Of all the design applications we use — InDesign, Illustrator, Quark, Flash, Dreamweaver, et al — Photoshop has long been the most popular beyond our industry. Lawyers, architects, accountants, restaurateurs, your dad, mom, brother and sister all know Photoshop. Even if it’s only to ask, “You can Photoshop that, right?” in hopes of magically fixing an underexposed photograph, an old set of frown lines, a muffin top, or to erase a building and reveal the building behind it. Photoshop, like Google and Xerox before it, has also become a verb: Photoshoping this, having Photoshoped that, and thou Photoshopeth. Despite its growing complexity over the years, Photoshop feels like Adobe’s darling, enjoying a myriad of spin-offs targeted to creative tangents like photographers, retouchers and even novices — a treatment no other application in its suite enjoys to such extent. Adding all these versions up in 2007 results in the following line-up: Photoshop CS3, Photoshop CS3 Extended, Photoshop Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, Photoshop Album Starter Edition. Certainly, they need a unique unifying logo! Not.
I have been using Adobe software since 1997, starting with Illustrator 5.0, Photoshop 3.0 and Pagemaker 1.0, upgrading every single time — except for the aberration of technology that was Illustrator 9.0 — and being up to date with the beautiful CS3. Throughout the years, the branding has been simple: Every application is made up of different elements — from Venus, magnifying glasses, paper airplanes and a cornucopia of random elements in the early 90s, to feathers, flowers and butterflies in the early 00s with the introduction of CS, to the colorful periodic table icons of today — unified by a unique stylistic approach, clearly evident over the years as the packaging has evolved. What was beautiful about it, was its almost fascist execution where nothing strayed too far and, as well, rarely overlapped. Even with the addition of the Macromedia product line, Adobe found a way to render everything under a single visual umbrella that on the surface may look simplistic, but I dare anyone to attempt tie the complex brand architecture with a prettier, simpler, broader design.
And now comes in a new logo for Photoshop. Introducing a completely new — and unfortunately cheesy, tacky and gooey — visual language that feels more eager to blend into the shiny world of vapid web graphics than in sustaining the brand equity of powerhouse Adobe. It is more akin to Microsoft Sliverlight than anything Adobe has ever offered. The design direction feels misguided and, even as such, it lands off target in a land of no one. Photoshop has long been a tool to master, testing the mettle of designers, retouchers, interns, printers and photographers, providing acute control over color and content… With its new logo, Photoshop feels like nothing more than a widget you can turn on and off. And it doesn’t even give you the weather.