December 27, 2005

Fading Like a Flower

Yep, it's a Roxette song from the 80s, but what I wanted to talk about was the icon for Illustrator -- the orange flower (in CS, it was pink). I guess the flower is nice, but we all know that we miss Venus. I was watching a documentary on TV last night and the showed a picture of Botteccelli's painting and my heart cried inside just a little.

Some of you know that the beloved Illustrator engineers (actually, it was the Quality Engineering department) found a way to keep Venus alive. Type the letter V-E-N-U-S into your keyboard (as long as the Type tool isn't active), and the flower in the toolbox will switch to an image of Venus. Type the letters again and the flower will return.

But here's some information that you may not have known. When the imagery for the applications was being developed, the Illustrator team was presented with a feather as an icon. The Photoshop team was presented with a flower. Besides the fact that each team's pride was already hurt (knowing they would be losing Venus and the eternal "eye" of PS), the teams weren't pleased with these icons at all. But like any sibling rivalry, the PS team said "we want AI's feather" and the AI team said, "we kinda like the flower" and so a trade was made. Photoshop got the feather, and Illustrator got the flower. At one point, the Illustrator team also considered using a seashell as its icon (in the original painting, Venus is standing in a shell). Looks like the seashell eventially ended up with Bridge.


Newmango said...

I'm always the frist to feel robbed when something I cherish is taken away. But I'm always willing to give the new thing a fair chance, and if I like it, move on with it and not look back. Such is the case with the orange flower. It is SO much more lovely than the red one of CS1, and the entire Creative Suite makes a beautiful little statement in my OSX dock at the bottom of my screen. Except for Acrobat - were its icon designers sent to a separate part of the building? I've kicked Acrobat out of the group by putting AI 10 between it and AICS.

Mordy Golding said...

Funny you should ask -- Acrobat is in a completely different building than the other creative applications. Actually, it's interesting to note the locations of the teams. While there is certainly overlap (and core tech serves most of the apps as well), the teams generally fall into the following geography:

Illustrator - Adobe San Jose, West Tower
Photoshop - Adobe San Jose, West Tower
InDesign - Adobe Seattle
GoLive - Adobe Hamburg (Germany)
Acrobat - Adobe San Jose, East Tower
After Effects - Adobe Seattle
Premiere - Adobe San Jose, West Tower

As a side note, what Adobe has been doing with the imagery for Acrobat lately is pretty cool (the UI is another story though)...

Sandee Cohen said...


Is there any truth to these rumours?

GoLive is a star because the first navigational instruments were stars?

Photoshop took the feather because feathers were the first painting instruments?

Bridge got the sea shell because shells can be used as a method of communication and Bridge communicates with all the apps?

And is it true that the Version Cue leaf is a pot plant?

Mordy Golding said...

Wow -- those are interesting rumors. If they are true, I certainly am not aware of it. I'm sure that when the firm who actually did the redesign presented their ideas to Adobe, they probably pontificated about the underlying meaning of each icon.

Here's what I do know. The underlying theme was "organic" because Adobe wanted to get back to basics and to reconnect with the core designer. So all icons had to be organic in nature. I think that when Photoshop saw the feather icon, they said "hey, we have a feather command, so we'll take that" (sure, AI and ID also have a feather command, but I guess it appeared first in PS...).

GoLive was a star because their imagery was always somewhere in outerspace (and a planet seems kinds dull)... I guess they could have chosen a black hole, but there's too much symbolism there :)

As for the leaves, I can tell you that the suite in general has the leaves as well. The premium edition, which contains 5 apps, has a plant with 5 leaves, and the standard edition, which contains 3 apps, is featured with a 3-leaf plant.

You're not the first person to approach me about whether the leaf is a marijuana leaf -- in reality, it's a japanese maple, but they do seem to be similar (and more so if you've been smoking a joint or two)...

:) Mordy

Scott F said...

I hate the new icons.

First, I'm used to the way the icons have looked for years. Now that they've changed, I don't immediately think "Illustrator" when I see the flower. I went from "Venus = Illustator" to "Flowere = what? Oh yeah, Illustrator"

Second, there's little to distinguish them. They look so much alike that I have to actually pause to look at the icons, rather than just glance at them to tell one from the other. This is unintuitive and make the visual interface worse.

Third, the feather would be more suitable for Illustrator, since it resembles a quill, which one associated with a pen, Illustrator's power-tool.

Fourth, it's just one more mistake Adobe has made. Let's add that to the list, which includes:

* Calling the programs "CS".
* Shipping Illustrator 11 when it was far from ready.
* Not fixing Illustrator 11.
* Charging for Illustrator 12.
* Having at least 3 diferent versions of InDesign numbered 3.01.
* Illustrator's 3D effects.
* Photoshop's terrible interface for File > Automate > Batch, especially in Windows.

Jim said...

I have to say that, even after almost 2 years with the new icons, I still accidentally click Photoshop instead of Illustrator. The icons just don't mean anything. The problem is even worse between Photoshop and InDesign. Venus and the Eye worked because they were unique and easily/quickly referenced and associated in the user's mind. From a marketing standpoint, the new icons definitely make for a nifty family/suite arrangement...but they don't work nearly as well from a workflow perspective.
But, what's done is done...

Eric said...

Its probably because I am only been using the cs suites for a few years, but the icons are wonderful, I always emediately know what program it is, i see, orange flower and think illustrator, and I always associate the feather with ps :)

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