Happy 25th, Adobe Illustrator!

March 21, 2012

Adobe’s first software product is as relevant today as it was when it first launched.

When Adobe Illustrator shipped on March 19, 1987, it was the first software application for a young company (we were five years old) that had, until then, focused solely on Adobe PostScript. The new product not only altered Adobe’s course dramatically, it changed drawing and line art forever.

Adobe Co-Founder John Warnock first conceived of Illustrator as a PostScript drawing tool. He saw parallels between what his wife Marva (a graphic artist) created with pen and paper and what PostScript printed with dots on paper. John recognized that PostScript’s Bézier curves could be applied to the shapes illustrators painstakingly created by hand, so he set out to develop a drawing application.

Today, it’s hard to imagine getting through even a part of our day without seeing the influence of Illustrator. Greeting cards, shoes, watches, apparel, automobiles, toys, consumer products are some of the many items that are designed using Illustrator to bring an idea to life.

“Most people have no idea how many things in their lives were created in Illustrator. It’s not just packaging and logo design, it’s maps, car dashboards, shoes and watches,” said Brenda S., product manager, Adobe Illustrator. “From paper dolls to online avatars, from animated cartoons to collectable characters, Illustrator has touched us all.”

A New Level of Creative Freedom
Adobe Illustrator gave designers an entirely new level of creative freedom, so they could focus on what they wanted to create rather than how to do it. The secret to its success was the use of vector graphics—a way to draw objects using points, lines, curves and shapes.

The groundbreaking new software went on to become a flagship product of Adobe’s future software line. Illustrator celebrates its 25th anniversary this week.

From One Digital Revolution to the Next
Illustrator played a significant role in the first digital publishing revolution. That revolution transformed what had once been done by a relatively small number of people—perhaps 20,000 worldwide—into the modern graphic design industry, involving millions of people integrated into industries as varied as architecture, media and film making, web design, printing and publishing, and much more.

“It’s so hard for young designers today to even imagine how their predecessors worked before Illustrator,” Brenda said. “And what’s really exciting is that 25 years later, Illustrator continues to be an important part of the next digital revolution!”

With the growth of digital devices, along with the growth in large-format printing, designers depend on Illustrator to create resolution-independent graphics. So their designs look just as sharp and clear when viewed on a smartphone as they do on a billboard.

“People rarely design for a single medium now, and designers need to take their work more places than ever before,” said Terry H., senior product marketing manager, Adobe Illustrator.

Did You Know?
• Employee Luanne S. chose Botticelli’s Venus to represent Illustrator because of the fine art association and because the curves in her hair showed off Illustrator’s drawing capabilities. Venus evolved as Illustrator did (until the release of the Creative Suite, when branding for all products changed to be part of a unified theme).
• Illustrator is the key tool used by branding and identity companies worldwide—crafting the visual identities that make companies, products and services recognizable and memorable to consumers.

How has Illustrator changed the lives of designers?
“When I started out as a designer, everyone had specialties: There were type setters, layout artists, film strippers, camera operators, etc. Then, with the arrival of Illustrator and other Adobe products, designers rapidly changed from being specialists to generalists—but with full control of the design elements from start to finish. People made the transition because it was so powerful to have that control.” – Terry H.

How has Illustrator evolved as a product in order to keep up with the new technological landscape?
“Illustrator has embraced the best of the technologies during its 25-year journey, which is one of the reasons it has been so successful in serving our customers these past two and a half decades. Starting from a small monolithic program using C and assembly language, Illustrator has evolved to become a sophisticated, modular and modern architecture with more than 200 plug-ins and hundreds of shared technologies. These components have continually evolved to use the best of software design patterns, programming languages and libraries like C++, Objective C, JavaScript, ActionScript, STL and boost.” – Rajesh B, Senior Engineering Manager, Adobe Illustrator

What has driven the evolution of Adobe’s design products?
“First, our communication with designers is a big strength. We have really close relationships with our user communities. Then it’s the integration across all our products. No one else can get that integration with Illustrator, PDF, Photoshop, Adobe Acrobat and Adobe InDesign. They may all have a piece, but we have the whole picture.” – Teri P., Senior Computer Scientist, Adobe Illustrator

More Information
See more information about Adobe Illustrator, including customer success stories, at the Illustrator site on