Adobe Creative Cloud

March 3, 2016 /UX/UI Design /

Building Project Comet: Designing the Designer’s Tool

“I don’t think this color will work very well,” I said honestly. “Developers really depend on comments to tell them about the code, and the color is just too subtle for something so important.” I sat in a conference room with a designer and our product lead, reviewing the designs for a code editor that was going into a product I was working on.

As a developer, I had a very keen sense of what would be helpful and what wouldn’t for this code editor, and I just knew that the color scheme the designer had chosen wasn’t right. I knew I wouldn’t use a code editor that made me squint at the code, and I felt like I needed to represent the entire development community to make this editor the best it could be.

Fast forward five years, and I’m now on a new product for Adobe, code named Project Comet. But instead of a product by developers, for developers, it’s a product for designers — UX designers, specifically — for quickly designing and prototyping for all sorts of screens sizes.

This time, the designers on our team are placed in the same position I had been in five years ago. These are designers working on a design tool. And while it’s a fair bit of pressure to innovate and make something that many designers will love, it’s also a dream come true; our designers get to work on a tool that they get to use every single day.

So, I asked three of our designers to share what it’s like to make Project Comet a reality, as they’re getting the license to play, rethink, and truly innovate.

A Focus on the Details

Larz H, a Senior Experience Designer, sports a laconic Australian accent and a dry wit that he brings to every meeting with the Project Comet team. He’s had some big products underneath his belt in his 7 years at Adobe, including Brackets and Creative Cloud Extract. He splits his time between his official cubicle in the designers’ area in Adobe’s San Francisco office and embedded with the engineering team that makes his designs come to life.

When I asked him what feature improvement he loved the most in Project Comet, he pointed out the grouping of the align and distribute buttons. “It’s these details that make the app,” he said. “Every time I look at alignment and distribution icons [in other products], I have to think for a moment because the boxes and lines are kind of hard to parse visually.”

buttons

Project Comet’s alignment and distribute buttons

Project Comet’s alignment and distribute buttons

Larz explained, “One of Comet’s design principles is ‘comfort first,’ so we grouped alignment and distribution in a way that’s more comfortable for our users…. Instead of grouping them by function, we grouped them by the orientation of the selected objects.”
Rather than being chained to an existing design, Larz was able to rethink the purpose of the buttons, grouping them in a more logical manner. Larz’ insistence on the tiny details to increase designer efficiency can be seen peppered throughout the product, and the accumulation of these improvements is a sense of workmanship that gives Project Comet a particular polish that our early prerelease users already love.

Constant Innovation as a Continuing Dialogue

Design Lead Talin Wadsworth can often be found in a collared shirt buttoned all the way to the top and a black flat-brimmed cap with his favorite baseball team’s logo emblazoned on the front. Before Project Comet, he spent his five years at Adobe as a designer on Adobe Sketch for iPad, Creative Cloud Libraries, and the Creative Cloud user interface.

gifHis merry blue eyes turned nostalgic one recent Friday afternoon as he talked about the initial days of Project Comet, which began as a quick prototype developed by a handful of people. But what he remembers most is the intense collaboration that resulted in deep innovation. “We talked about repeat grid for about two months, at least every day. Half an hour here, an hour there, sporadically through the day; we’d talk and go back to work, and then come back together, and we’d see where we were and move the conversation forward.”

He related how his unique perspective as a designer meshed tightly with the developers’ implementation of his designs: they would implement the feature in an unexpected way, which in turn opened his eyes to the design possibilities. Through his feedback and use of the feature, the developers began to see more possibilities to increase its value, and the feedback loop circled again. In this cycle was a process of repeated discovery, which ricocheted them in unexpected directions and brought them to such innovative places as repeat grid.

But tight collaboration doesn’t stop with a relationship between design and engineering; insight comes from our product managers, who gather data from customers near and far and from in-product analytics, prioritize the features based on both feedback and common sense, and keep an eye on the bigger picture: the product as a whole. Often, I find myself in meetings with designers, developers, and product managers discussing both the greater ecosystem and very detailed interactions, trying to figure out exactly what behavior to implement.

This attention to the experience of each feature and the collaborative spirit on the Project Comet team are what brings Talin to work every day. “I’m pretty much the luckiest designer at Adobe right now,” he admitted with a grin.

Designing for the Designer

I bumped into Carmen Ruse right after the weekly all-hands meeting with all of the core staff of Project Comet. It was a treat to see her, as Carmen is based in our offices in Bucharest, Romania and was in town for a design conference. With almost five years at Adobe under her belt, she’s worked on a number of “intrapreneurial” initiatives at Adobe. Among other features, she’s been working on the onboarding experience for Project Comet.

“It’s a bit of an inception,” she related to me, talking about what it’s like to work on the team. “I’m designing my own design tool. It’s not an easy task, as I’m usually my hardest critic. But at the same time, it’s an awesome feeling to create something that will be in the hands of the most talented UX designers out there.”

And that is both the privilege and the challenge; we built Project Comet from scratch, from the ground up. From a technical perspective, it allowed us to take advantage of the latest technologies and make sure we developed with the right toolset to make the product performant. But from the design perspective, it allowed us to reimagine what a design tool looks like. We’re walking the fine line between producing high-quality versions of existing paradigms — for instance, text and drawing rectangles — and providing new ways for designers to play and iterate on their designs.

We’re still in the early stages of Project Comet, but we want to continue this iterative innovation process with you, the customer. What we release in our public Preview (coming soon!) is a rock-solid foundation and a whole lot of potential.

We’re a team of people who care about details, who listen carefully, and who want to get things exactly right. We’re looking forward to working with you to make Project Comet our design tool.

UX/UI Design

Meet Project Comet, Adobe’s Complete UX and Prototyping Solution!

Design and prototype websites and mobile apps faster than ever with Project Comet, the first all-in-one solution for UX designers. Coming in early 2016.

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Join the discussion

  • By ja - 9:08 AM on March 3, 2016  

    Comet should have as much Fireworks’ features as posible:
    – bitmap / vector image manipulation tools like these in fireworks,
    – extensions,
    – multiple file import / export (psd, ai, firweworks layered png).
    and so on…

    • By Elaine Finnell - 9:56 AM on March 3, 2016  

      Definitely keep an eye out for the Preview! There will be a place for you to give your feedback and vote on which features get in first. 🙂

  • By Victoria Pavlov - 9:46 AM on March 3, 2016  

    Absolutely amazing! Thanks a lot!!!

  • By jerz - 9:55 AM on March 3, 2016  

    exciting project

  • By kurian joseph - 9:33 PM on March 3, 2016  

    I’m waiting eagerly for the release of comet. Its a amazing tool and the future of UX i suppose. Waiting for an invite to try it.

  • By Formad - 2:05 AM on March 4, 2016  

    Popup form is not working to subcribe, OSX safari, firefox, chrome latest version.

  • By Paul - 5:45 AM on March 4, 2016  

    any more definitive time table for the public release to us CC subscribers? I’m debating getting Flinto + Sketch (only $99 currently together), but wanted to test out Comet first due to it already being part of CC…

    • By Elaine Finnell - 12:32 PM on March 4, 2016  

      We’ve been upgraded from “soon” to “very soon.” Stay tuned to @adobeux on Twitter or take a look at adobe.ly/comet to sign up to get information pushed to you via Email about our Preview.

  • By Aquiles - 6:23 AM on March 4, 2016  

    Question: Will Comet have Team Projects?

    • By Peter Flynn - 11:01 AM on March 4, 2016  

      What functionality would you like to see for team collaboration?

      • By Pepe - 3:35 AM on March 7, 2016  

        a Team Project where:
        – everyone can work on with synchronized library for shared elements,
        – a central master repo to push changes with versioning that work with GIT or another
        – you could publish to a FTP server…
        – (this is like to write a letter to Santa…)
        – this would be AWESOME: to publish a version of the prototype where groups of users (clients, team leaders, team members) could make comments and anotations over the prototype. (different groups with different view and editing permissions: team members don’t like that clients see what their manager said…)

        Another GREAT feature is a Documentation Builder to get a document (could be a HTML page) as a deliverable for developers, with grid, size, margins, paddings and color definitions.

        Best regards!

        • By Elaine Finnell - 3:45 PM on March 8, 2016  

          Thanks a ton for all of these ideas! I’ve gone through and upvoted on the five ideas you had in this comment (sorry, didn’t upvote for Santa) in our ideas database. 🙂

  • By mich - 2:33 PM on March 4, 2016  

    Hi I’m student I would like to be part of the testers! I’m already in sign up for informs but i want tester it now how can i do it??

    • By Elaine Finnell - 11:39 AM on March 6, 2016  

      The Preview will be out soon – we’ll definitely need testers for that! We’ll be announcing it when it’s available.

      • By Luca - 4:06 AM on March 10, 2016  

        I’d like to be a tester. In my agency We are still working with Fireworks, waiting for this new project becoming our working software… Photoshop and Illustrator have good features but they’re not complete.

        Is it possibile? I’m a Cloud member. Thank you!

        • By Elaine Finnell - 10:41 AM on March 11, 2016  

          Yep! Totally possible on our public Preview, which is coming out really soon. Keep an eye out on @adobeux for the latest announcements.

  • By Mike - 4:57 AM on March 5, 2016  

    Is a beta version available?

    • By Elaine Finnell - 11:39 AM on March 6, 2016  

      Not yet, though it’s coming very soon! It should be available as a Preview for Creative Cloud members.

  • By Prakash - 4:28 AM on March 6, 2016  

    When is the beta version coming out. Its early 2016 already…….Eagerly waiting to get a invite to try it out…..!!!! Thanks for all the good work! Its amazing tool

    • By Elaine Finnell - 11:40 AM on March 6, 2016  

      As I mentioned in a previous comment, it’s been upgraded from “soon” to “very soon.” More information to come, both on the blog and via social media (@adobeux on Twitter).

  • By Stan - 3:48 PM on March 6, 2016  

    Can I get some clarity if it’s going to a responsive design tool? Will it allow for design and prototyping across desktop, tablet and mobile devices? Or is the initial release just for mobile?

    • By Elaine Finnell - 3:30 PM on March 8, 2016  

      We’ve heard a definite desire for responsive features. Our initial Preview release has support for viewing different sized artboards. I’ve upvoted the idea for you in our ideas database.

  • By Jarem - 10:13 PM on March 7, 2016  

    Cool. How’s the PC version coming along?

    • By Elaine Finnell - 3:17 PM on March 8, 2016  

      It’s something we’re actively working on, but the Preview for that won’t arrive at the same time as the Preview for Mac, as we wanted to iterate faster on one platform. Definitely sign up at adobe.ly/comet for Email pushes to get the news when it’s available.

      • By Kayode - 4:34 AM on March 14, 2016  

        Sad Apple is continuing to cherry pick platforms, well by maybe ‘Apple pick’ is more apt. By the way am a mac user.

  • By Pierrick Letos - 7:37 AM on March 8, 2016  

    Will comet be able to export relatively clean HTML/CSS for the developers to work with ?

    • By Elaine Finnell - 3:18 PM on March 8, 2016  

      We’re still working on what our design output is going to look like. We’ve heard requests for HTML/CSS output (and other measurements) from our prerelease community. I’ve gone ahead and upvoted the idea for you. 🙂

      • By Pierrick Letos - 7:51 AM on March 14, 2016  

        Thanks 🙂

  • By Maribel Trillo - 4:26 AM on March 10, 2016  

    Hi,

    I was waiting for this for a long time. Please if you need testers let me know.

    Regards,

    • By Elaine Finnell - 10:21 AM on March 10, 2016  

      We’ll definitely need people to try out and give feedback on the Preview! It’s coming very soon, so please follow @adobeux on Twitter for the latest information.

  • By Dan - 4:07 PM on March 10, 2016  

    Hi, so excited to test this new brand bby. I’m a FW user for around 10 years. So, I’d love if you guys add some or these key features:

    – Path Treatment: http://puu.sh/nC7B1/ffbec6a93c.png (reference)
    – Alpha Masks (with possibility to make gradients inside)
    – Wand tool for bitmaps. And the “Convert marquee to path” option.
    – Knife tool, to open path in any direction: (http://puu.sh/nC7LA/ee0dcfec19.png)
    – And obviously a good extension/plugin panel where we can add future custom addons to improve our flow.

    I’ll love you guys. I don’t like sketch/afinity (they are good but missing a lot of tools) Hope this app make me uninstall FW asap.

    Cheers!

  • By Carlos - 6:42 AM on March 11, 2016  

    I’ve subscribed to the newsletter and didn’t receive any confirmation.
    I would like to be a tester also \o/

    • By Elaine Finnell - 10:41 AM on March 11, 2016  

      No worries! We’ll need people on our public Preview, which is coming out really soon. Hang tight!

  • By aneesh anandan - 12:53 AM on March 15, 2016  

    I would love to publish the wireframe to html5 with interaction animations and effects as we select. Love the idea to publish wireframe to a group and get feedback. @Pepe – Awesome thought! 🙂

  • By aneesh anandan - 2:33 AM on March 15, 2016  

    Also would like a feature of Centralized library of design elements i create on XD, so that i can compare, reuse and share the same groups/shapes/elements/brushstrokes(?) etc across different projects in XD. Since it is external, I should be able to share those with PS, Ai etc also.