You’ve seen it in the “mnemonic logos” and splash screens of Adobe’s Creative Suite 3 and 4, and perhaps you wondered what that typeface was. After more than 25 years in the type development business, Adobe decided to have its own corporate typeface family. The Creative Suite uses were early versions of a family designed by Robert Slimbach. Now that it’s been officially adopted at Adobe, I can tell you about our latest design, called Adobe Clean. There’s no plan to make it available for licensing, but you’ll be seeing more of it in Adobe materials and products as time goes on.
Our initial question was “Why not just keep using Myriad Pro and Minion Pro?” These faces were designed to be timeless, and they’re among our most popular families. But that second part points to the catch in this situation: Myriad, in particular, is used to represent many other companies, including businesses close to Adobe’s (such as Apple and Verizon). Adobe wanted a fresh look that could remain unique.
While some typeface designers do much of their work for corporate clients, this area was new to us. Robert & I met with the leaders of Adobe’s Experience Design and Brand teams to develop a design brief. They wanted a 21st-century feel combined with an earnest readability. As the project grew, Christopher Slye led regular follow-up meetings with the client teams to keep them up to date and tease more input out of them. Robert’s accustomed to aiming his work at the more general case, so it was an interesting challenge to have a very specific set of design goals. What he produced is as classic as all his other designs, but with an uncharacteristic blend of contemporary touches for on-screen rendering and a more “progressive” feel.
Of course Adobe Clean had to work really well at text sizes, including on-screen. Most sans-serif families aren’t really designed for use in extended text, but Robert is a master at text and tuned the face to shine in these conditions. Text families require a subtle balance of harmony, rhythm and individuality, and Adobe Clean handles these remarkably well.
Another fairly unusual feature is the set of figure styles. There are four figure heights in Adobe Clean:
– one to align with the cap height,
– one at more traditional figure height for general mixed use,
– one to align with the small cap height,
– and of course one for oldstyle figures (both proportional and tabular).
The cap-height figures were a special case. Adobe uses a lot of product abbreviations like “CS4″. Non-aligning figures in something like a product splash screen would look pretty awkward!
Robert developed a font with weight, width and optical size axes. This allowed us to play around with the exact values, to find a final set of fonts that worked well for specific uses. And as future needs come up, we can easily tweak the “look” with new instances. At the moment Adobe is using a series of weights at text size for printed material. We’re working with the Brand team to help them think about other optical sizes, but it’s a challenge to educate the many outside vendors who produce Adobe materials.
There’s another set of instances for user interfaces, called Adobe Clean UI. (You can see early versions in the Adobe Media Player and Adobe TV.) Miguel Sousa did a lot of work in the Flash-based UI frameworks for Adobe’s next-generation applications, to make sure that the UI instances were optimally adjusted for that use.
Naturally Robert designed our standard set of pan-European characters for our usual broad linguistic support, as Adobe products are localized for an increasing number of countries. (Although the text family has polytonic Greek, we removed the polytonic from the UI fonts; we figured monotonic Greek was plenty for user interfaces!)
This will be a phased transition, so for now most materials you see are still using Myriad. But if you keep an eye out, you’ll see that changing over time. Product teams immediately asked when we’d have CJK support – and Arabic, Hebrew, Thai, and more. Maybe later! In the mean time, here’s a teaser: Robert’s nearly done with an equally-innovative Adobe Clean Serif, which may appear in promotional materials before long.
- David L