April 05, 2010

How Adobe Ideas came to be (and where it’s headed)

David Macy, artist & product manager for Adobe Illustrator and the new Adobe Ideas for iPad, shares his thoughts on the goals of the new project. –J.


Its pretty darn hard to beat pencil and paper for jotting visual ideas down quickly. That’s why this great combination travels with many artists everywhere they go.

Adobe has explored, and even prototyped a variety of thoughts related to digital sketching for some time, but we could never believe that they would compete with a pencil and a nice sketchbook. Aside from the precision and tactile feel of a pencil, there was always the problem of needing a computer. Even if we built the most elegant sketching application one could imagine, would our creative customers be convinced to pull out a laptop to sketch on in the park or in a café? OK, sure some would, but I think most would find it just too cumbersome.

And, oh yeah – there’s that issue of using a trackpad or mouse to draw with. I love my Wacom tablet too, but by the time I fish through my bag for the tablet and USB cable and wake my laptop, I could have already done some nice doodling on the nearest napkin.

I love it when technology changes in unexpected ways. When we saw what the latest smart phones could do, and heard the super-un-secret rumors of this year’s crop of tablet devices, we new that something very important had changed. Portable, high resolution, multi-touch devices are destined to be a close companion of many digitally savvy creatives. This simple realization was the birth of Adobe® Ideas.

Simply stated, Adobe Ideas is a digital sketchbook, meant to help you with exploring and realizing your creative ideas.

OK, sounds great, but can it compete with pencil and paper? Nah – at least not for the basics of drawing. A capacitive touch-screen without pressure sensitivity and without a fine-point stylus* isn’t going to win if you just talk about plain and simple drawing.

But if you add a resizable pencil tip, color mixing, transparency, zooming, the ability to drop in photos, automatic color extraction from photos, 50 steps of undo, and a vector file format compatible with Illustrator and Photoshop, then you’re talking about a great start on the concept of a digital sketchbook.

And, yes this is just the start. The small team that’s behind Adobe Ideas is having too much fun now, so we plan on revving the app frequently and adding other functions that relate to creative ideation, probably some of them as “premium” features. What ideas come to your mind?

*Check out the Pogo stylus for one that’ll be better than your fingertip.

Posted by John Nack at 10:18 AM on April 05, 2010

Comments

  • Mike Wiebe — 11:25 AM on April 05, 2010

    Would love to see:
    Basic shapes (square, circle, arrows)
    grid-paper option
    floating text boxes

  • bitbull — 11:27 AM on April 05, 2010

    “… relate to creative IDEATION”
    *gag*
    well, if you and the illustrator-team are having “too much” fun now fiddling with your ideas-toy, i take it you have successfully fixed the numerous bugs in Adobe Illustrator CS4 by now? if so, please be so kind to supply a download adress. Because we Illustrator-Users would like to have too much fun for a change.
    If not – why are you wasting your time and ours, too?

  • Mylenium — 11:40 AM on April 05, 2010

    But if you add a resizable pencil tip, color mixing, transparency, zooming, the ability to drop in photos, automatic color extraction from photos, 50 steps of undo, and a vector file format compatible with Illustrator and Photoshop, then you’re talking about a great start on the concept of a digital sketchbook.
    Na, that’s actually where I think you are 1000% wrong. Forgive me,but that’s the typical overthinking of a PM/ software engineer where a simple feature request is inflated into a hot air balloon (since we are talking about Adobe software, I guess we all know what I’m talking about, don’t we?). While there is certainly a need for sketching apps, there is no need to turn this into a monster. As you said yourself: Firing up a computer takes longer than doodling on a nappy, but what you propose would actually take us back to that problem – the more “feature rich” (or bloated) the app is, the less fun it becomes because its responsiveness is reduced in one way or the other. Transparency blending alone could consume so much computational resources, it could feel slow as hog. And please decide what you wanna give people: A sketching app? A vector drawing program? A photo editing software? Possibly a digital birthday postcard layout tool? In my world, all of these represent fundamentally different workflows with unique usability, feature and engineering requirements, that do not necessarily go well together. Anyone remeber the Fireworks vs. Photoshop vs. Illustrator thread? plenty of brainfood for you PMs there. So in all fairness, unless you can provide a clearer vision of this, I don’t think I would have anything to gain from what you are proposing (aside from the fact of Apple gadgets being so pricey and me having to think hard of even getting one…)

  • Mylenium — 11:44 AM on April 05, 2010

    Agreed. AI is certainly over-ripe for a fundamental overhaul. Even I as only an occasional user bump into issues far too often. If I can, I don’t even wanna know how much someone must hate it who is dependent on it as his “bread & butter” tool.

  • Mark Taber — 11:51 AM on April 05, 2010

    I, for one, am excited by the possibilities: that was one of my “imaginary iPad scenarios”: in the coffee shop, sketching on the device, then using it as a start in Illustrator. Imagine my surprise…
    I will also be checking out SketchBook Pro, as well, fully understanding the caveat that it is not vector-based. I’ll be comparing interoperability, interface, features, ease of use.

  • George Coghill — 12:15 PM on April 05, 2010

    Waiting on an iPad 3G, but want to know if Ideas supports multiple layers?

  • Jerry Harris — 1:42 PM on April 05, 2010

    try the dagi stylus, quite nice.
    http://www.dagi.com.tw.

  • Thomas — 1:57 PM on April 05, 2010

    Dear David Macy,
    I agree 100% completely to the comments from bitbull and Mylenium just because meanwhile my frustration and anger about Illustrator grew from mild to very strong.
    I’m about to wait for Ai CS5 and see what you have done so far to improve user experience.
    Just because Freehand has discontinued that doesn’t mean that there is no competitor for vector graphics applications.
    I believe that you’ll find a lot of useful information in the Adobe user-requests archive form the last youple of years.
    Best regards,
    Thomas

  • Sebastian Auer — 2:09 PM on April 05, 2010

    I think I have agree here on the overpacking of features. I think if you want a sketching app – youre too late. Sketchbook Pro and brushes, just to name those two, already provide this functionality, they are a digital napkin. Stop adding features and perfect the original goal so that it becomes a natural expansion of the workflow or person.
    Provide some functionality that would makes it easy and COMFORTABLE to use the tool without wishing for pen and paper (here we have two components or features).
    Each persons reason or workflow may differ and can’t satisfy them all. Before features are added and make this app less than user friendly, the team might want to find out what each type of worker is trying tom replace or how he/she works.
    I will most likely work quite different than somebody else, but what is my goal? Why would I use this app?
    What would I want? I want to sit down with a client and have a discussion and ensure I can take notes and some sketches. I don’t need 1million colors, or transparency; I want to work quickly and WHILE I am talking to my client. Later on I would sit down on a computer anyway, no?

  • Stormchild — 2:20 PM on April 05, 2010

    Not really. It’s my most essential design tool, and I think it’s awesome. It’s not particularly easy to learn, and it does take some time and experience to understand how it works, but once you’ve mastered it, it’s extremely powerful and there is really no substitute for it.

  • Stormchild — 2:24 PM on April 05, 2010

    Nice idea, but I’m not sure if the fixed writing angle is practical or ergonomic. I probably wouldn’t like it myself.

  • PECourtejoie — 2:52 PM on April 05, 2010

    I’m just wondering if the naysayers did actually try the application… I did not see comments of sluggishness/unresponsiveness in the reviews of the users that did try the app…

  • David Macy — 2:52 PM on April 05, 2010

    bitbull, Adobe has thousands of employees and nobody was taken off of Illustrator to work on this project. I hope you don’t begrudge some fun and excitement from hard working people who are working on a new product just because it isn’t one that you happen to use.

  • David Macy — 2:53 PM on April 05, 2010

    Current version has just two layers – a photo layer and a drawing layer.

  • Peter — 3:00 PM on April 05, 2010

    I don’t own an iPad yet, but a vector sketching app is a fantastic idea and one of the first things I would install if I had one.
    However, I am a bit concerned about the user experience. Based on the screenshot it looks like the application uses non-standard widgets for its interface (for no apparent reason as far as functionality goes as far as I can tell), whereas Sketchbook Pro integrates beautifully into the iPad/iPod/iPhone ecosystem. I think these things do matter, especially with such a young platform. But other than that, it looks great.
    Also, I am glad that Adobe is embracing this important new platform despite Apple’s aggressive anti-Flash campaign.

  • Pete — 3:12 PM on April 05, 2010

    Thank you!!! As an industrial designer, I bought the ipad knowing that someday, someone would figure out that it’s the perfect platform for a natural drawing application. Fast, minimalist, easy. If you guys wanted to sell a copy to every architect in the world, add an *optional* “drafting” command layer to the program, which would provide straight lines, coordinate snaps, object snaps, and possibly even numeric input & hold on to your hat here, something like the simplified dynamic Dimensioning found in AutoDesk Inventor. If our architects could field measure and sketch floor plans right out in the field, we’d buy your app for a hundred bucks a pop all day long. Wanna be the first to write a decent mobile cad app? Kick autodesks butt! Sell the hell out of em! Can you tell I’m excited about this?

  • Jerry Miller — 3:16 PM on April 05, 2010

    I would like to see Wire-framing tools and simple symbols added.

  • David Macy — 3:54 PM on April 05, 2010

    umm… what’s “standard” about the widgets in Sketchbook Pro? They don’t look much like other iPhone or iPad apps.
    And btw, Apple’s iBooks is pretty non-standard, no?

  • David Macy — 3:57 PM on April 05, 2010

    Sounds like a very interesting idea Pete.

  • David Macy — 4:01 PM on April 05, 2010

    Well, hopefully you will be happy with what you see in Ai CS5. You’ll have a chance to find out what’s new close to this time next week.

  • jimhere — 4:47 PM on April 05, 2010

    I’m glad you mentioned a stylus — I’m a pretty messy finger-painter.

  • James Thornton — 5:32 PM on April 05, 2010

    First, allow me to say that I’m THRILLED to see Adobe show interest in creative apps for the iPad. :) I bought it mainly as a mobile, creative supplement to my digital art studios.
    While waiting for my iPad 3G, I decided I better go to the Apple store and try drawing on one to make sure I like it. I brought my Pogo Sketch stylus along. They were nice enough to install Adobe Ideas. The main attraction for me is Sketchbook Pro, but I must admit, I was very impressed with this vector based drawing app.
    Some + thoughts:
    -The large canvas is awesome! Vector too, so no worries about scaling for print :)
    -The smoothing of the stroke is nice.
    -Brush opacity was unexpected for vector brushes, and very welcomed. With a low opacity, shading was incredibly similar to a hard edged Photoshop brush. I loved it!
    Some – thoughts:
    -Some wasted interface space. Didn’t like jumping into menus when so much of the side bar was empty.
    -Being able to pick a color straight from the canvas (on the fly), as you would with an eyedropper, is essential for my style of blending. Now granted, I may just not have figured it out!
    -With no simulated pressure, the marks are boring and rounded rather than dynamic and interesting.
    Other than that, I’m on board, and will be looking out for any creative apps you release for this ultra mobile platform. Very excited to see you all in the App Arena :)

  • James Thornton — 5:36 PM on April 05, 2010

    Oops, one other thing. Keep in mind I only used it briefly, so there might be a solution for this. I noticed that the largest brush size was rather small compared to the big ol’ canvas. So for filling large areas, a big ol’ brush would be welcomed.

  • Mylenium — 10:48 PM on April 05, 2010

    I’m just wondering if the naysayers did actually try the application… I did not see comments of sluggishness/unresponsiveness in the reviews of the users that did try the app…
    How would I? It’s only due at the end of April here in Germany. And please read again. I was not uttering concerns about the current app. I’m sure a few hard vector “brushes” is something even Adobe engineers can eventually get working in realtime. ;-) My points raised were solely aiming at what Mr. Macy was proposing for beefing up the app, which is a million times more complex than what’s there now. Knowing AI’s severe performance leaks everywhere, doesn’t make me all too optimistic that Adobe can come up with similar or better functionality in an app that is supposed to run on a system with a 1GHz processor and 512MB of system RAM.
    And if you don’t mind: Even if performance issues were no problem, why go all crazy with features that nobody will need? When I do sketching/ scribbles/ styleboards/ storyboards, I do it all with one liner pen/ roller pen/ pencil and never even use an eraser, so why would I want to deal with undos and all that? Suggesting such a feature alone doesn’t make sense – when you sketch and mess up, you start over. You pick a new sheet or paint over your mess with another color or, if you really cannot avoid it, use the eraser/ rubbing stone to make room. Seeing how your drawing evolved is by all means part of the creative process of sketching. Again, Adobe needs to find its clear definition of “sketching” first. That’s why Sketchbook or even ArtRage are so wonderful – they focus on one task with an optimized workflow. What Mr. Macy was suggesting is just the opposite – a monstrous app that serves as the mobilized crutches for PS and AI, which IMO cannot be the aim of any such exercise.

  • Mylenium — 10:59 PM on April 05, 2010

    Actually you missed the point. Nobody is arguing its usefulness. However, it is full of severe technical issues. Not only do I have my personal pet peeves, but my forum work seems to more than confirm that a lot is wrong with the app. People are constantly dissatisfied with its performance, memory handling, incorrect web export, artboard handling, graph handling, variables not working and so on. So, on a strictly engineering level, it is ripe for a overhaul from the ground up. And, no offense, just because you have gotten used to a crooked workflow, doesn’t mean it’s good. As I keep saying on the forums: Any vector drawing app on this planet sucks, whether it’s AI, Corel Draw, Xara or whatever. These programs have stopped to evolve 20 years ago and each one of them carries a lot of old baggage based on outdated paradigms and principles.

  • PECourtejoie — 1:26 AM on April 06, 2010

    Mylenium, the paragraph you quoted on your april 5, 1140 message looks to me like the functions that the application already has (look in John’s previous post), and again, I did not see reports of slowness with all those functions.
    “so why would I want to deal with undos and all that?”
    Well, it looks like Sketchbook pro for iPhone has already 10 undo/redos (and I like how it is done with 3 finger swipes)
    My point is not to confront you, but I am surprised to see so many shields raise up when a fresh new app appears on a new platform. We are creatives, let’s be open minded!
    These new applications are a wonder, look at Lightroom for instance! I was hoping for something similar for non-photographers, and Ideas might be the seed the the Illustrator restart that many seem to wish…
    My hopes for such an app would be to use the multi-touch capabilities to go away from the menus/panels paradygm, and have everything available under the finger, on some circular menus, or gestures.

  • tom — 12:35 PM on April 06, 2010

    Yes! Free vector drawing and erasing :)
    Will Adobe Ideas support File Sharing via iTunes? (check iPad: About File Sharing http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4094)
    And will it support multiple layers with individual opacity settings?
    And will the tools be more accessible in a row?
    But don’t give in to feature creep and overcomplication, please. Simplicity and usability are best.
    Keep up the very good work + many thanks! tom

  • Andrew Morton — 2:49 PM on April 06, 2010

    Well, at least this time Adobe had to good taste of not calling this app Illustrator.com …..

  • Mav — 5:16 AM on April 07, 2010

    I have not used iPad (not available in country i live in) but I would love to see tons of educational content created for iPad. Given that iPad experience is very immersive and intuitive, I think there is a good opportunity to make education and learning interactive and engaging. For instance, simplifying concepts of maths, biology, physics. While Adobe is in the business of making tools to create content, my question is, is there is a tool/software which is geared towards just creating educational content? Adobe cares about photographers so much that it created Lightroom to simplify their life. Why not create something which will simplify creating educational content? Just my $0.02

  • Trevor — 7:58 AM on April 07, 2010

    I think it would be great to have something with basic 2d animation capabilites for roughing out a storyboard or actual animation. Multi-touch would be great for the feel of a digital flipbook.

  • Dave Story — 4:37 PM on April 07, 2010

    Hi Mr Macy,
    Is this the same team that worked on a project codenamed “Sketch?” :) If so, great to see it come to fruition.
    I can’t wait to get my iPad so I can bang away on this iteration!
    Dave

  • DocPop — 11:56 PM on April 09, 2010

    I was so surprised by the quality of this app. Great work, guys. Sleek and thoughtful.
    I know this is repeating some of what’s been said above, but here is my list:
    1. Layers- At least one more drawing layer so I can “pencil” an idea, then do a nicer “inked” version above it.
    2. Fill- I’m sure it’s on the way though, right?
    3. Export options- PDF can be handy for some things, but pdfs seem to miss the whole benefit of vector art.
    4. Share with friends- It’d be great to draw some notes during a meeting then just email them to everyone afterwords. Opening the file from email would automatically open Ideas (if opening from an iPad).
    5. Type- Words.
    Can’t wait to see what’s in store for Ideas. I just made my first piece with it today http://flic.kr/p/7SdEEV

  • kjo — 3:41 PM on April 13, 2010

    just started using abode Idea on the iPad and I must say it is amazing. Thanks for this gift. I’ve been attempting to simulate pressure sensitive line-width variation by sliding the scroll size at the same time I draw – a bit awkward but ok results thus far. How about a simulation pressure line variation – time based or ?? Keep up the excellent work here.

  • Joel — 5:27 AM on April 14, 2010

    I am surprised no ones asked for editable bezier handles. Just give me the basic illustrator pen tool with stroke and fill.

  • Hiram — 12:39 AM on April 15, 2010

    This is about the iPhone version: it’s quite wonderful. Two requests: shake to undo, and tap line to reveal bezier handles.
    Good job, developers!

  • James Thornton — 8:19 AM on April 18, 2010

    I was checking out the app store and noticed that Adobe Ideas was also available for the iPod! I’ve already commented on the iPad version above, but just wanted to add some more thoughts.
    First, I’m shocked to see the large canvas also on the iPod! Whoa! You can really do print res on this thing! I was surprised when using the iPad, but I’m in disbelief with the iPod!
    Second, I had mentioned above the wasted interface space on the iPad. Now it is clear to me that the interface was originally designed for the iPhone/iPod, and was simply just transferred to the iPad. Needless to say, we would all love to see a separate interface to take advantage of the new real estate. I’m sure you all are on it. :)
    Third, if you’re gonna have undo, you gotta have redo.
    And fourth, a couple times, I’ve exited the app, and when I come back the progress I made was gone. I’m trying to repeat it, not sure what happened, and will post back if I find the culprit. A simple save button would give me some comfort though, as I put a lot of work into my ideas.
    Thanks for the awesome app! This is one to seriously push forward as a pro version, great potential!

  • Arnon Moscona — 11:23 AM on April 19, 2010

    Yes. Very nice. But why limit it to the Evil Empire’s platform? Why not give users of HP touchsmart, and the slew of upcoming Windows and Windows CE pads a version that runs on a platform not controlled by a company that’s doing everything it can to damage the friend that saves their sorry behind when they were weak?
    Come on – these days you should never release an Apple-only application. If anything release Apple products late, and with warning labels to the users that they might lose access to the product the morning that Steve Jobs wakes up on the wrong side of the bed…

  • Pissed Mac Developer — 12:04 PM on April 19, 2010

    > But why limit it to the Evil Empire’s platform? Why not give users of HP touchsmart, and the slew of upcoming Windows….
    Maybe because they’re still *upcoming* devices and not released yet?

  • Arnon Moscona — 12:10 PM on April 19, 2010

    HP Touchsmart is not “upcoming”. It’s been around for at least two years already… Check you facts first.
    Not to mention Wacom Cintiq tablets, which are totally relevant to Adobe Ideas.

  • Peter Cooper — 8:03 PM on April 20, 2010

    I’d like a much bigger or even limitless canvas on Ideas. Ideas is great interface wise and I’m using it to take notes (as almost no note apps allow zooming!), but I’m still bounded in by the size of the canvas.

  • Glen Henshaw — 8:30 PM on April 30, 2010

    This is a great app. One addition, please: words. Basic typesetting. Doesn’t have to be fancy, just the ability to put floating text boxes on the screen, move them around, and possibly change the font.
    With text boxes, this becomes more then a brainstorming app: it becomes far and away the best note-taking app on the iPad.
    Basic shapes would also be nice.
    I’m also waiting for a way to take notes in math class, eg to typeset equations, but that’s just me.

  • Peter Cooper — 5:18 PM on May 10, 2010

    I can’t think of where else to direct this, so sorry, but is it just me or does Adobe Ideas have a bug where work sometimes isn’t saved? I’ve lost a few things I’ve added to existing drawings over the past couple of weeks.
    I can’t think of a pattern to it other than it possibly being the times I’ve left Ideas open and then it’s locked itself after a while. Maybe the auto saving isn’t being triggered in this instance? I’m going to try going back to Organizer every time from here on out to see if that helps.

  • Jake — 3:05 PM on May 20, 2010

    I just had the same issue. I’ve just started to seriously use Adobe Ideas and it lost the sketching I added to an existing idea once I pressed the home button. I’m also going to return to the Organizer and hope that it will save the work.

  • SonOfWitz — 12:23 PM on June 23, 2010

    I did a little experiment with Ideas to see if I could pull off some comic book inking styles. It’s no great shakes, and it’s built over a Buscema Conan panel, but it was pretty comfortable to work like this.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sonofwitz/4721213261/
    I’ve also found that if I export the Actions from Brushes, use the viewer to make a high rez jpg, I can then send it back to the ipad and embed that in Adobe Ideas. I was able to do some tight inking over a painting, and when I exported the pdf, I found that the image layer was retained at full resolution. So when I opened it in Illustrator, I was able to relink the uncompressed tif instead of the JPG, and voila, Print ready art made almost completely with the ipad. Unfortunately the art wasn’t worth posting. just an experiment.

  • Marybeth — 5:55 AM on July 24, 2010

    I’m hooked. I can finally draw! Darn! After all those art books I bought. Can we have this iPad ap on our mac computers? Oh how I want that.

  • Nate — 10:43 AM on September 06, 2010

    First off, this app is amazing. Quicker than Sketchbook, but still gets things done. But I do have one request.

    Color picker,- this one i think is a necessity. I can’t count the number of times I’ve worked on something, changed color, then had to switch back but couldn’t get a good result.

  • Nate — 10:46 AM on September 06, 2010

    Oh, and this one I really don’t expect, but if you could, i would be extremely grateful for:
    a desktop version, because i have a tablet :] and this would be extremely awesome. (btw, i’m using Windows, so if you guys do make one, please don’t just make it for Macintosh)

  • foljs — 3:21 PM on October 09, 2010

    The small team that’s behind Adobe Ideas is having too much fun now, so we plan on revving the app frequently

    Well it has been 7 months…

    [Be patient just a bit longer. –J.]

  • Miltos Anagnostou — 2:37 PM on January 03, 2011

    I was trying to explore the capabilities of this tool. I like the fact that it creates vector graphics. After making a rather complex drawing, the app failed to create and email the pdf. Therefore I could only use the snapshot tool to export it from the ipad.

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