CS3 Desktop Brand
Works / Identity.

CS3 was an epic renovation of every Adobe and Macromedia product identity found throughout the desktop. The primary challenges were to develop a system which would successfully merge the Macromedia and Adobe product lines in a way which would tie the product icons together to work side-by-side harmoniously.

To frame our approach, we asked tough questions of desktop software user's experience: how can we improve our user experience - major points being recognition, accuracy - and create a meaningful branded visual presence on the desktop. The answer came in a unique and controversial new interpretation for the role of "app icons" as representations of software tools.

We created a visual language primarily based around color; it is flexible, extensive (and accommodating), and massively powerful. The origins of the Adobe desktop color system were informed by mapping some of the key Macromedia and Adobe apps together across RGB (screen) and CMYK (print) spectrums as well as by existing color associations.

A system of typographic 'mnemonics' based on the the main product names would work as a complimentary visual element. Secondary products would use pictograms and their parent application's associated color. Files and system modules would further expand the graphic icon language with increasingly specific representations of their file types.

This approach gracefully scaled across applications, native files, and other high-level product ID touchpoints from install through workflows and incorporated itself into functional workspaces with meaningful contrast, and ultimately unified Adobe's expansive product offerings.

The result was a system of desktop product identity graphics for approximately 80 products comprising over a thousand individual assets in ico, icns, bmp, png, jpg, gif formats of varying specification.


New Product Marks (not including typographic mnemonics)


Document 'file' icons

Module and plugin icons

All these icons were drawn at five sizes to accommodate our supported platforms, which for CS3 included Vista and its new 256px icons.

User experience specialist, identity strategy, art direction, icon design, screen design, design, production: Ryan Hicks.

Contributors – project management: Michelle Richards, production coordination: Dina Pinza. Design and production help: Mike Levin.

CS3 management, creative direction, political air-cover: Rhett Woods, Michael Gough, Jim Christie.