Adobe Photoshop
Works / UX Design.

Reimagine and mobilize the three-decade-old pillar of creative tools for new platforms and new users.

Team: Jenny Lyell, Product. Dave Howe, Engineering. The Apollo engineering team. BlackLion design Bradee Evans, Olivia Schaefer, Sile Gao, JinJin Sun and the extended Adobe Design teams.

Started January 2016 with an ecosystem vision, kicking off design and engineering efforts to explore the possibility of mobilizing entire monolithic desktop applications.

This effort changed the course of Photoshop product strategy from an atomized many-small-apps approach to a multi-surface ecosystem grounded in the lossless editing of PSDs. Approachable, mobile-first, non-destructive prioritized workflows. And still actually Photoshop.


Design efforts began with a full survey of every command, control and function within Photoshop mapped against MAU (monthly active use) data, MVP ('essential Photoshop'), and feasibility investments given the compressed timelines and emerging technical foundations we were working with. We were also not shy about wanting to push and advance what Photoshop is and how it works.

Key philosophies of the project were mobile-centric and touch-first, to make the capability of Photoshop approachable for those with intent and interest to learn, a priority on non-destructive operations, and familiar capability and depth of control for experienced users. Achieving this required a careful balance of thoughtful defaults and expanded capability through progressive-disclosure, optimizing tooling around best-practice workflows, and revamping whole interfaces for new touch and stylus input methods, all along side the massive engineering efforts underway to build a new architecture around Photoshop's core.

When what started as a very small, very-secret and very challenging feasibility project flickered to life as a proof of concept, the notion and possibility of moving a major legacy application beyond its desktop platforms became very real. Everything following that moment has been a blur, and is still moving forward.

[ the nominal workspace ]
The workspace anchors a familiar Photoshop toolbar adjacent to a canvas workspace. The dense and complex layer panel from desktop Photoshop has been augmented with a 'compact' view, providing quick access and confirmation of layer-targeting in a format which trades some deep function against a minimal footprint to maximize canvas view. Switching between the two views is fluid and simple.

[ curves adj. layer property panel ]
Masked and clipped Adjustment Layers are a superpower of Photoshop. On desktop they're quite buried amongst various corners of the UI, so for mobile we've made them central to working with layers.