Webreakstuff blog

I love you Adobe, but those icons suck

John Nack, Senior Product Manager for Adobe Photoshop, unveiled the new icons for the upcoming series of Adobe Products – and boy, can I be any more disappointed. The new icon for photoshop is below – Yup, it’s the ugly blue square.

The planned set of icons for Adobe’s CS3 is confusing and maybe overly minimalist (and I’m the minimalist type). Thinking about it, it may be the huge difference that’s shocking me, but I don’t really see a reason for the huge change from the old set of icons to this new one, whose differences are based on lettering and background color alone.

It seems like Jason agrees with my opinion, and Veerle seems to side with the new design and includes an interview with Ryan Hicks, Sr. Experience Designer at Adobe with some insight into the process.

I’m just wondering about the creative process behind the decision to use these new icons. Can two letters and color substitute iconography? I personally don’t think so, but in this case, taste prevails. Have an opinion? Leave it in the comments.

42 comments
  1. Kelli says: December 21, 20067:51 pm

    I love Adobe’s products, and from what I’ve seen of CS3 so far (been playing with the Photoshop CS3 demo for a bit), I really like where things are heading.

    That said, I couldn’t agree with you more. I think the new icons are horrible. What was the point in changing? The current Adobe icon set is much more recognizable and memorable and just all around better.

  2. Foley says: December 21, 20068:07 pm

    I haven’t been a fan of the CS and the CSII icons at all. I keep my dock icons fairly small, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked on the InDesign icons when I was looking for the Photoshop one.

    So yeah, I’m totally onside with the Adobe icons. When I first saw the photoshop icon after downloading the beta of PS III I made a mental note to grab what I figured was only the icon for the beta, and keep it for the release.

    The square icon with the solid block of colour denotes the adobe family, the two letters tell you which app it is. A bit utilitarian, but simple, elegant and functional. That’s what I want from an icon.

  3. Josh Manders says: December 21, 20069:32 pm

    Hells bells, those are some homely icons. I was never much of an Adobe fan but am forced to use the program at work.

  4. Michael.NET says: December 21, 20069:38 pm

    Does it worry them that their icon could stand for a vulgar word (hint: it means urination).

  5. steve says: December 21, 200611:08 pm

    Reminds me of the periodic table.

    Boron, anyone?

  6. Jeremy says: December 21, 200611:45 pm

    I don’t think they’re all that bad. I think having the letters in there is nice, it’s much easier for me to remember an icon is Photoshop or Illustrator based on relevant letters than on images that really mean nothing to me.

  7. Paul Stamatiou says: December 21, 200611:51 pm

    Personally I actually like the icon but then again that’s because P and S compose my initials. However, I would have expected a fancy leaf of some sort.

  8. Jason says: December 22, 200612:27 am

    Form follows function and damn are these some functional icons. Now all I need is an application to change all my icons to two letters and a color of my choice and I’d be set.

    Who cares if its pretty, so long as it conveys the information succinctly and clearly? Minimalism FTW.

  9. Michael Markman says: December 22, 20062:25 am

    On the plus side it’s a unified branded look. I recognize the enormity of the challenge of creating one for a diverse and growing set of applicaitons. On the minus side, I hated memorizing chemical symbols in school. I’m not going to enjoy memorizing a new set of abbreviations for Adobe products. People with better grounding in the cognitive sciences might shed real light on this, but it seems to me that associating an image with a product is a whole different mental path than decoding two-letter abbreviations. This scheme does not induce a positive emotional response for me. It means work. Chemical symbols have an upper-case and a lower-case letter because they stand for one word. In the Adobe scheme, Ps follows that pattern, but Ai is an arbitrary mystery. (I take that back. it’s a design choice.)

  10. jt says: December 22, 20063:15 am

    I glaze over quickly. It took me a while just to find photoshop… and longer to find illustrator, with the old icons I could pick them out instantly… in fact the only icons that stand out are the holdovers.

    This seems like a dumb move all around.

    1. breaks in many non english speaking countries
    2. so similar as to be hard to distinguish
    3. throws out years of brand experience
    4. are a bit pedestrian looking
    5. look out of place with existing icons of other programs
    6. confusing
    7. give no sense of the program’s utility

    etc etc

  11. Doug Karr says: December 22, 20064:00 am

    I like them. Simple, elegant, similar in design. It looks like a nice family.

  12. Rob Lloyd says: December 22, 20064:13 am

    I assumed the PS icon with the PS CS3 beta was some kind of ugly placeholder; shocked to learn that this is the style for their ENTIRE product line. Using Adobe since 1991 – this will be my first skipped upgrade. Bite me, adobe.

  13. Daisuke (Matt) says: December 22, 20067:39 am

    I agree with Steve, It looks way too much like the periodic table.
    I think the old icons where fine, having to memorize more 2 letter acronyms is beyond what i’m willing to take. I am also going to skip this upgrade!

  14. Paul says: December 22, 20068:15 am

    The old icons weren’t very good – but these ones are terrible! Firstly – their all the same shape – and, shape is usually the most important distinguishing feature of an icon. And even inside the block of colour, the Shape of Ps for instance- isn’t much different to Fh (remember that they use small caps – making the problem even worse) and other pairs. third – the colours of the icons are clustered around a few points – theres 3 different red icons (luckily, in this case its actually the three best icons (when taking singularly) of the group. the two white icons with people on them (what are these apps?) are almost the same colour – there’s 3 yellow icons that are almost the same – Di & Br are the same.

    And when the icons are separate it’ll be even worse, since you can’t compare them.

    So we’re left with reading the icon (and having to do that means that Adobe’s already failed) and even then, we don’t get the name of the app or the purpose of the app straight away (its actually impossible to work out the purpose of these apps from the icon) What we get is a clue to decypher (a rather large clue, but a clue none the less) And these clues could also mean something else (eg: ID, PS, Jr, FX) which will slow down comprehension.

    And to add to that – when i looked for fireworks, i came upon Fx – and thought i was right.

    also – for windows users… how does this work in the taskbar???

  15. .. says: December 22, 20069:32 am

    [...] The adobic table of icons. [...]

  16. Thierry_BEZIER says: December 22, 200612:19 pm

    I agree those new “icon-logo-thing” sucks, have they forgotten at Adobe that in “photoshop” there is “photo”?
    those new logo are non sens…

  17. Psousa says: December 22, 20061:28 pm

    I think it’s too generic and there’s a lack of identity if you compare it with previous logos from Adobe.
    Maybe they should have given it more thought.

  18. herrbutzie says: December 22, 20061:35 pm

    i couldn’t read that into thisfar, but i’m just coming from an excellent meal at the Antonia’s, BUT first thing I thought was, thank someone for making graphics work for the user!!!

    WTF with “you want Photoshop? Think feather.”

    What does the freakin’ shell mean? You’ll shell out more later?

    A year later I have to guess. Butterfly? Fire the poofter, let me know it has SOMETHING to do with InDesign!!!

    Illustrator a flower? Whoa, what happened to visual clues (which is what graphic design was originally supposed to be about… the universal language). Ps works just fine, and I applaud whoever had the guts to take his dress off and do the job.

    Hooray for clarity.

  19. cb alyn says: December 22, 20061:47 pm

    I did like the old graphics for PS that had the magnifying glass.
    At least Macromedia now Adobe has simple icons duh circle with the letters of the app. D = dreamweaver, Fw = Fireworks, F = flash

    And what’s with the star for GoLive and the “daisy flower” for Quark 6.0 -6.5?

    Apple’s icon always have related to the app. A musical note for iTunes, a lens for Aperture, the start board for it’s movie apps like iMovie FinalCut Pro, a stamp for their eMail app, a handheld calculator for the calculator -DUH!, a Gibson 335 for GarageBand.

  20. [...] Webreakstuff » I love you Adobe, but those icons suck: I actually rather like the icons and the thought that went behind them. I like when people embrace constraints and run with them, even if the constraints are completely and utterly arbitrary. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed. [...]

  21. Dario Arnaez says: December 22, 20067:36 pm

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  22. mike says: December 22, 20068:29 pm

    I agree. Thats crap. But what can we expect? I mean, before the Macromedia+Adobe merge we saw some truly innovative and creative displays of graphic design skill- at its finest. But that was before the dark times, before the bureaucracy had taken over. We should expect some things such as this to go down…

  23. Webreakstuff » Apollo is seriously cool says: December 23, 20065:57 am

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  24. Ian says: December 23, 200612:40 pm

    Looks like it’s been based on the periodic table. They are nice, and minimalist can be good, but, for a product icon range I’m not convinced.

  25. DanD says: December 23, 20066:01 pm

    I didn’t like the feather because I was used to the eye. Now that I know the feather Ill have to relearn the icon again. Why are they punishing the pro users with these silly branding exercises? I’m lucky I only use Photoshop and Illustrator and that I’m not colorblind or I would have a hell of a time telling one from the other quickly.

  26. Peter Tilbrook says: December 24, 200612:37 am

    Macromedia had great and recognisable icons for their products like ColdFusion, Flash, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, Contribute, etc. Adobe should stick to those and hire the same guns to do a makeover for Photoshop et al – great products themselves but pretty lame logos really. I still really like the Acrobat logo however so am happy if that stays the same.

  27. max says: December 27, 20068:28 pm

    I don’t see anything wrong with the new set of Icons. If you use the entire suite a lot you’ll get used to whatever icons adobe puts out. The way I look at it is, Adobe is a large company with millions to spend. I think they’re very experienced and know how to create great products. I’m sure that they did a lot of consulting and testing with icons before they decided to publish this set.

    I don’t know how many of the people on here are icon experts, I know I’m not, but I do know that Adobe knows what they’re doing and there’s probably various aesthetic and product ID reasons why they look the way they do now.

  28. steph says: January 4, 20074:36 am

    god forbid this spreads to the workspace, can you just see your toolbox under this new “non-iconography” instead of the pen, brush, or arrow tool, you will just have a square with the currently corresponding jump letter, that kind of puts the importance of visual comprehension into context doesn’t it now?

  29. Mike says: January 8, 20077:19 pm

    All I know is Macromedia products will certainly go downhill from this point on. Adobe sucks. PDF – forget about it, that bloated pig of a product blows up my PC, no matter which PC I have installed it on.

  30. jacques says: April 20, 20075:24 am

    oh i miss the photoshop feather so much it was so brilliant oh boo hoo !__!

  31. 73C says: April 27, 200710:10 am

    nice iconset :)

  32. Nolwen Cifuentes · Adobe Screw Up says: September 2, 20074:39 pm

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  33. mark says: September 9, 200712:27 am

    I don’t think those icons are all that bad,too.

  34. [...] I kind of have mixed feelings about the new logo, but so did other people when the new “element chart” icons came out. Who knows though. We’ll see how the campaign [...]

  35. ihai says: September 18, 20071:34 pm

    Those icons are nice,I need more.

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  38. Jesse says: April 23, 20086:34 am

    I prefer the previous icon, these are a great disappointment =( I’ve seen some replacement icons that are pretty sweet, I think I liked the CS2 logo’s the best.

  39. TypeO says: May 20, 20088:40 pm

    Did one of y’all really say you’d skip the upgrade because the icons suck? And someone else the 2 letters are too much to remember?
    Wow. strong wtf?
    Anybody have a clue how the program actually works?
    Because it’s pretty damn impressive, and screw a bunch of “big corporations suck” attitudes.
    This is perhaps the shallowest non-celebrity discussion I’ve encountered in the whole interweb.

  40. Adobe’s “Creative” Packaging. says: September 24, 20081:34 pm

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  41. [...] kidding. But apparently Adobe thinks [...]

  42. Webomatica - Entertainment and Tech Digest says: September 3, 20109:45 pm

    [...] I’m just waiting for the Adobe CS5 icons to start tweeting; have had a few bones to pick with them for years, now. [...]

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