AMA: The team behind Adobe's design system, Spectrum

over 2 years ago from Shawn Cheris, Director of Experience Design - Brand & Experience

  • Thomas Michael SemmlerThomas Michael Semmler, over 2 years ago

    I think I'm too late to this. I wish there was a different way to get information about AMA's besides regularly checking the website, which I only do once a day. I'll ask anyway, maybe someone is interested in answering it.

    Adobe Products are notorious for breaking continuity when switching from app to app. When you switch from PS to XD, to Illustrator to Animate, even the smallest micro interactions are different, like picking a color. Even more so, if you finally learned the new way that specific app is doing it, you immediately have to relearn it because the tablet or mobile version of that app has yet another way of doing it.

    So my question is, in a world where adobe is losing their clients left and right to competitors, does a design system really have the power to unify experiences to emphasize on the one USP, the Cloud Structure, Continuity, seamlessly going from one app to the other? Do you even have the development resources for that? Or do you only plan to unify new applications?

    4 points
    • Stuart McCoyStuart McCoy, over 2 years ago

      I really do hope they come back and answer your question. I've always wondered why Adobe never started developing a common codebase for their developers to handle common functionality across apps.

      0 points
      • Shawn Cheris, over 2 years ago

        We do have common codebases across many of our apps, but keep in mind that some of them have been in market for decades. And also there's a lot more UI in those flagship apps than you think. Even if you have a common front end framework established, the time and manpower it would take to re-implement something like Photoshop from scratch is at least an order of magnitude more complex than most people realize. And that work would come with a trade-off of not being able to do other work. There's a balance, and it's something that's always being evaluated.

        In the meantime, the Spectrum team, and the Design team at large, are always working to move the overall experience in the right direction.

        0 points
    • Nate BaldwinNate Baldwin, over 2 years ago

      We have several teams working together to integrate a single source of truth for Spectrum across multiple platforms, including Web, Android, iOS, MacOS, UWP, and many of our home-grown frameworks used in existing products. When you work with a big ship like Adobe, turning it takes time and is done incrementally. So while it may still seem that there are major inconsistencies, we’ve made tremendous headways in unifying our experiences across products (both old and new) and across devices. It takes a community to move a mountain, which is why our team is so focused on collaboration as an integral part of our design system strategy.

      0 points
      • Shawn Cheris, over 2 years ago

        Thanks for the question. It's true that Adobe has traditionally not been afraid to let different product teams handle interactions like a color picker in different ways. In some cases this is due to tradition within the individual product and in some cases it's because a new product might want to do something in a way they have found optimal for their particular user base. But that can, as you point out, be frustrating at times for users of multiple products. It's a balance.

        With new apps, we're taking the opportunity to have fresh conversations amongst all of our designers, product managers, and users about the best path forward. You can see this in the new app frame that products like Lightroom CC and Premiere Rush are using, and in the upcoming Photoshop for iPad. It's funny that you mention color pickers, because that's a specific pattern that has been given a lot of attention. Font pickers, too.

        It's likely that as we learn from these new common patterns, you'll see some of that make it's way into the existing flagship apps. But we've found in talking to our existing users that there's a careful balance to be made between making big unilateral changes and keeping the UI that they're familiar with and use to do their jobs. One seemingly small change, even for the better, can result in tons of productivity lost in the creative industry.

        2 points
        • Thomas Michael SemmlerThomas Michael Semmler, over 2 years ago

          Thanks for the answer - but I wonder if it is ultimately a problem in the target audiences. Someone who is using Animate to animate a little animation to be published as a video actually can invest the time it needs to learn completely different interactions to similar UI Problems, because they need to learn it anyway. But for me, I just want to animate an SVG and export it on a web project - and this is basically impossible for me. I ended up animating it by hand with CSS, because the way Animate works and thinks is so entirely different from the way that animations on the web work, that it would have taken me a considerable amount of time just to learn the basic concepts. As a UI engineer, I just don't have the time for this.

          Another example is defining Colors via libraries. I do my UI Design in Sketch, but all our Print Design and Images for Social Media or other types of Content are created by another department in photoshop, illustrator and indesign. So we have created a library for the colors. Turns out, nobody truly thought of how you handle Swatches in Libraries that have slightly varying RGB & CMYK / Pantone Variants. There is no 1:1 conversion from rgb to cmyk and usually designers define specific colors for those versions. Why is there no option to define different color space versions for swatches in libraries? The fact that this has not been brought up apparently by other people, also seems to me that multidisciplinary professionals have started to move on from the creative cloud to other solutions. And it also seems that adobe does not care that much about it - many efforts, and imho Spectrum too, try firstly to appeal to the non-professional target audience, which sometimes means stripping complexity, or flattening the initial learning curve by hiding more complex features in old menus and deep interactions or keyboard shortcuts.

          Is there a conflict in priorities, especially when it comes to Spectrum, in setting priorities to support very different target audiences?

          1 point