I recently became involved in an interesting thread in the AIGA Design Education online discussion group. Basically the topic was the increasing complexity and bloating of design software. Here’s a few relevant comments from the discussion:
graphicdavid started it off:
“… it seems that Adobe is making the software increasingly
complex, instead of just making it work better.
They seem to think that we all want cross-hybrids of their software.”
“A number of years ago, Adobe seemed to be headed the other direction. Making things simpler and leaving features up to other developers to ‘plug-in’.”
“As far as InDesign, you have pinpointed one of the reasons I still prefer teaching print production starting with Quark and moving to InDesign later. I always tell students, the issues are the same in both programs; if your document is not set up properly for the printing process you are using, it will not print well. With InDesign, they have made it so much easier to make a mess.”
Here’s my thoughts:
I can sympathize with the desire on the part of some designers for Adobe to “simplify” its software. Occasionally I fire up my Mac SE and long for the days when computing was simple. But would I actually trade my current Mac for an SE? Of course not! Neither would I trade Photoshop for MacPaint. I may not use all the features Photoshop CS3 offers but I certainly appreciate the features I do use.
Instead of moaning about bloat, why not try to come up with a list of the features you would like Adobe to REMOVE from their programs? I’m sure, if you could get the profession to agree, Adobe would be happy to offer stripped down “Designer” editions. Of course you’ll never get the profession to agree. The fact is your “bloat” is another designer’s necessity.
I’m also shocked that anyone can suggest plug-ins as the answer to simplifying programs. Plug-ins don’t simplify the user interface or improve the user experience. While a well-designed plug-in can fit seamlessly into a program, it’s rare and the potential pitfalls are numerous including (but not limited to):
- Installations issues
- Inconsistent user interfaces
- Additional costs
- Incompatibilities with other plug-ins or program updates
Consider the nightmare of trying to maintain your suite of Adobe applications along with a set of “core” plug-ins. I’m willing to bet that, once a plug-in became a standard, you’d be among the throng clamoring for Adobe to make the functionality native.
I was also surprised by the kind comments for Quark. Perhaps things have changed since the days when I used XPress but back then the user interface was crap and the company was notorious for its lack of responsiveness to customer concerns. That’s the reason Quark has gone from having a stranglehold on page design software to being an also ran. Adobe, on the other hand, has created well-designed programs and been responsive to its customers.
And, speaking of responsiveness, we should admit that the true cause of program bloat is that we, the users, demand it. If we own Photoshop, we don’t want to buy Illustrator just to add one small bit of functionality, we want Adobe to add that functionality to Photoshop. That new functionality may be “bloat” and it may duplicate functionality already available elsewhere but as Photoshop users we’re grateful. Everyone else can feel free to ignore it.
Finally, simpler isn’t necessarily better. Sure it’s easy to do some bad things using InDesign but it’s also possible to stab someone with an X-acto knife. Neither action is the fault of the tool. There is a learning curve with any tool. It’s possible to ignore InDesign’s learning curve and produce substandard work but that’s not Adobe’s fault. Design professionals need to accept that the software learning curve now extends throughout their professional lifetime. The only alternative is obsolescence.