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Adobe Creative Suite 3 IconsAdobe’s recent Photoshop CS3 beta is quenching the desperate thirst of Photoshop fanatics everywhere. But it’s new icon system is causing some controversy.

The new icons use a system of abbreviations to represent each Adobe product, a bit like the symbols in the periodic table.

Since their introduction in 2003, the Adobe Creative Suite icons have suffered criticism. So this new round of vehemence is not a surprise.

MetaDesign, the company I’ve worked at for the past 3.5 years, worked on the new icon system for CS3 (as well as the branding and icon systems for CS1 and CS2).

I remain neutral on the issue, but Layne, a devoted LifeClever reader, wants to know what you think. Do these new icons inspire love or hate? Post your rave or rant in the comments.


  • Jon MacKinnon

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    7:27 am

    I hate them. They just dont look right. Pretty much every other icon on my dock takes advantage of the fact that the icons dont have to be square, then I look at Creative Suite and there they are, the ugly square icons. Adobe can do so much better.

  • Isko

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    7:29 am

    I can honestly say, I hate’em. They look awful in my dock. Call me superficial but I like the programs I use to ‘make things pretty’ also to look pretty.

    Meh..maybe with time they grow on you.

  • Samtherocker

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    7:37 am

    I think that the new icons are nice and smooth but feel a bit… well… beta-ish. They don’t look like the icons of a finished product to me.

  • Paul Armstrong

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    7:45 am

    I agree with Samtherocker. They are not the quality that one should expect for a final product.

    Also, why do they feel the need to be non-conforming to the recommendations that Apple and Microsoft have made for making icons? I don’t remember off the top of my head where these docs can be found, but I’m sure a quick google search will bring them up.

    In general, I seem to remember them recommending to NOT make icons perfectly square and have them representative of the task at which they complete. I read on another blog that Adobe thinks the applications perform too many tasks to be able to pick just one task to represent, but I differ in my opinion. Also, if not able to come up with a representation, shouldn’t a logo become set for it?

    Also, things aren’t very clear… Photoshop is Ps while Illustrator is Ai… shouldn’t they either be both ‘Ps’ and ‘Il’ or ‘Ap’ and ‘Ai’? Standardization across the board would be nice.

    I have a feeling that there is going to be a very large repository of replacement icons coming oh so very soon. Anyone passionate enough about that to make a site?

  • Jamison

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    8:01 am

    When I downloaded the Photoshop 10 beta, I thought someone had decided they wanted the beta clearly indicated from a final shipping product by using something utilitarian, basic and purposefully unattractive, holding off the real icon until final release.

  • Tiffany

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    8:13 am

    I hate them. It was a good concept but it just wasn’t executed very well. Like Paul said, standardization across the board would be nice. Now I have to get used to these new icons and what they represent. Why is there a learning curve for icons? That is stupid. Not to mention they are as bland as Quaker Rice Cakes and almost unrecognizable in my task bar!

  • Layne

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    8:23 am

    Yeah I’m not crazy about them. Somebody did a mockup of how they’ll look in the dock:


    That being said, at least I won’t have to fumble around for two weeks like I did when I upgraded to CS. Wait, is Illustrator the feather or the flower?

  • Wes

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    8:25 am

    I like them. They tell me what I want if I don’t first notice the colors. Making it easy to get where I want. The eye never really did anything for me with the previous versions of Photoshop. This doesn’t inspire greatness, it simply facilitates finding what you need quicker.

  • Drew

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    9:23 am

    Hate ’em

    It would be a great idea if Adobe created science software, however 90% of what they create is artistic software. I think one of the greatest things Adobe ever did was aquire Macromedia. I love the simple icons for Flash, DW, etc. It would make sense to me to build on those (if you continue to pursue the letter road). Letters, simple, but not simplistic. I like the creative thinking behind this idea, it just need to push it to the next level, and encourage Adobe not to destroy some of the good branding that they have developed.

  • Mirko

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    9:27 am

    I’m gonna change them right away, way too generic.

  • Sylvain Lemire

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    9:55 am

    For my part, I firt thought they were Beta icons, with real ones coming in the future. But Adobe/Meta may be on something here. Icons have to be learned to be used correctly, and sometimes, icons are simply not helpful. Abbreviations may be more useful. I use Photoshop/Bridge/InDesign/Illustrator every day and they sit in my dock all the time and I still keep clicking on the wrong icon from time to time because I may click on a color instead of an image (why Indesign is a butterfly anyway?) Maybe there will be less confusion with Ps/Br/Id/Ai. Only time using the icons will tell, but I’m inclined to think they’re on a good track.

  • Jon

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    10:40 am

    Not keen, there are some wonderful icons out there – they just don’t look …. very professional.

  • Jon Henshaw

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    12:49 pm

    I like them. They’re different. They’re subtle and understated. And they’re easy to find on my dock. I also like the file icons, very sharp.

  • Nightfalcon

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    1:05 pm

    I kinda have started to like them

  • Kris

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    5:06 pm

    they look awful.. I can’t think of anything more unimaginitave and non-creative.

  • Stacy Westbrook

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    6:24 pm

    I only hate an icon redesign because it means relearning how to find the icons in my dock … AGAIN. It’s a workflow hitch that I’d prefer to avoid, and here I’m faced with it one more time in two years. Seems a little unnecessary.

  • Jason

    gravatarDec 21, 2006
    7:32 pm

    Holy crap, these are the new icons?! When I loaded up the Photoshop CS3 beta, I assumed that the new icon was just a placeholder during the beta period to fill the spot between now and the final release – along with a final icon. As others have said, they are pretty much unacceptable for a final product.

    I’d also like to point a link to this article on icon weight from the very talented Adam Betts:


    The new Adobe icons’ weight is just plain amateurish.

  • Kuswanto

    gravatarDec 22, 2006
    8:19 am

    Double holy crap from me!! I can not believe it if this is the real final icons for an application like Photoshop. What are they thinking..

    Form an iconist point of view, the Ps, Ai, Etc Etc is quite to make users easily recognize the icons on Dock, but from esthetic view, it’s so damn ugly. It doesn’t fit my beautiful OS X icons.

    Just like Paul said, there will be Adobe CS 3 icon replacement all over the internet. Well, i guess i will be one of ’em.. :)

  • Hugo Strange

    gravatarDec 23, 2006
    3:22 am

    I like them. It’s not Eyecandy, not really beautyful, but pretty cool, unique + clear.

  • kaiyohtee

    gravatarDec 23, 2006
    8:29 am

    i like. very typographic. presents the information clearly. i need northing more than that. i know what i am getting when i click on an icon. given i can learn what-is-what after repetition, but there is too much maximalism out there these days and i hope this will start the trend towards simplicity again.

  • _linus

    gravatarDec 24, 2006
    7:44 am

    i feel like the concept may have worked with a smaller family of applications. yeah, it kind of works as a metaphor for the range and diversity of adobe’s applications, but that is how it fails as an icon system. it’s too hard to differentiate between so many shades and 2 character codes.

    like a few people, my first impression was that they were just a place holder for the beta releases.

    also, disappointing to see that the style is not even going to be consistently applied (flash, acrobat, and to be honest i don’t recognise the other symbols). if they were going to take a completely new direction, they could have at least been thorough.

  • Pantofobos

    gravatarDec 26, 2006
    5:01 am

    I like it. It likes chemistry symbols, interesting idea from Adobe. sorry, for my bad En.

  • Anuj

    gravatarDec 26, 2006
    10:50 am

    I totally oppose this move by Adobe…

    Being a web designer I prefer things to look pretty rather than hideous…and I think it just looses backward consistency…

  • diogo

    gravatarDec 28, 2006
    8:59 am

    in one year everyone will like them…

  • Alex

    gravatarDec 29, 2006
    7:48 am

    At first glance, this periodic table of software looks very confusing. It seems problematic to try and use two letter abbreviations for applications. ‘Ai?’ Is that Adobe Illustrator? The first thing I thought when I looked at the new ‘PS’ icon was “how are they going to do Illustrator? ‘Il’ won’t work at all.”

    But after thinking about it for a few minutes, it makes a hell of a lot of sense. What you have here is forward movement of their entire line of software. It’s distinct from the last versions and clearly consistent across the entire brand. It’s also different than anything any software maker is doing, including Apple. From a branding perspective this is an excellent solution. One look at these icons and you will know that these are the 2007 versions of Adobe software

    They’ve done a great job of sticking with each applications associated colors. Dreamweaver is still green. Photoshop is still blue. Flash is still red. And even tho GoLive is a web design app, it’s not in the green family at all. It’s purple, just the way it’s been for the last few versions. In a way this is much better than say when Itunes releases a new version with the same icon in different colors. If you looked at a list of their icons, you wouldn’t be able to guess which icon came after which.


    The main complaint about the CS and CS2 icons was that they weren’t distinct enough and people couldn’t get their head around why a feather was photoshop and a butterfly was indesign. These icons work much better in the dock. No confusing symbolism at all. And really, people were upset because they had associated Botticelli’s venus with Illustrator for so long that a flower didn’t have the same connection. But if they had stuck with a flower, after 10 years no one would be complaining anymore.

    Also, I don’t think I see an icon for Image Ready. Does that mean it’s finally gone?

  • Greg

    gravatarJan 2, 2007
    10:46 pm

    I think the idea is that they all together make up a bigger application, the Creative Suite.

    I think Adobe has acquired so much duplicate software that they are continuing to put out that they decided to use this blank visual feeling to erase all the identities that they carry and try to meld them into one application family with the color wheel being the overall icon for this mega creative suite. I wonder if Adobe even knows what they will do with all the duplicated applications but it may make it easier for users to let go of an application and migrate to the one Adobe pushes since their all now under the same identity roof anyway.

  • db

    gravatarJan 3, 2007
    8:16 am

    It’s almost like they threw their hands up and didn’t even try. They made their design brief too big and all encompassing. They decided that all the Adobe/Macromedia Icons needed to be immediately recognizable in 1 second. I don’t agree. They need to take another pass at them before spring.

  • drew

    gravatarJan 4, 2007
    11:48 am

    Pretty far off the mark, if the intent was for them to be iconic.

    If you want to make a branding statement or show a bit of cleverness, yeah, okay, they work.

    But icons are supposed to represent. Images grab the pattern recognition system of the brain faster than words and words faster than abbreviations. And yet these icons arrive at the tail end of this continuum.

    The icon designer is supposed to insert an appropriate level of graphical detail into the icon to grab the brains attention via pattern matching. These aren’t pattern matching, they are reading. And, worse, they are reading abbreviations. The angst with these comes because it is frustrating for the brain to have to sit and muddle through the known words to come up with abbreviations, thus by working backwards, to come up with a match for the icon.

    In other words, this attempt at recognition becomes a pruning of a word tree, then to abbreviations, then to a match. This is a lot of work. Pattern recognition goes much faster than this.

    I do not doubt the difficulty of iconizing a product suite as diverse as Adobe’s. I also do not doubt that this very breadth in potential products makes this recognition process via text even harder.

    The work of the icon designer is supposed to be strenuous so that the one person makes the job of recognition easier for thousands.

    As someone else has said, the CS2 Adobe icons aren’t so good themselves, but they do at least work in the space of patterns rather than language.

    And that’s my $/50

  • kub

    gravatarMar 4, 2007
    12:35 pm

    I wanna extract my eyes!!! I hate, I hate, I hate theeeem!! :P

  • Catnip

    gravatarJun 19, 2007
    2:01 am

    When I first saw the icons, I didn’t know what to think of them. They were clean & crisp, but maybe too simplistic.

    So I was undecided until I saw this:

    Then I decided they kinda worked out alright. :-)

  • Catnip

    gravatarJun 19, 2007
    2:03 am

    Sorry, link didn’t show up: http://img400.imageshack.us/img400/1251/iconcubenq0.jpg

  • Hedi

    gravatarJun 27, 2007
    10:48 am

    It seems nobody loves them… I hate them too :( But I love the CS 3 suite!

  • James Reid

    gravatarMar 19, 2008
    3:00 am

    Love em! I think these Icons are great… Less is more guys & gals, you can tell an educated designer created these, there is no need for all these fancy, image based, fluffy icons… All icons should be this simple!

    Peace x

  • Doug

    gravatarApr 25, 2008
    12:02 am

    I love them.

    I’m a designer, as most everyone here is. I love how the Icons and the splash screens are so simple. Its like coming up to a nice clean canvas that i can splash out my creativity on.

  • Michael S

    gravatarMay 21, 2008
    2:52 pm

    Loved them from the start. They look clean and simple, and convey information quickly through the periodic table like symbology and color coding.

    Not everything needs to be over-designed. They’re easy and fast to locate on a small dock.

  • Nsdfgghfh

    gravatarJun 15, 2008
    2:16 pm

    Now this topic is sore stupid. Forgive my apathetic comment but people find every reason to criticize products. A product should be rated based on its performance rather than cough icon cough. I am surpirsed at the stupidity and shallowness of people’s criticism. No matter what you do, people will always find something to complain or cry about. Hellooo… aren’t we supposed to judge this product based on its efficiency? Adobe CS3 is a fine product, people who criticize their icon because of its resemblance to the periodic table of elements are shallowest and narrowminded of people. So what if it looks like the PT? People, get a life and get something better to talk about… damnn!!.. ya’ll suck.

  • Thomas.J33

    gravatarAug 4, 2010
    5:32 pm

    “Now this topic is sore stupid. Forgive my apathetic comment but people find every reason to criticize products. A product should be rated based on its performance rather than cough icon cough. I am surpirsed at the stupidity and shallowness of people‚Äôs criticism…”

    They are MAC people. They ARE stupid. They are used to look at the shiny smiling outside than the inside…

    Btw best icons ever.