New Adobe icons suck

Hey, I’m getting bashed in comments for being too anti-Microsoft. Which is funny seeing that if you search Google for Demo of the Year a post I made about a Microsoft product comes up. I still haven’t seen a better demo this year.

Anyway, I’m not just into bashing Microsoft when it deserves it, but other companies too. Adobe got on Fred’s radar screen with the new Photoshop icons.

Using ASCII characters in an icon? Come on Adobe. You’re the king of using graphics and photos. Put a freaking photo onto the icon. It’s “Photoshop” remember?

But, icons are branding opportunities and tell me one thing. Will this “brand” do well in, say, China? How about Japan?

No.

Adobe should invest in imagery and iconography that’ll transcend cultural, language, and other barriers.

The problem is you should have a single icon that works everywhere for training purposes.

I remember when I was in China at a computer show and I needed to demonstrate NetMeeting. I could do it cause I knew what the icons looked like.

But, even better, look at how Firefox uses its icon to market itself. It’s on Tshirts. Stickers. Posters (one was hanging in a company I interviewed at yesterday).

I look at the XML icon and that’s a bit different. First of all, RSS and XML were aimed at geeks for the first few years of their life. So, they needed to communicate a bit about what was underneath (note that the newer Feed Icon is becoming much more popular — partly cause it doesn’t look so darn American-centric on, say, Chinese Web sites).

Comments

  1. The [XML] and [RSS] icons annoy the crap out of me (glances slideways to his right)…hey Robert…time replace that one under the Comment Feed…http://www.feedicons.com/ is your friend. And yes the Firefox icon is a GREAT example of marketing by a tech group, who doesn’t want to use that icon somewhere?

  2. The [XML] and [RSS] icons annoy the crap out of me (glances slideways to his right)…hey Robert…time replace that one under the Comment Feed…http://www.feedicons.com/ is your friend. And yes the Firefox icon is a GREAT example of marketing by a tech group, who doesn’t want to use that icon somewhere?

  3. I disagree. Graphical icons are a pretty flawed piece of graphical user interface design. Why? It’s because graphical icons on buttons tend to make software harder to learn, compared to software with text on buttons.

    For example, which is *fundamentally* easier to learn: a button with the word “Save” on it, or a button with a picture that looks a bit like a floppy disk? So… the point is: icons with letters on them should be fundamentally easier to learn that what went before.

    The late Jeff Raskin’s book – The Humane Interface – should be required reading for anyone that really cares about user interface design.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0201379376/qid=1129725664/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-8551565-7179959?n=507846&s=books&v=glance

    He discusses these kind of ideas…

  4. I disagree. Graphical icons are a pretty flawed piece of graphical user interface design. Why? It’s because graphical icons on buttons tend to make software harder to learn, compared to software with text on buttons.

    For example, which is *fundamentally* easier to learn: a button with the word “Save” on it, or a button with a picture that looks a bit like a floppy disk? So… the point is: icons with letters on them should be fundamentally easier to learn that what went before.

    The late Jeff Raskin’s book – The Humane Interface – should be required reading for anyone that really cares about user interface design.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0201379376/qid=1129725664/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-8551565-7179959?n=507846&s=books&v=glance

    He discusses these kind of ideas…

  5. Simon,

    For a User Interface this is true, when something needs to represent actions text will undoubtedly help. However Icons are more about Concepts, Ideas, and Brands…where universal images can convey more in a small space then words ever good. Like FireFox’s icon for instance…it’s a fox, it looks kind of flamey (is that a word?) and it’s surrounding the world. How are you going to fit that into a 32×32 pixel square with text? And Adobe’s are worthless anyway…what does a blue background with “Ps” on it mean anyway (all that comes to my mind is a vulgar word, or a word meaning drunk if you happen to be from the UK). I look at the icons on the blog linked and I can’t get ANYTHING from them, and I don’t use Photoshop. That’s Robert’s point, good icons you’ll just know what they are for, or at least get SOME message from them. [Ps] means nothing.

  6. Simon,

    For a User Interface this is true, when something needs to represent actions text will undoubtedly help. However Icons are more about Concepts, Ideas, and Brands…where universal images can convey more in a small space then words ever good. Like FireFox’s icon for instance…it’s a fox, it looks kind of flamey (is that a word?) and it’s surrounding the world. How are you going to fit that into a 32×32 pixel square with text? And Adobe’s are worthless anyway…what does a blue background with “Ps” on it mean anyway (all that comes to my mind is a vulgar word, or a word meaning drunk if you happen to be from the UK). I look at the icons on the blog linked and I can’t get ANYTHING from them, and I don’t use Photoshop. That’s Robert’s point, good icons you’ll just know what they are for, or at least get SOME message from them. [Ps] means nothing.

  7. I like them. I have Bridge and PS on my quick launch bar and can only tell them apart by the color since their tiny pictures are indiscernible at that resolution. I also can’t stand moving to something new and having to guess what a function does by the symbolism of its icon. If they standardize across their entire product line that would be the best move they’ve made in quite a while.

  8. I like them. I have Bridge and PS on my quick launch bar and can only tell them apart by the color since their tiny pictures are indiscernible at that resolution. I also can’t stand moving to something new and having to guess what a function does by the symbolism of its icon. If they standardize across their entire product line that would be the best move they’ve made in quite a while.

  9. Michael, I understand what you’re saying. However, this idea that people can “just know” what an icon means is not right. People have to *learn* what an icon means. Just as they have to *learn* about brands.

    So, it’s all about how *easy* it is to learn…

  10. Michael, I understand what you’re saying. However, this idea that people can “just know” what an icon means is not right. People have to *learn* what an icon means. Just as they have to *learn* about brands.

    So, it’s all about how *easy* it is to learn…

  11. Some of us don’t have tiny icons on “Start” menus or launch bars, but, rather, beautifully rendered, auto scaling 128×128 pixel pieces of “art” on our Docks. ;)

    I have to agree with Scoble on this one: Wow, those icons really suck! Two letters in solid colored square to represent graphics app. Ick. It was the first thing I noticed after installing the beta. My first thought (hope): they’re just place holders until the “real” icons get finished.

  12. Some of us don’t have tiny icons on “Start” menus or launch bars, but, rather, beautifully rendered, auto scaling 128×128 pixel pieces of “art” on our Docks. ;)

    I have to agree with Scoble on this one: Wow, those icons really suck! Two letters in solid colored square to represent graphics app. Ick. It was the first thing I noticed after installing the beta. My first thought (hope): they’re just place holders until the “real” icons get finished.

  13. uh, okay. But how does a feather, a butterfly, and a flower tell me the purpose of a program? A stamp for email works nicely, to be sure. A hard drive and a wrench for a disk utility is obvious too. But just what do you do graphically for Distiller/Reader, InDesign, etc that is meaningful across cultures? Sorry, I don’t think you’ve thought this idea through far enough…it works for some apps but not all.

  14. uh, okay. But how does a feather, a butterfly, and a flower tell me the purpose of a program? A stamp for email works nicely, to be sure. A hard drive and a wrench for a disk utility is obvious too. But just what do you do graphically for Distiller/Reader, InDesign, etc that is meaningful across cultures? Sorry, I don’t think you’ve thought this idea through far enough…it works for some apps but not all.

  15. Mmmm… did anyone consider it’s a BETA? I saw the app icon, I thought “huh?” but I am pretty sure (as I bet you all are) that that is NOT going to be the icon for the final release…

  16. Mmmm… did anyone consider it’s a BETA? I saw the app icon, I thought “huh?” but I am pretty sure (as I bet you all are) that that is NOT going to be the icon for the final release…

  17. Come on Adobe. You’re the king of using graphics and photos. Put a freaking photo onto the icon. It’s “Photoshop” remember?

    Um…dude?

    Postscript
    Adobe Type Library
    InDesign
    Illustrator’s Text handling
    PDF
    Printing
    Pagemaker
    Framemaker

    Adobe DOES have a wee bit of experience with um…text.

    At least I’d heard that.

    As well, so what? They’ve changed the icons for everything 2-3 times now, the world didn’t end.

    CS Suite, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc., are the brands, not the icons.

  18. Come on Adobe. You’re the king of using graphics and photos. Put a freaking photo onto the icon. It’s “Photoshop” remember?

    Um…dude?

    Postscript
    Adobe Type Library
    InDesign
    Illustrator’s Text handling
    PDF
    Printing
    Pagemaker
    Framemaker

    Adobe DOES have a wee bit of experience with um…text.

    At least I’d heard that.

    As well, so what? They’ve changed the icons for everything 2-3 times now, the world didn’t end.

    CS Suite, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc., are the brands, not the icons.

  19. I love the new icons. They really stand out in my dock. I have the Photoshop and Illustrator icons right next to each other in my dock. I still after over a year having them have to think to myself, which is photoshop and which is illustrator? They also get lost in my desktop background. The new icons stand out and pop off the screen. This is Microsoft think. Make the most elaborate looking icon possible because you can. Sounds like feature over load to me. Simple bold colors are easy to see and easier to remember.

  20. I love the new icons. They really stand out in my dock. I have the Photoshop and Illustrator icons right next to each other in my dock. I still after over a year having them have to think to myself, which is photoshop and which is illustrator? They also get lost in my desktop background. The new icons stand out and pop off the screen. This is Microsoft think. Make the most elaborate looking icon possible because you can. Sounds like feature over load to me. Simple bold colors are easy to see and easier to remember.

  21. Scoble – I understand the brand idea – but I also understand the usability idea. Sure, I can see a brand theme that would be incorporated into every icon, but remember, icons also have to identify the application. It was easy for me to identify FireFox – that was one new program. But when my boss buys the new CS3 Professional Uber Suite, how many icons will I be learning at once?

  22. Scoble – I understand the brand idea – but I also understand the usability idea. Sure, I can see a brand theme that would be incorporated into every icon, but remember, icons also have to identify the application. It was easy for me to identify FireFox – that was one new program. But when my boss buys the new CS3 Professional Uber Suite, how many icons will I be learning at once?

  23. The problem with the icon is the “new” part. Adobe has never, ever stuck with an icon for Photoshop (or it seems with any of the other programs in Creative Suite). At least with the last three releases, they have changed icons, killing any possible brand identification they could have had. Compare this with Adobe Acrobat and Reader. They’ve always used that loop-de-loop triangle shape that is reminiscent of the letter A for it. Microsoft Word has always been represented by a blue W. WordPerfect always had a calligraphy pen for an icon. Windows users have long learned that to get to the internet, you click on the blue E. Adobe needs to stop changing its icon drastically every three years and confusing the hell out of people.

  24. The problem with the icon is the “new” part. Adobe has never, ever stuck with an icon for Photoshop (or it seems with any of the other programs in Creative Suite). At least with the last three releases, they have changed icons, killing any possible brand identification they could have had. Compare this with Adobe Acrobat and Reader. They’ve always used that loop-de-loop triangle shape that is reminiscent of the letter A for it. Microsoft Word has always been represented by a blue W. WordPerfect always had a calligraphy pen for an icon. Windows users have long learned that to get to the internet, you click on the blue E. Adobe needs to stop changing its icon drastically every three years and confusing the hell out of people.

  25. Met: every app in Microsoft Office suite has an icon (only one, Word, has a character as part of the icon). The start bar in Windows Vista has an icon. IE has an icon. Every Windows app has an icon. All without characters in them.

  26. Met: every app in Microsoft Office suite has an icon (only one, Word, has a character as part of the icon). The start bar in Windows Vista has an icon. IE has an icon. Every Windows app has an icon. All without characters in them.

  27. “every app in Microsoft Office suite has an icon (only one, Word, has a character as part of the icon)”

    Doesn’t Excel 2007 still use X as its icon? It’s no longer XL, thankfully, as I expect that localised really well :-)

    And OneNote 2007 seems to use an ‘N’ in its icon as the main device.

    (I’m looking at the icons Jensen Harris put on his blog a while back.)

  28. “every app in Microsoft Office suite has an icon (only one, Word, has a character as part of the icon)”

    Doesn’t Excel 2007 still use X as its icon? It’s no longer XL, thankfully, as I expect that localised really well :-)

    And OneNote 2007 seems to use an ‘N’ in its icon as the main device.

    (I’m looking at the icons Jensen Harris put on his blog a while back.)

  29. Hmmm, I guess that’s an “X” on the latest Excel icon. Good point, though. But Microsoft has been heading generally away from those kinds of icons lately. I know that with Windows, specifically, they went with the Windows flag, and a round button, both of which are trademarked and can’t be copied by other operating systems.

  30. Hmmm, I guess that’s an “X” on the latest Excel icon. Good point, though. But Microsoft has been heading generally away from those kinds of icons lately. I know that with Windows, specifically, they went with the Windows flag, and a round button, both of which are trademarked and can’t be copied by other operating systems.

  31. Picture this scenario: You are trying to use a computer in Japanese (or some other language which you are not familiar with) and need to be able to find your way around. The text is all in Kanji and Katakana, and you can’t read any of it. The keyboard layout is also going to be unfamiliar most of the time, so you can’t rely on that either. You need to change a setting, so you manage to find the control panel. Once you get there, instead of icons you are greeted by a bunch of different squares in assorted shades of blue, with more kanji on them. This leaves you nothing but trial and error to find what you’re looking for.

    I do globalization testing, and although I do know a fair bit of German (which is what I do a lot of my work in,) I also have to work a lot in Japanese, which I know basically nothing of. On an unfamiliar language, I frequently have to rely on a combination of icons and keyboard shortcuts (which, thankfully, are the same as the ENU counterparts on most Windows apps) to get around. Once you start replacing that with text, anyone in that situation is pretty much lost.

  32. Picture this scenario: You are trying to use a computer in Japanese (or some other language which you are not familiar with) and need to be able to find your way around. The text is all in Kanji and Katakana, and you can’t read any of it. The keyboard layout is also going to be unfamiliar most of the time, so you can’t rely on that either. You need to change a setting, so you manage to find the control panel. Once you get there, instead of icons you are greeted by a bunch of different squares in assorted shades of blue, with more kanji on them. This leaves you nothing but trial and error to find what you’re looking for.

    I do globalization testing, and although I do know a fair bit of German (which is what I do a lot of my work in,) I also have to work a lot in Japanese, which I know basically nothing of. On an unfamiliar language, I frequently have to rely on a combination of icons and keyboard shortcuts (which, thankfully, are the same as the ENU counterparts on most Windows apps) to get around. Once you start replacing that with text, anyone in that situation is pretty much lost.

  33. I hate to bring this up, but it’s quite possible that the graphic artist people just haven’t gotten around to getting the approval for the icons.

  34. I hate to bring this up, but it’s quite possible that the graphic artist people just haven’t gotten around to getting the approval for the icons.

  35. It ain’t ASCII, Robert. It’s a font. Hip geek talk is misleading in this cae. It’s an alphabet. It’s letter-shapes. It’s colors. ASCII is a generic table of letters, whereas these are designed forms, particular expressions of the alphabet.
    While I agree that the Firefox icon is strong and memorable, it’s not a compelling counterexample to the problem that Adobe needed to solve: creating a brand family for three-dozen or so products. That said, the solution still hasn’t grown on me. Aping upper-case, lower-case pairing of the symbols for chemical elements is trite. With elements upper and lower case works because the two-letter symbols still represent a single word. In this case, it seems to fit for Ps (Photoshop) but not Ai (Adobe Illustrator). Why do some products include an A for Adobe and some not? It’s arbitrary and mysterious–or as we say in the business, a design choice ;-)

  36. It ain’t ASCII, Robert. It’s a font. Hip geek talk is misleading in this cae. It’s an alphabet. It’s letter-shapes. It’s colors. ASCII is a generic table of letters, whereas these are designed forms, particular expressions of the alphabet.
    While I agree that the Firefox icon is strong and memorable, it’s not a compelling counterexample to the problem that Adobe needed to solve: creating a brand family for three-dozen or so products. That said, the solution still hasn’t grown on me. Aping upper-case, lower-case pairing of the symbols for chemical elements is trite. With elements upper and lower case works because the two-letter symbols still represent a single word. In this case, it seems to fit for Ps (Photoshop) but not Ai (Adobe Illustrator). Why do some products include an A for Adobe and some not? It’s arbitrary and mysterious–or as we say in the business, a design choice ;-)

  37. I started a Photoshop CS3 group on flickr and was using the CS2 icon before I had the beta on my machine. When I finally saw the new icon I wasn’t really sure what to think. For the group I opted for a mixture between the new and the old, just so people that didn’t have the beta would still make a strong visual association.

    That being said, I’ve never been a big fan of the CS2 icons. When you have the whole creative suite in your OSX dock, they don’t make sense. Which one’s the feature, the shell, and the butterflies again? Eventually you learn.

    As for brand building through icons… Photoshop is a superbrand. The icons are almost totally inconsequential. Photoshopping is recognized verb. The icon could be a poop-brown square and it really wouldn’t hardly affect the brand at all.

  38. I started a Photoshop CS3 group on flickr and was using the CS2 icon before I had the beta on my machine. When I finally saw the new icon I wasn’t really sure what to think. For the group I opted for a mixture between the new and the old, just so people that didn’t have the beta would still make a strong visual association.

    That being said, I’ve never been a big fan of the CS2 icons. When you have the whole creative suite in your OSX dock, they don’t make sense. Which one’s the feature, the shell, and the butterflies again? Eventually you learn.

    As for brand building through icons… Photoshop is a superbrand. The icons are almost totally inconsequential. Photoshopping is recognized verb. The icon could be a poop-brown square and it really wouldn’t hardly affect the brand at all.

  39. I am a big fan of Adobe. Are you sure those are “official” Adobe icons? If yes, I am little bit disappointed. Macromedia always have excellent icon and branding. Adobe always have good illustration or image.

    Adobe just release a multimedia email campaign for their loyal customer. And they did such excellent job in concept, drawing, multimedia design.

    This doesn’t sound like Adobe at all. What happen here? Can Adobe call me for usability test? I’ll tell them.

  40. I am a big fan of Adobe. Are you sure those are “official” Adobe icons? If yes, I am little bit disappointed. Macromedia always have excellent icon and branding. Adobe always have good illustration or image.

    Adobe just release a multimedia email campaign for their loyal customer. And they did such excellent job in concept, drawing, multimedia design.

    This doesn’t sound like Adobe at all. What happen here? Can Adobe call me for usability test? I’ll tell them.

  41. I could be wrong, but I would imagine that the icons for PS CS3 are probably the way they are becuase it’s in beta?

  42. I could be wrong, but I would imagine that the icons for PS CS3 are probably the way they are becuase it’s in beta?

  43. There isn’t a company or product in the world worst than M$, but the truth of the matter is, Adobe is beginning to catch up. They’ve really screwed things up in recent years. All hopes that the Macromedia aquisition would help boost Adobe’s cluelessness when it comes to Web Tools has since marched into oblivion. Adobe killed Macromedia big time, and now the icons are just another symptom of their staggering downward spiral.

  44. There isn’t a company or product in the world worst than M$, but the truth of the matter is, Adobe is beginning to catch up. They’ve really screwed things up in recent years. All hopes that the Macromedia aquisition would help boost Adobe’s cluelessness when it comes to Web Tools has since marched into oblivion. Adobe killed Macromedia big time, and now the icons are just another symptom of their staggering downward spiral.

  45. [...] I’m a huge fan of the new icons… as shown here . They sure have stirred up quite a bit of chatter though. Also, I completely agree with Veerle on how Adobe may market them in [...]

  46. “There isn’t a company or product in the world worst than M$, but the truth of the matter is, Adobe is beginning to catch up.”

    Lets take a look a Coke for a second. Not Coca Cola. Crack Cocaine. Is this product less harmful than Microsoft…?

    Look At Enron, screwed their investors of ridiculous amounts of money….

    Look At Microsoft, they used their monopoly to gain control of a capatilistic market and stunted computer innovation for about a decade…. Yeah Microsoft is the fucking devil.

    Look At Adobe, they changed their logo set for their new creative software suite ZOMG!!!!!

    I hate hyperbole slinging, melodramatic idiots.

  47. “There isn’t a company or product in the world worst than M$, but the truth of the matter is, Adobe is beginning to catch up.”

    Lets take a look a Coke for a second. Not Coca Cola. Crack Cocaine. Is this product less harmful than Microsoft…?

    Look At Enron, screwed their investors of ridiculous amounts of money….

    Look At Microsoft, they used their monopoly to gain control of a capatilistic market and stunted computer innovation for about a decade…. Yeah Microsoft is the fucking devil.

    Look At Adobe, they changed their logo set for their new creative software suite ZOMG!!!!!

    I hate hyperbole slinging, melodramatic idiots.