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San Francisco Director of Experience Design - Brand & Experience Joined almost 7 years ago
Thanks for the question. It's true that Adobe has traditionally not been afraid to let different product teams handle interactions like a color picker in different ways. In some cases this is due to tradition within the individual product and in some cases it's because a new product might want to do something in a way they have found optimal for their particular user base. But that can, as you point out, be frustrating at times for users of multiple products. It's a balance.
With new apps, we're taking the opportunity to have fresh conversations amongst all of our designers, product managers, and users about the best path forward. You can see this in the new app frame that products like Lightroom CC and Premiere Rush are using, and in the upcoming Photoshop for iPad. It's funny that you mention color pickers, because that's a specific pattern that has been given a lot of attention. Font pickers, too.
It's likely that as we learn from these new common patterns, you'll see some of that make it's way into the existing flagship apps. But we've found in talking to our existing users that there's a careful balance to be made between making big unilateral changes and keeping the UI that they're familiar with and use to do their jobs. One seemingly small change, even for the better, can result in tons of productivity lost in the creative industry.
Note: For those of you adding questions or comments after 5pm PDT, we will respond during the following workday (most of our team is based in San Francisco). Thanks and have a good day or night!
First, We've already applied a lot of Spectrum elements like colors to our flagship apps like Photoshop and Illustrator, and obviously those apps are more dense and have different needs. But if you look at how those apps looked five years ago and today, the Spectrum influence will be unmistakeable. We're looking at a second round of work on those apps now and those teams are doing a ton of work to make them ready for bigger UI shifts.
But we're also investing as a company in new apps like Photoshop for iPad, Lightroom CC, Premiere Rush, and other apps that we announced at MAX last year. These apps have a lot of the power of their traditional desktop counterparts, but from their inception, the overall organization of the app has been considered with Spectrum in mind. We're using a lot more progressive disclosure and modality instead of just throwing every panel in the world at you all the time.
Xd is like this, too... the property inspector in Xd only ever shows you what you need at any given moment. So even though there's a ton of power there, we're selective about what you see and when.
From the beginning, Spectrum was designed to not only give us a North Star to aim for with new apps (some of which you're seeing now), it also considered what we'd need to do to start modernizing our existing flagship apps.
(And each of those are an opportunity for us to learn and add to the richness of Spectrum.)
I'll take that in reverse order. First off, Google. We were actually a couple of years into our work on Spectrum when Material came out. Speaking for myself, I feel like the Material Style Guide was a huge Design Achievement on it’s own terms. And I think the language itself did a really admirable job solving for it’s area of focus: (mostly) lightweight apps on Android on a phone or tablet. We met with the Material team a number of times in the early days and I think we all found we had a lot in common in terms of how we thought about the work and the experience of selling something like that to a big company.
That said, sometimes we’re pretty jealous of companies who are solving design systems in a more focused, specific way. It’s great that you solved for your one app across three platforms with a brand new tech stack, but that’s NOT the kind of problem we are dealing with. We’re dealing with 100+ products across six surfaces, three(+) customer verticals and dozens of code bases spanning decades.
But that unique challenge has forced us to solve our needs with some uniquely abstract approaches. And Adobe is a company that makes design tooling, too. So I think you’ll start to see some of what we’ve learned make its way into products like Xd very soon.
Releasing the Spectrum language is mostly about empowering our developer community and business partners to more easily build plugins, extensions, and integrations and to bolster our growing platform for developers. We also hope that designers might find value in some of the tough problem we’ve solved for, but we don’t have millions of people building stuff on Adobe’s platform (yet!).
Hey Jacob— I'm sure you've figured this out by now, but we're not the team working on the Adobe product called Xd (Experience Design). That very confusion was one of the driving factors in our decision to change the name of our organization form XD to Adobe Design.
That said, we are SO excited about the amazing work that team is doing. You can contact them on Twitter at @AdobeXD.
That’s a really good question. Sounds like you’ve spent some time doing design work in the real world.
First and foremost, I’d point out that Sonja, Sam, and I have been together as a team for six years (Anny came on board about a year ago and has been such an awesome addition). When it comes to the aspects of the job that involve building coalition and trust, selling, and shipping design, it’s impossible to overstate the efficiencies that result from having a group of people spend that much time iterating on a single set of problems.
Over the years, we’ve built a fantastic partnership with our Brand Strategy team (with whom we work hand-in-hand), earned trust with the senior leadership of the company, and gained a strong network of support, overall. We've also learned what it takes to make a lasting and extensible brand architecture that can fit so many varied products and services within it.
All of those structures and relationships took countless hours of investment but they’ve paid immense dividends in the end. The kind of politics you’re referring to used to take up a lot of our time, but now is a small and slowly shrinking minority. There are still disagreements from time-to-time, but the overall alignment we have (visually, philosophically, and politically) on issues of brand limit the range of possibilities, so it’s normally smaller issues we have to grapple with these days.
But that doesn’t mean we spend the majority of our time doing the execution end of the job, either. Despite our best efforts to build a system that is extensible and timeless, the truth is that Adobe is a big, fast-moving company. Adobe is not afraid to try new things and sometimes those new things don’t fit neatly into the tidy system we’ve created. So we do spend a lot of time dealing with the strategy end of things, which involves a lot of email, meetings, research, and other tasks that don’t involve laying down pixels.
Hi there. I lead the team that worked on this project. Someone who runs this site brought this post to my attention.
I was a little bummed at the negativity here but the confusion I can understand. The Behance post focuses on the work itself and admittedly doesn't do much to explain our organization. We've been asked to do an AMA on here at some point in the near future, so I'm just going to offer this one post to clear up the broad points and will save further responses for later.
Adobe XD (Experience Design) is/was a global design organization that's been around for more than a decade. There are about 160 of us and we work on nearly every Adobe product and service (of which there are more than 100, if you can believe it). This work crosses Creative Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Document Cloud, and is absolutely massive in scope.
A few years ago, we were heavily involved in creating a product that was then called "Project Comet". When that project was mature enough to release as a beta, our Brand Strategy team thought long and hard about what to call it and, in the end, decided that "Experience Design" was the best name for that product since that’s precisely what it’s intended use is.
As you can imagine, that led to some confusion here. When someone talked about the "XD Team" it was no longer clear who they were referring to. Adobe is a company of around 15,000 people, so it’s extremely important that our organization be easy to talk about. Though we liked XD as a name and had a strong emotional investment in it, it was no longer functioning the way we needed it to.
Beyond that, most of our friends working in large centralized design organizations at companies like Google, Facebook, and the like were simply calling themselves “[Company] Design” and we decided it made sense to follow suit. This also simplifies things from a recruiting and outreach perspective within our community.
The project on Behance is meant as a simple process document to show how we went about creating a new visual identity for ourselves as we moved from being called XD to Adobe Design. We wanted to focus on the design process itself and not the underlying business reasons why we needed to do it, since people mostly go to Behance to see beautiful things not read about the strategy behind it.
Most of the work was done by one designer, Anny Chen, over the course of a few months. I manage this team along with a few others and helped with some creative direction as did the other two designers who are credited on the project. We had regular formal and informal critiques throughout the process and helped steer a little bit, but Anny worked the process and got this result.
I hope this clears up some of the background on who we are and what this project was about. Thank you for your interest.
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We do have common codebases across many of our apps, but keep in mind that some of them have been in market for decades. And also there's a lot more UI in those flagship apps than you think. Even if you have a common front end framework established, the time and manpower it would take to re-implement something like Photoshop from scratch is at least an order of magnitude more complex than most people realize. And that work would come with a trade-off of not being able to do other work. There's a balance, and it's something that's always being evaluated.
In the meantime, the Spectrum team, and the Design team at large, are always working to move the overall experience in the right direction.