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AMA: Adobe Design Brand Team

almost 6 years ago from , Director of Experience Design - Brand & Experience

Hey Everyone—

We’re Shawn Cheris, Sonja Hernandez, Sam Wick, and Anny Chen and we are the Adobe Design Brand Team. We’re responsible for the overall visual execution of Adobe’s brand in product experiences, covering well over 100 products and services across three distinct verticals. We design the visual architecture of the brand, create every product logo and splash screen, and execute all the branded pieces and parts that surface inside the products and in Adobe’s marketing. We also occasionally do printed matter including books, posters, and environmental graphics.

Recently, we re-branded our org within Adobe, changing from Adobe XD (Experience Design) to Adobe Design. You can see more about that project here.

Shawn Cheris is a Director of Experience Design. In addition to watching this amazing team do their thing, he manages the icon and frameworks efforts efforts and strives every day to bring a unified experience to all Adobe products.

Sonja Hernandez is the Experience Design Manager for the Adobe Design Brand team. Besides focusing on consistency in Adobe’s branded areas, she is especially passionate about extending the brand language into physical spaces, objects, and new partnerships.

Sam Wick is the Design Lead for the Adobe Design Brand team. His particular focus is branding for mobile products and the related marketing campaigns.

Anny Chen is an Experience Designer on the Adobe Design Brand team. In addition to working on the recent rebrand of Adobe Design, she supports the team's efforts in creating a unified brand experience across all of Adobe's products.

We’re happy to answer any questions you have about designing for large brand systems, rebranding orgs and products, recent trends around color and gradients, and anything else!

We’ll be answering questions Wed, Aug 24 starting at 10am Pacific.

35 comments

  • Daryl GinnDaryl Ginn, almost 6 years ago

    What is your favourite vegetable?

    26 points
  • Emanuel S.Emanuel S., almost 6 years ago (edited almost 6 years ago )

    When you first named it Adobe Experience Design and the name was approved, did you have an instant regret? Were there versions where the name was longer, like Adobe Experience Designer for Product Designers that work on design?

    13 points
  • Janis VegisJanis Vegis, almost 6 years ago

    Do you use Sketch?

    10 points
    • Sam Wick, almost 6 years ago (edited almost 6 years ago )

      No, but I have used it in the past. As a designer working for a company that makes design tools, its important to familiarize yourself with all sorts of tools.

      6 points
  • Jap Po, almost 6 years ago

    Why did you guys created a new design language instead of joining the other styles used at Adobe (for example the productlogos etc.)?

    6 points
    • Anny Chen, almost 6 years ago

      Good question! Strategically, we have a history of not aligning internal org branding to that of our products. The org isn’t meant to be viewed or related to in the same way as our products, and it would be confusing if we were to align ourselves to the look and feel of a product. Also the nature of Adobe Design is to be a centralized org where the people here work across all of our products and services at Adobe. That said, there are certain elements of the new design language that still draw from the overall style at Adobe, such as the use of high-contrast gradients and the Adobe Clean typeface. I’ll also add here that Adobe Design has had its own 10+ year history and evolution of its branding, and this recent rebrand drew heavily from an existing design language that was already in place in terms of the color palette and visual system.

      3 points
  • Thomas Michael SemmlerThomas Michael Semmler, almost 6 years ago (edited almost 6 years ago )

    Inconsistency has been a defining aspect of the adobe brand, in almost every possible way, from features, to branding, to UI. How do you plan to overcome this? (no tea, no shade)

    4 points
    • Sonja HernandezSonja Hernandez, almost 6 years ago

      Hi Thomas, Good question here! There’s a couple ways to break this down. First, the areas that you’re speaking to are all the components that make up that capital “B” type of Brand that users interact with. A Brand is everything from the UI and how features are presented, to the look of the branding, and extends on to the marketing, etc. My team is responsible for the visual execution of the branding: creating the visual system for product logos and app icons, splash screens, and any other associated assets that appear across desktop, mobile and web. Another team works on the UI & frameworks, and product teams work on bringing in features.

      I actually think that our visual branding is pretty consistent now. Before Creative Cloud launched however, we were changing the visual brand system pretty much every year with each new suite release. Making big branding moves frequently across so many products isn’t sustainable and can lead to confusion, for sure. With the launch of Creative Cloud, one of the first things my team did was decided on a style for the product logos, create a strict rule system around that, and stick to it.

      As for the UI and features, one of the biggest efforts going on at Adobe right now is to unify the UI language across all our products. We have some super smart & talented designers and engineers working on this. Some of which has already started to roll out and you’ll see in other products soon too.

      4 points
  • Hunter CaronHunter Caron, almost 6 years ago

    What challenges have you faced while trying to unify a brand with over 100 products? How do you ensure all those products feel current?

    2 points
    • Sam Wick, almost 6 years ago (edited almost 6 years ago )

      The challenge of unifying Adobe’s brand doesn’t just come from number of products. It also comes from the rate of change with them and the fact they are interconnected. The tech industry in nimble. Adobe is no different. Strategy pivots frequently. New products are developed, existing products are rebranded, and taken off the market all the time. Building a trusted brand and constant change are two ideas that can be at odds. We have needed to develop a system that can withstand all of that change and still feel cohesive. Everything we design, we do with the whole system in mind.

      Making products feel current poses another challenge. Logistically, chasing trends for high level branding isn’t realistic. Changing 100+ interconnected products with different release cycles, goals, and keeping everything unified is a tall order. Instead we’ve tried to create timeless logos, and change certain other implementations incrementally.

      When I first started here, the bubbly, web 2.0 aesthetic was all the rage. We got a lot of criticism for bucking that trend. Now look at the industry. It ended up where we were. I’m not saying everyone followed us. What I am saying is that by definition trends change. What’s feels current now, might not next year. You need to build design principles based on broad business needs, not just on what’s hip.

      6 points
  • Nicholas HendrickxNicholas Hendrickx, almost 6 years ago

    Is there a strategy in place to adjust the brand when the gradient trend dies? The mark itself is just white, so I guess you are safe, but I am still wondering.

    I very much liked that presentation on Behance!

    2 points
    • Joe Baker, almost 6 years ago

      I agree. Considering 'timeless' is supposed to be one of the corner stones of a successful brand. Many companies are jumping on trends that are already starting to look dated.

      1 point
      • Anny Chen, almost 6 years ago

        Hi Joe! Definitely agree that “timeless” design is an important aspect of what makes a brand successful. As I had mentioned in my reply to Nicholas, we never considered the use of gradients as jumping onto a trend because it’s inherent in our current brand system. However, the new logo design itself is very much about trying to create a timeless mark, and its simplicity and “obviousness” as a solution are elements that we believe make it a successful rebrand. I will also say that as designers we’re aware of how quickly a brand can start to look and feel outdated, and we try to always keep in mind that whatever identity system we create will need to be flexible and evolve over time.

        1 point
    • Anny Chen, almost 6 years ago

      Hi Nicholas! Great question. And thank you for the positive feedback on our Bechance post! I do agree that the gradient trend in design has probably been played out a bit in the last year or so. For us, it was never a question of a trend, because gradients and color itself have been an integral part of our brand language and system. Our product icons are organized around the visual system of the color spectrum, and gradients have been a natural extension of that design language for a long time (each of our icons even have a slight gradient of their own). In fact, I remember when I mentioned to a designer friend of mine that I was going to be joining Adobe, his first remark was: “You’re going to get really good at making gradients,” and he was absolutely right! Other companies may be jumping on the bandwagon of gradients these days, but for us it’s very much baked into our DNA as a brand.

      2 points
  • Vishal Gangadin, almost 6 years ago

    Hey guys,

    1. How do you handle the feedback and was there a certain remark that really had a big influence on the current outcome of the rebranding?

    2. Was there a certain research method used before and during concept and design?

    Awesome work and all the best!

    2 points
    • Anny Chen, almost 6 years ago (edited almost 6 years ago )

      Thanks Vishal! In terms of handling feedback, our team (and greater org in general) is all about designing in the open. We all work in shared Dropbox folders so that anyone on the team can open someone else’s file and a take a look at what they’ve been working on, and this level of transparency in the way we collaborate can yield really great results.

      In fact, one of the more helpful comments we had gotten during the design process came from someone outside of our team who had happened to walk by my desk one day and pointed out something that I hadn’t noticed before. One of the earlier versions of the current logo had three pixels stacked up as the spine of the “D” but weren’t joined to the rest of the letterform. It had been a version that I was working on a for a while, but couldn’t figure out what wasn’t quite right about it. Our co-worker said, “This doesn’t read as a “D” anymore. It looks more like the letter “U” flipped on it’s side swallowing three pixels.” And then it was at that moment where it clicked into place, and I was able to refine the logo and arrive at the solution shortly after. When you design in the open, people outside can spot things you can’t see because you’ve been so knee-deep in the process for so long.

      As for the second question on research methods, there was definitely an initial stage of looking for inspiration on the internet (Pinterest, the work of other studios, etc.). But to be honest, I dove pretty quickly into sketching and just getting my hands dirty. If there’s anything I’ve learned about the design process, is that sometimes you just have to MAKE STUFF (a ton of it—both good and bad) in the beginning and allow yourself to play. From there, you can start to edit back and pick out what’s working and not. I’m really lucky that I’m a part of a team that embraces this way of working and allows for this much freedom and flexibility in the design process. Sometimes you get caught spinning your wheels for several days, but that’s when the periodic critiques really help put you back on track and headed in a direction again.

      3 points
  • Xavier BertelsXavier Bertels, almost 6 years ago (edited almost 6 years ago )

    Can you estimate in percentages how much of your job consists of design execution, and how much of the politics involved in a huge org.? And which is the hardest challenge?

    2 points
    • , almost 6 years ago

      That’s a really good question. Sounds like you’ve spent some time doing design work in the real world.

      First and foremost, I’d point out that Sonja, Sam, and I have been together as a team for six years (Anny came on board about a year ago and has been such an awesome addition). When it comes to the aspects of the job that involve building coalition and trust, selling, and shipping design, it’s impossible to overstate the efficiencies that result from having a group of people spend that much time iterating on a single set of problems.

      Over the years, we’ve built a fantastic partnership with our Brand Strategy team (with whom we work hand-in-hand), earned trust with the senior leadership of the company, and gained a strong network of support, overall. We've also learned what it takes to make a lasting and extensible brand architecture that can fit so many varied products and services within it.

      All of those structures and relationships took countless hours of investment but they’ve paid immense dividends in the end. The kind of politics you’re referring to used to take up a lot of our time, but now is a small and slowly shrinking minority. There are still disagreements from time-to-time, but the overall alignment we have (visually, philosophically, and politically) on issues of brand limit the range of possibilities, so it’s normally smaller issues we have to grapple with these days.

      But that doesn’t mean we spend the majority of our time doing the execution end of the job, either. Despite our best efforts to build a system that is extensible and timeless, the truth is that Adobe is a big, fast-moving company. Adobe is not afraid to try new things and sometimes those new things don’t fit neatly into the tidy system we’ve created. So we do spend a lot of time dealing with the strategy end of things, which involves a lot of email, meetings, research, and other tasks that don’t involve laying down pixels.

      4 points
  • Andrew Shorten, almost 6 years ago

    Hey,

    Andrew from Adobe here - just wanted to help clarify that part of the re-branding effort undertaken by our design group was to enable us to launch our new UX design tool, Adobe Experience Design (or Adobe XD for short). Our team is active on Twitter @AdobeXD, so please reach out if you have any questions on what we're doing.

    Now, back to the scheduled discussion here with our design group...

    Thanks, Andrew Shorten, Director, Product Management, Adobe

    1 point
  • Jacob JJacob J, almost 6 years ago

    Do you have a roadmap of major features planned?

    1 point
    • , almost 6 years ago

      Hey Jacob— I'm sure you've figured this out by now, but we're not the team working on the Adobe product called Xd (Experience Design). That very confusion was one of the driving factors in our decision to change the name of our organization form XD to Adobe Design.

      That said, we are SO excited about the amazing work that team is doing. You can contact them on Twitter at @AdobeXD.

      1 point
  • Alberto OrsiniAlberto Orsini, almost 6 years ago

    One thing that I'd like to ask from your perspective is about a statement at the beginning of the rebranding post, "we believed it was time to streamline our name and align with industry standards. After consulting with stakeholders across the board, we decided to rebrand ourselves as Adobe Design. We believe that this new name will resonate more with our external audience"

    We increasingly live in a world where we understand the importance of our audience, and where we hone in on such statements and try to change that very sentence into something like "We reached out to our external audience and after listening to them it was clear that we needed to streamline our name and align with industry standards. We convinced the board that it was time to rebrand ourselves to Adobe Design and have already received a lot of positive feedback."

    My point is, how do you see cultural shift in big organizations and how it may affect the way we approach these changes?

    1 point
  • Noah SNoah S, almost 6 years ago

    What is the biggest challenge your team faces in regards to adobe products? How do you all stay in sync?

    1 point
    • Sam Wick, almost 6 years ago

      Great question! One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is creating a system that can withstand nearly constant changes. Adobe’s brand consists of over 100 interconnected products. What those products are and how they are positioned is always in flux. In the past five years, Adobe has made massive business shift with the move to Creative Cloud, developed the Marketing Cloud, experimented with numerous mobile apps, and much much more.

      We needed to develop a brand system that can withstand all those changes and whatever changes come in the future. We do this by designing holistically, with the entire ecosystem in mind.

      We stay in sync by working together closely and staying in constant contact with other relevant teams at Adobe.

      1 point
    • Sonja HernandezSonja Hernandez, almost 6 years ago

      I’d also say that after creating the system, the biggest challenge is protecting the system. The funny thing we found about consistency is that once you have it, there is often appetite to then change it. An important part of the work we do now is outreach and educating teams about the brand system and the equity that comes with aligning to it.

      1 point
      • Noah SNoah S, almost 6 years ago

        Great points here. Educating stakeholders about the brand goes a long way to maintain values and consistency.

        0 points
  • Jonathan SimcoeJonathan Simcoe, almost 6 years ago

    Have you used Figma? Does it's awesomeness make you nervous? It should... ;)

    0 points
  • Robert PaigeRobert Paige, almost 6 years ago

    When will Adobe XD allow PSD import of individual layers?

    0 points
  • Josip Vrbic, almost 6 years ago

    Nice job regarding rebranding ;) How do you cooperate with higher levels (CEO or who ever is your superior) in your structure? Who decides in which directions should whole design go and similar wuestions and stuff?

    0 points