my left brain and my right brain

Minimalism. A New Approach for Adobe.

I’m an avid fan of Adobe software applications. I love the way Adobe products easily integrate with one another and facilitate efficient workflow. I have been a long time user of After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash – in fact, most of the applications in the Adobe Master Collection.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a trend where Adobe is introducing more and more applications – each meeting specific needs of a narrow target market. More often than not, these ‘new’ applications ultimately have features that already exist in established Adobe products. Adobe is becoming a company with numerous ‘fragmented’ products.

Adobe, I’d like to make a suggestion. Consider implementing a ‘minimalist’ approach. Build on core applications. Create add-ons.

Adobe has a handful of – what I consider – ‘core‘ applications:

After Effects
Audition
ColdFusion
Illustrator
InDesign
Photoshop
Premiere

Flash used to be in this category, but over the past 5 years or so, it’s developed an identity crisis. Is it a tool for animation? Web development?Rich internet applications? Mobile apps?

How minimalism work

Using the job title Designer, let’s take a look at a real-world example of how this would work.

InDesign is what I consider a ‘core’ application. It is a powerful application created specifically for professional graphic designers. Using the motion picture analogy, InDesign would be the lead actor.

Graphic designers commonly use photography and illustration in their work. If you need to customize a photo, you use Photoshop – another ‘core’ application. You can also use Photoshop to create raster based illustrations. If you want to include vector illustration or graphics, you reach for Illustrator – another ‘core’ application. As in motion pictures, these applications take the role of supporting actors.

But everything that designers create, are ultimately for a specific medium: print, web, digital publication, etc. This is where the concept of output modules come into play.

The concept is simple:
Design using the top design tool in the industry – InDesign. Select the Adobe output module for your specific needs.

Need to output for digital publication? Design in InDesign, and purchase the Adobe Digital Publication output module.

Designing for web? Design in InDesign, and purchase the Adobe Web output model.

Some features of Acrobat would be incorporated into InDesign, and the remaining would become an output model. The same would be true for Dreamweaver and Fireworks. Muse would be dropped and instead, a web based, fully-functional InDesign would take it’s place.

Perhaps in the future, all core-applications and output modules would become cloud based for ease of updates.

For Developers…

ColdFusion is a core application. But the coding tools for ColdFusion could be the same tools that are used for Flex – both based on Eclipse. Not a separate Flash Builder and ColdFusion Builder. In fact, many of the features of Dreamweaver that are specifically for coders could use this same tool. You’d purchase the core developer tool, and purchase the ColdFusion, Flash Builder, web output modules to meet your specific needs.

Upcoming applications…

Even the new Adobe Edge, currently in beta, could be eliminated. As much as I like this new application, it’s core concept is very similar to After Effects (but actually has a nicer interface since it is a newer app). After Effects uses a similar timeline and can create similar – as well as much more sophisticated – animations and motion graphics. The output module (Edge) would convert it to HTML5, CSS, and jQuery, for use on the web.

Adobe Dynamic Link: The Driving Force

The concept behind Adobe Dynamic Link would drive all of these tools. Each application would have the ability to output XML instructions that would be interpreted by the output module. The Adobe Dynamic Link server becomes the ‘behind-the-scenes’ translator between core-applications and output modules.

The Adobe Analogy

In New Mexico it’s common to see rambling hundred year old adobe homes or buildings. What started out as a small, efficient structure, gets added onto every couple of decades as current needs dictate. Ultimately, these structures wind up being a maze of multiple rooms, that each may serve a specific need – but ultimately aren’t efficient, or a good use of space. They may have character. They may be charming. But they are not efficient. Sometimes it’s better to raze the structure, and start new construction that ensures the structure is efficient and meets code.

Perhaps it’s not coincidental that Adobe – the company with the same name – tends to follow this same practice with their software. After Effects, for example, has been updated many times over it’s life span – but to my knowledge has never been completely rewritten. Ultimately, it’s not as efficient as it could be and is due for a major overhaul.

Would end-users be better served if software had cycles of being ‘razed’ and be completely rebuilt using modern day technology and innovative and efficient interfaces?

A win-win for all

End-users only need to learn a handful of core applications. They rely on output modules to handle the ‘grunt’ work. This translates to a happier, less stressed – more satisfied, loyal customer base.

Adobe would still generate the same revenue based on output modules, updates to both core applications and output modules, as well as cloud-based services – not to mention costs saved internally based on a streamlined product line. Adobe programmers would not be spread thin. Instead of allocating programers to yet more and more applications, teams could focus on a handful of core applications and variations of output modules that can more readily change alongside our rapidly advancing world of technology.

Sometimes less is more. My two cents worth…

What are your thoughts?

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