by Terry Hemphill


September 5, 2013

Spotlight on Teri Pettit–a “developer’s developer”

Does the name Teri Pettit sound familiar? Many Illustrator customers remember seeing her name from the Illustrator splash screens over the years. For Throwback Thursday here’s a look back to an incredible engineer who’s has been associated with Illustrator since Illustrator 88.

Teri Pettit small

Teri Pettit joined Adobe Systems in 1987, but she’d already spent eight years at Xerox shaping the way we use (and see) our computers. As one of the original developers of the Xerox Star system, Teri helped introduce desktop icons and multiple windows to personal computing.

When she joined Adobe (and the Illustrator team) in 1987, she was joining other former Xerox employees like fellow developers Dick Sweet and Doug Brotz, making the switch because she wanted to work for a company where the contributions of her team were a little less… invisible. And Adobe wanted her to do that work on Illustrator.

Teri Pettit and Russell Brown from a booklet on Illustrator 88’s many uses.

Teri Pettit and Russell Brown from a
booklet on Illustrator 88’s many uses.

“It was getting pretty frustrating to feel that the work we were doing at Xerox was so invisible, with most of the public having no idea that our team had invented the whole desktop/icons/windows metaphor for personal computing,” said Teri. “The interview process felt more like they were trying to sell me on Adobe rather than probing my programming skills.”

Teri joined the team during the development of Illustrator 88, and remained a key member of the Illustrator team until she retired from Adobe in 2012. Teri is a developer’s developer, building the features she most wanted to see. Her favorite feature? Group blends, from Illustrator 8.

Teri not only understood the ins and outs of Illustrator, she helped others understand them, too. As a regular contributor to Illustrator user forums, her name became well known among Illustrator’s fans as she popped into forums, answering questions and providing technical insight.

Though she retired from Adobe in 2012 after 25 years on the Illustrator team, Teri’s legacy lives on anytime someone opens Illustrator or double-clicks a desktop icon.

teri-pettit-group-blends“[Group blends were] inspired by a postcard that Russell Brown made as a marketing giveaway for AI 88, with an angel made of lots of little strokes morphing into a devil in a similar style. Since AI 88’s blends could only be done one path at a time, the illustration required using the blend tool separately on each pair of matched strokes. So when I got the assignment to make blends ‘live’ in Illustrator 8, I took the opportunity to lobby for my pet group blends idea.”




Teri as Magenta at Adobe Halloween Costume Contest in 2002

Teri as Magenta at Adobe Halloween Costume Contest in 2002


If you were an Illustrator tool, which one would you be?


Mordy, you ask the oddest questions. Nobody wants to be a tool.



Want to polish your Illustrator Blend tool skills? Check out the tutorials below.


vector tuts Illustrator blend tool guide   veerle's blog -- Illustrator full-spectrum spirographSunset blend tutorial by Teri Pettit


  • By Lu - 6:16 PM on September 5, 2013  

    Idol!!! You are amazing Teri.. Thanks for sharing this… 🙂

  • By CharlesD - 7:49 PM on September 6, 2013  

    Bravo Teri, have a wonderful retirement. Illustrator 88 was the first real drawing program I used on the Mac and it got me into graphic design and that interest redefined my career as a geographer. Then followed Photoshop and eventually Dreamweaver and InDesign. Even in retirement I find excuses to slip back into Illustrator. I can never see the world again without thinking of Bezier curves – hopefully you don’t dream of them as I have been known to do.

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