April 14, 2010

Behind the scenes on the CS5 icons & branding

Ever wonder what goes into the creation of Creative Suite product icons, splash screens, and other branding? Designer Veerle Pieters chats with Adobe design lead Shawn Cheris about project goals, the great designers who inspired their work, and more.
I’m always kind of amazed at how much passionate commentary these designs tend to elicit. To this day no post of mine has drawn remotely as many comments as the one where I revealed the CS3 icons.
For what it’s worth–my own subjective opinion–I think the CS5 designs are a great improvement over the CS4 ones, which I disliked relative to CS3. (I used to joke that we could “upgrade” various bits of CS3-branded swag–T-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.–simply by mailing people a Sharpie & telling them to blot out the white text.)
Oh, and as with the past several releases, Photoshop remains the one team that insists on listing team members’ names on the splash screen. In the spirit of the original Macintosh team signing the computer case, we believe that artists sign their work. (Plus, when you have access to a name like Seetharaman Narayanan, you don’t hide that light under a basket!)

Posted by John Nack at 11:03 PM on April 14, 2010

Comments

  • Mark Alan Thomas — 3:25 AM on April 15, 2010

    To this day no post of mine has drawn remotely as many comments as the one where I revealed the CS3 icons.
    I find this very funny, and I don’t mean that in a snide way. The icons are simplistic, clunky, boring, uncreative, brute-force silliness, but they are also brave and distinctive. It’s the brave aspect I like the best. I’d prefer something more expressive and aesthetically appealing, but I don’t really even think about them anymore. Maybe that’s good.
    I will say I actually prefer the simpler non-dimensional style to the new, semi-dimensional versions — a change which to me feels false — but whatev.
    As much hell as I gave you guys over these icons I respect that Adobe stuck to its guns.

  • Rob — 4:11 AM on April 15, 2010

    I’ve assumed for years that Adobe adopted the bland style for the last three Creative Suites due to the increasing number of programs they have to brand. Perhaps it’s too much work to make something as interesting as the CS2 system?

  • Michael Foster — 5:20 AM on April 15, 2010

    The CS3 icons were inspired, in fact one of the top features of the release as the apps become much easier to find in the dock. As for the subsequent CS4 / CS5 tweaks they aren’t as good, but as people often need to run different version concurrently a necessary evil.

  • Dan v. — 5:57 AM on April 15, 2010

    “The CS3 icons were inspired, in fact one of the top features of the release as the apps become much easier to find in the dock.”
    Assuming, of course, that you are not colorblind. :)
    And yes, there are very creative colorblind people who rely on these apps every day… I am not one of them, but I know two personally.
    I think what upsets the creative types the most who use these apps were that they lost some of their soul in the move from things like Venus to a flower and then to just a block with two letters. To me, it felt like the application lost a lot of its identity with that transition.
    I can appreciate the work that went into creating the gestalt of these icons/splashes, but they’ll always feel like a downgrade for someone who’s been using these applications for thirteen years.

  • Herman — 6:34 AM on April 15, 2010

    Love ’em! (although I’ll replace em with David Lanham’s Sticker theme regardless ;)

  • drewb — 6:36 AM on April 15, 2010

    I was one of those that disliked the CS3 icons when they were first revealed. Purely for the fact that I had become accustomed to the Venus, the Photoshop “eye” etc…
    I still remember firing up Illustrator (v7 I beleive) on my PowerMac 8600 and my girlfriend at the time looking over and saying — “Who’s that woman?!?” Ah, memories.
    I did come to love the CS3 icons for their simplicity. The CS5 icons however… blek! A… I dunno what it is… a book icon?!?
    [I call it a money clip. –J.]
    Whatever they are supposed to be, they are just plain dumb looking.

  • Charis Tsevis — 7:46 AM on April 15, 2010

    Great work on splash screens, John. Congrats to the team.
    Not sure I love the icons. CS3 were simply perfect.

  • Matt — 9:17 AM on April 15, 2010

    I like the CS look/ minimalism.
    I hope Adobe will not return to some overly illustrated images for it’s CS icons/ splashscreens.

  • Erik Kubitschek — 10:07 AM on April 15, 2010

    Oh, the CS5 Launch was amazing and inspiring from a designers perspective.
    The icons, however, look more like 2.25D than 3D, actually, they look like empty 3-ring binders.
    [Just waiting to be filled with your ideas (groan, sorry, couldn’t resist). –J.]
    The colors are really stunning though.

  • Phil Brown — 3:00 PM on April 15, 2010

    Assuming that CS6 has both 32 and 64 bit versions under Windows, John, can you please pass on some feedback that variations in icons would be appreciated?

  • Klaus Nordby — 3:55 PM on April 15, 2010

    I second Phil Brown’s request for an easy way to tell 32 vs 64 bit versions apart! I’ve missed that for 18 months now, since CS4! I’d prefer to run nothing but the 64-bit version — but old plugins make it necessary to fire up the half-wit, er, half-bit version, too. And then I forget which version is running, etc., and chaos reigns.

  • drpepa — 6:06 PM on April 15, 2010

    Hey John;) Good start to giving us some insight to the aesthetic design of the creative suite..Still be keeping an eye out for who designed the artwork for the backdrop of the CS5 launch and the cover artwork for master collection?
    Also i really like the dragon and pirateship on a map on the photoshop extended page..
    I dont mind the icons, and i like the cleaner shiny ui, like the butterfly being back in Indesign.. if i was to be critical, think abobe team maybe missed a trick, the icons could of been inspired by the colourful master collection style.
    How come the ui has never had a customise ui template feature like studiomax where u can make it darker.. say like Lightroom etc..?

  • Jesse Mellon — 9:09 PM on April 15, 2010

    I really like the splash screens — the sprawling, mysterious dimensionality is visually interesting.
    Not sure how I feel about the icons themselves — they seem like wee little binders, suggesting either that they’re part of a larger package, or that they contain sub-elements.
    At the smallest size, the icons look a little like buttons from early web browsers, when the idea of buttons was still kind of novel, and the depth was kind of exaggerated compared to today’s buttons. They’ll probably grow on me though.
    Again — the splash screens are stunning. Lots of thought clearly went into ’em, and I think it’s a solid set.

  • Niklas — 2:39 PM on April 16, 2010

    The CS3 (and CS4) icons were let downs but these icons are definitely catching my attention in the right way. At least I wont have to go look for another icon pack if/when I upgrade.

  • Mark Alan Thomas — 10:42 PM on April 16, 2010

    Having given these new icons some thought, I think making them look like little books was a mistake because it suggests that they might be documents or contain documents when in reality they are applications.
    A trivial complaint, yes.

  • Mark Alan Thomas — 1:03 AM on April 17, 2010

    I do like the return to bright lettering, however.

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