then by colour and brightness, and if I don’t immediately see any recognisable blob, by text label.

The frequency-component analyses completely neglect the colour component and cannot possibly consider how I arrange my icons.

(The detail component of 16x16 program icons, for the most part, I find I mostly ignore.)

Thus, I vote in favour of the new Adobe icons :)
They function correctly for me.

(It’s worthy to note that in the Start Menu, most subfolder icons are identical. And most programs are in a subfolder. And that Adobe [inadvertently?] circumvented this problem by not using an Adobe subfolder :P)

122. Meble says… feb 13, 2007 | 5:34 am

Thanks for this very good article … I use this to my home work to school … Can I translate this with all comments and insert on my site? … Thanks

123. Scott says… feb 13, 2007 | 12:24 pm

Simply fantastic. For those who prefer pretty photo-realistic images for icons, you had your turn so stop complaining. Greetings