Adobe Cloud: The future standard for designers?

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Although I touched on this in a previous article, I thought it deserved a post all on it’s own.

Adobe, the company responsible for developing the software that is used almost universally across the print publishing business, has undergone a pretty dramatic change, and not everybody is happy about it.

In a bold move, Adobe has shifted it’s membership plan to a subscription service, meaning customers can now pay monthly fees for software access rather than a one-time payment.

Software like Photoshop and InDesign, recognizable names in the Adobe Master Suite, are now being offered through the Creative Cloud. No longer will you be able to buy an Adobe disk in a store – everything is subscription only.

This is a big deal for everyone in the publishing business, from huge corporate customers to independent designers. Number one, because the Cloud could allow for groundbreaking innovation on the corporate level. Number two, because Photoshop is so expensive, an estimated 60 percent of all Photoshop users are using pirated software, which thanks to the Cloud, has become more affordable.

So can this software take off? Adobe seems to think so, and the numbers support them: profit is going up even as designers across the internet complain, with more than 40,000 signing a Change.org petition to end the subscription service. 

So why does this matter? Think crowdsourcing.

Just as print media has become more collective through the use of mobile media, with Adobe’s switch to cheaper cloud software, more people will have access to cutting-edge graphic design technology. All the pirates will finally be able to drop their ancient copy of CS2 and grab the new stuff, which I predict will change the design landscape a bit.

Consider it: for cheaper, universities and small design collectives will be able to pick up this software, and as we’ve seen with the cameras on cellphones, the more people who have technology, the more previously-untapped talent that comes forward.

I’m wary of difficulties, however. Here are some of my biggest concerns from a designer’s standpoint.

Will the frequency of upgrades increase with this service? A few hours of unannounced upgrade down-time can put even the biggest magazine’s daily flow into a tailspin. If there are going to be more upgrades, they need to be announced and easy to install.

Will third party extensions and plugins still work with the cloud Suite? These extensions connect the dots for designers, often being an integral part of the workflow. The humble BPelt plugin is a massive favorite among web graphic designers and cartoonists. Take things like BPelt off the table and you’ll lose customers.

Will anyone even buy Creative Cloud? Its already been pirated, yo ho ho. But I think this is missing the point. It’s never going to stop the hardcore hackers who download everything, but it’s going to probably sway the casual torrenter to think about going legit.

I hope as more people subscribe we start to see less knee-jerk opinions and more critical thought about this upgrade. In the meantime I’ll continue to enjoy my university’s CS6 subscription.

 

When logos go flat: search engine edition

Whether or not you like it, flat design is here. Regardless of the actual merits of flat design, it’s spreading across all digital platforms, most recently in iOS7, which everyone is raving about.

In an interesting development, three of the three biggest internet search engines have switched their logos to reflect an increased emphasis on flat design, marking a societal shift in web design. When the three biggest names on the web – Google, Microsoft and Yahoo – all change their design to reflect a certain aesthetic, you should probably pay attention.

The Google Tossup

Search giant Google has finally unveiled their new logo, and as you can see, the difference is just slight.

New Logo.

New Logo.

Old Logo.

Old Logo.

Google has finally gotten on the flat train! Granted, you can’t say this was a last-minute reaction to the flat design trend – Google has been using this logo internally for a while. The old logo will be phased out on the website over the next few weeks.

The reason for the change? To make the logo fit with the current design interface, as they told CreativeBloq.

And as luck would have it, a major competitor went flat in the same week.

Bing Gets a Facelift

Bing, Microsoft’s original search engine, hasn’t made a whole lot of waves in the digital world. Basically, it’s hard to compete with a search company so powerful their name has become a verb meaning “to web search.” Nice work Google.

Statistics be damned – Microsoft hasn’t given up yet. Behold the change from the old logo (bottom) to the new flat design (top.)

ea0055f7-512f-4dde-a571-0b41b178b9a6_BingOldNewIt reportedly took them a year to develop that logo. Riiiiight.

Yahoo Stumbles Again 

Oh Yahoo. You’re so funny. The technorati can’t take you seriously, even after Marissa Mayer signed on as CEO and started flipping stuff around. Even buying Tumblr isn’t going to make you hip.

And yet, you still come out with a new logo. Bonus points for trying, but… You didn’t get the flat design part right.

The top one is the new logo, and the bottom one is the old.

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Wait.., you left from flat to something weirder? Come on! Even one of your interns designed a logo, and it kept closer to the world standard for design trends than what you chose!

In fact, the following creation, designed by Yahoo! intern Brad Ehney, was so popular people thought it was the actual logo. 

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Here’s the bottom line: if the world’s biggest tech giants, who drive billions of hits of traffic everyday, are considering a graphical redesign, magazine publishers should as well. If the objective is to secure readers to a brand, then the brand needs to have a digital presence that looks, feels and operates similar to the user’s most-used applications.

Unequivocally, these apps are designed by Google, Microsoft and the like. So if magazines want to drive web traffic, they need to step up. Forget partnerships with Sony – get yourself some web devs from Google.

Blurred Lines: Imaging Edge

Addendum: A general failure to properly apply post scheduling has resulted in three posts today. So enjoy!

So as you may know, print journalism is having a mid-life crisis: as print readership starts to decline, so does revenue. As a result, some magazines have been changing up their advertising game. From Buzzfeed’s native advertising to fashion magazines’ selling the goods they review, everybody’s looking to make a quick buck.

The downside: the lines are blurred between editorial and advertising content, making it harder for a reader to distinguish between the two. One could argue magazines are leveraging their readers’ trust in order to make money – knowing your readers will engage with a certain topic is a very powerful bargaining chip during advertising deals.

And the lines keep blurring. Case in point: Imaging Edge, a new magazine launched last week by Bonnier.

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Imaging Edge is a photography magazine. Put together by a hybrid team from American Photography and Pop Photo, it’s hitting the ground running with an Android-ready tablet issue and a handful of special subscriber-only events.

There’s just one catch: the whole thing is funded by a “partnership with Sony Corporation.”

As you may know, Sony is one of the biggest digital camera retailers on the planet. Suddenly, this beautiful young magazine looks very suspicious.

Do you trust a magazine produced by a retailer who isn’t concerned with bias? Would you respect a publishing company that works so closely with the corporations they’re supposed to cover? Is this not an underhanded advertising strategy?

Let’s think this out before we draw conclusions.

A partnership with a retailer suggests the possibility of biased reporting. Naturally, a publisher paying enough money to make their relationship a “partnership” isn’t going to stand for any reporting that runs contrary to the corporation’s interests. That being said, all the ads on the magazine’s website are for Sony cameras. And look at that first post in the screenshot below: not a word about an explicit focus on Sony equipment.

sfdfdfdfd“State of the art technology” made by your friends at Sony, of course. This makes me feel like I’m being fooled.

The magazine and the website are gorgeous and work perfectly.  Unfortunately, this is probably a byproduct of Sony’s funding. It’s clean and representative of a standard digital design aesthetic, with awesome Sans Serifs and great photography. Another interesting aspect is the focus on individual photographers’ work. Throughout the magazine, certain excellent photographers are labeled as “Sony Artisans of Imagery,” who are of course using Sony equipment. It’s like a micro version of the celebrity endorsement advertising strategy.

But still, I’m wooed by a pretty face. Here’s a shot of a photo gallery on the site.

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Do we even really care if our magazines blur the lines? It’s pretty obvious that broadcast media has sold it’s soul for ratings, and yet people still watch. In fact, they don’t just watch – some build their decisions around what they see.

So Imaging Edge begs some questions. Do we even care if Sony is influencing this magazine? Will anyone read it anyway? As these lines start to blur, what have we become as consumers? What have magazines become? Magazines never had the same explicit advertising/editorial split seen in newspapers.

In fact, perhaps this magazine isn’t unique in it’s relationship with retailers – maybe magazines have been in bed with retailers all along, and we’re okay with it.

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Just some food for thought.