February 16, 2006

Illustrator Interview: Mordy Golding

So it's my turn. I won't bother "introducing" myself -- I would hope you know who I am :)

But hopefully, this post will give a bit more insight into my persona.

This is two-part question: 1. Name two features currently in FreeHand that you wish were in Illustrator today; 2. What would you like Adobe to do with Freehand - (a) kill it, (b) develop it, (c) cannibalise it and incorporate its best bits into Illustrator (d) other?

Tough question. I saw a post on the user to user forum that will qualify as my first wish for Illustrator -- to have the ability to display anchor points as larger squares. On today's high-resolution monitors, the tiny anchor points in AI are not only hard to see, they are equally as hard to select. But since I do sometimes like the smaller anchor points (as they don't make it hard to see your design), I would want a keyboard shortcut to instantly make them larger at will. As an example, I will refer you to Photoshop's Vanishing Point filter. When you are trying to define a grid, pressing the X key zooms in on your cursor and when you release the key, it snaps back to regular size.

My second wish (I know you're all hoping for multiple pages, logarithmic blends, graphic search and replace, or paste inside) is going to be an odd one. FreeHand has the ability to set an lpi and screen dot shape for individual objects in a file. I think this is totally cool and allows for very creative effects. If AI doesn't take this exactly, I would at least hope for a Live Effect that would apply the simulation of such screen effects (I've asked Paul Asente about this on ocassion -- especially after he first showed me his now-famous Scribble effect, but he said that he didn't understand why people would want it).

As for what I would like Adobe to do with FreeHand, I'll answer that by starting with your suggested answers:

(a) - Kill it. From a business perspective, you might think that this makes sense. But remember that in the world of tech, IP and patents are taken very seriously. Still though, by killing FH, you eliminate the closest "competitor" to Illustrator and you force one of two things to happen in the market: either FH users migrate to AI and make AI even stronger, or they migrate to a competing product like Corel, Canvas, or dare I say, Acrylic. In my opinion though, simply killing it makes no sense, as the technology is worth more than the revenue it would bring in.

(b) - Develop it. If I were working at Adobe today, I dont' see how I could possibly justify continuing development of FH. If you had any idea what it takes to ship a software product, you would surely agree with me. There would have to be a tremendous possible return on investment for this to happen. But the market simply doesn't exist. I can't think of a single industry that FH is currently used in (other than the Newspaper industry) that Adobe could possibly market FH to where AI isn't already successful. And if Adobe identified a market to go after, they could probably attack that market with the strengths behind Illustrator far more effeciently than trying to generate a marketing push behind FH.

(c) - Cannibalize it. Obviously, from the outset, this makes the most sense. Taking features from FH -- using patents that were developed for FH -- could prove beneficial to AI and to its user base. There's no question about it. At the same time, I am fully aware of how much effort is required to develop a new feature for Illustrator. And it's important to be clear here. Any feature that exists in FH can't simply be ported over to Illustrator. It must be developed from scratch, as if it were a brand new feature. Now look at how many features normally appear in each new version of AI -- let's say somewhere in the range of 3-4 major features, and 10-15 minor ones. If you figure that you'd even HALF of all of new features in future versions of AI to be features that came from FH, it would take several versions (read: years and years) to have a complete cannibalization of FH. So yes, this is a wonderful idea, but unless Adobe would dedicate a tremendous amount of resources to the Illustrator team (and oh how I wish that were so), I would predict that slowly, over time, we'd see small enhancements added to AI that were FH innovations. But I doubt they'd be added fast enough for our tastes.

(d) - Other. We'll, Adobe could always sell it, right? I can't see a benefit because like I said, they would probably want to keep the patents. Adobe certainly doesn't need the money, that's for sure. But, hey, wouldn't it be cool if Adobe would release FH as open source and let the world develop it on its own? Now THAT would be cool. The benefit to Adobe would be that it would have the right to use new feature ideas developed in opensource and incorporate them into future versions of AI.

How can you manage your time between your consulting company, writing book, doing conference speaking, your time you spend online answering peoples questions and you family (wife and three kids)? Did you clone yourself a few times?

I've CONSTANTLY been asking around for info on cloning myself. Any leads would be helpful. Although if you're a Calvin & Hobbes fan, you know that Calvin duplicated himself thinking he'd send his duplicate to school for him while he played at home. Instead, his duplicate made HIM clean up his room and go to school while the duplicate goofed off all the time...

Seriously though, I don't have a good answer for you. I LOVE what I do and therefore, I find myself doing it all the time. I usually don't get to bed until around 2 or 3 AM. My trick with my family is that since I make my own hours and workdays, I plan family time into my schedule. I eat dinner with the kids almost every weeknight. That's sacred time that can't be touched. I work on weekends, but only when the kids are out with friends or when the wife is out shopping. I also plug into my schedule certain times or days and treat family events as work. For example, I have a friday morning meeting on my calendar every Friday morning from 9-10 -- breakfast with my wife at our favorite local breakfast restaurant. That started when I used to work at Adobe and I lived and worked in San Jose, but my family lived in NY. So I'd take the red-eye flight home every Thursday night and arrive in NY early Friday morning. After my wife picked me up from the airport, we'd have breakfast together. Now that I live back in NY, we've kept the Friday morning meetings :)

What frustrates you most about Illustrator?

Oh my, where does the list start? I'll tell you my most recent frustration (which I've conveniently related to Phil Guindi last week). I can't believe that Illustrator still can't create interactive PDF files. InDesign does so with ease. But you can't create a hyperlink or a URL or a stupid rollover or even embed a movie or a Flash file within an AI document and save it as a media-rich PDF file. To me, that's totally unacceptable.

Oh, and a close second would be the inability to align individual anchor points with the Align palete.

Would you like to see Illustrator become a pure vector application again, leaving all the raster stuff to Photoshop?

Heck no. While my brain certainly loves what vectors bring to the table, I still love the kinds of effects you can achieve with pixels. And if AI will let me use whatever I need for the task at hand, that's where I want AI to go.

What's your favourite tipple?

My favorite has always been the ability to set a key object when aligning objects with the Align palette. You select all of the objects that you want to align, you click on the object that you want to STAY, and then you click on the appropriate align palette button. It's probably the most intuitive thing ever devised and makes so much sense when you use it. In contrast, InDesign can't do this and I've BEGGED the InDesign team to copy AI's behavior. I hope they listen one day.

When will we see Adobe-branded Flash, and how tightly would/should Illustrator be integrated with it?

Well, I don't work at Adobe anymore, and as such, am not privy to what goes on there (we'll, nothing that I'll admit openly anyway). But I'll bet my last dollar that Adobe will be putting an incredible amount of effort behind Flash technology. And I'd be willing to bet the shirt off my back that Illustrator will begin to play a very large part in that picture as well. It makes SO much sense to get Illustrator and Flash to sync up and work as one. In fact, I'm salivating at the thought of integrating the two of them. And I have lots of wishes for how I'd like to see that happen.

What tool currently in Illustrator has outlived its usefulness and can be killed (besides the Flare tool)?

The poor Flare tool. It has like several patents on it and Ted Alspach worked really hard on defining that feature. It's too bad that it's the kind of effect that you need to apply about once every 15 years or so. SIGH.

But if you want my opinion on what tool has outlived its usefulness, I'll give you an answer that might surprise you -- the Divide command in the Pathfinder palette. This was, at one time, the most used function in Illustrator. But with the advent of Live Paint, I NEVER use it anymore. NEVER. Not once. Since I've been using CS2, I will tell you that I haven't used the Divide function even once. Get rid of it I say -- that kind of path editing is dead to me.

After your recent two-plus feet of snow while Northern California has been basking in the sunny 70s for the past two weeks, do you still prefer New York?

When I moved back to NY, I promised myself that I would never complain about the weather. After all, for three years in sunny CA, I had all you could ask for. But life is more than weather, and having been born and raised in NY, I just can't seem to live anywhere else. CA is gorgeous. The coast is a sight to behold. But NY has a flavor that exists nowhere else. I have to say, the steel and concrete skyline of NY is something that mesmerizes me and gives me strength. There's nothing in CA that can give me that feeling. Besides, you can't find a decent bagel in CA if your life depended on it.

What's your favorite winter Olympics sport?

I'm not big into the Olympics, but if I was forced to choose a sport, I'd say Ice Hockey. And that would only be because I still remember as a kid when team USA pulled off the Miracle in Lake Placid in 1980. Unfortunately, the excitement of the olympics that existed at that time (mainly due to tensions that existed in world politics) are not in place today. And so the games are far less exciting.

Do you have any hobbies not related to your work?

When am I not doing work?! Hee hee...

Actually, I'm an avid golfer (avid doesn't necessarily mean "good"). I also collect tchochkies (got lots of those when I was at Adobe). And I love to read (biographies -- I'm fascinated by how others have lived their lives).

:) Mordy


Newmango said...

An artist friend who lives in NYC came to San Francisco for a couple of weeks to oversee the installation of a giant canvas in a corporate office. His painting style was abstract and harsh, full of angst, and he smoked like a chimney. After a week in California, he started to mellow out a bit and he was shamed into cutting down on the cigs. He commented to me, "I could get used to this." I replied, "If you do, you can forget about doing that kind of painting."

Teri Pettit said...


Good answers. Although I thought by "favorite tipple", Michael meant what do you like to imbibe.

I take it you were interpreting "tipple" as a "little tip"?

Mordy Golding said...

Ha! silly me... Yes, I did think that tipple was an odd (but cute) way of referring to a "little tip".

Now that I know what it really is, I'll tell you that the answer is a good single-malt scotch, neat.

Teri Pettit said...

Should we reveal to the masses that every development cycle, QE logs a bug:

PROBLEM: The Flare tool is still in the Toolbox

METHOD: Launch Illustrator. Mouse down on the Rectangle tool and observe the flyout.

RESULT: Flare tool appears in the list of tools.

EXPECTED: No Flare tool

It always gets deferred.

Newmango said...

I thought that's what tipple meant, too.

tipple: noun - a serving of drink (usually alcoholic)
Synonyms: draft, draught, potation

But I like Mordy's Illustrator-related interpretation.

The Flare tool a bug? Ha!

david Hamuel said...

> As for what I would like Adobe to do with ....

Why Adobe Killed ATM? and Streamline? not the same thing as FH.....

Michael H. Phillips said...


The Flare Tool 'bug' could be cured at a single stroke by giving us a fully customisable Toolbar (cf. Freehand).

Anonymous said...

Leave the poor Flare tool alone! It doesn't do anyone any harm, and yes, it's not essential, but it's very nice!

Mordy Golding said...

David, ATM was killed because the technology was no longer needed -- it was being built into the new modern operating systems.

Streamline was completely different. Adobe didn't own the code (streamline was licensed from another company). Rather than continue on that route, Adobe developed their own proprietary technology (Live Trace in Illustrator CS2) instead.

edac2 said...

Adobe could always cannibalize Freehand patents AND keep it around for users who don't want to switch to AI (like they did with PageMaker and InDesign). I certainly wouldn't mind seeing "Paste Inside" incorporated into AI. As for multiple pages, I'm guessing that's what InDesign is for.

This is not the first time Adobe has acquired Freehand. Back in the day, Adobe bought Aldus, which is where PageMaker came from. I believe Freehand was sold back to its developer, Altsys, which was later acquired by Macromedia.

I always though Macromedia would buy QuarkXPress so it could have a suite that competes with CS2, but I was wrong.

designdog said...

Here's an easy one for Adobe to fix in AI: move the "align to artboard" onto the alignment panel, instead of hiding it. Flash has an excellent alignment panel.

This feature doesn't even exist in Photoshop and InDesign, but that's another story.

Mordy Golding said...

Yeah, the Laign to Artboard setting is hidden and too many people are unaware of its existence.

With regards to things missing from InDesign and Photoshop, oh that list goes on forever (including InDesign's inability to define a key object when aligning things), but remember that there are also plenty of things that ID and PS have that AI still lacks.

For example, InDesign can align dashes evenly along a stroke and display even corners. AI can't do that (without the help of a Pattern Brush anyway)...

gamba said...

You stated : 'I know you're all hoping for multiple pages, logarithmic blends, graphic search and replace, or paste inside', and you were right, oh so very right.
Also point level align and distribute would be great.
Maybe to include Freehands and Indesigns simple ctrl-click to select object below.

As for DIVIDE command in PATHFINDER, I must say I disagree. If Illustrator was the only design environment that could be the case. Since many designs are being created in significantly less sophisticated (considering vector manipulation) applications the ability to export clean path is still a necessity.

TenaciousB said...

sorry this string is prolly dead, but i hafta know...

How does LIVE TRACE replace DIVIDE?


Divide is the best/easiest way to overlap shapes to create more complex paths. Given the geometric emphasis of AI (and illustration in general) this tool should never go away.

Am I missing something.

...for example, How would you draw PacMan.

would you painstakingly try to draw a perfect circle with a wedge cut out of it?

Why not draw a circle, then a wedge, overlap then DIVIDE?

DIVIDE and conquer... i say.