Monday, February 19, 2007

An Open Letter to Adobe

Dear Adobe,

My, oh my. What can I say about the growing ubiquity of your products? When I was but a wee freshman, learning your infamous Photoshop interface was revolutionary. We were on the cutting edge, with a skill that set us apart from so many other architecture students.

Now, knowledge of your programs is considered a basic requirement, as one would expect knowledge of AutoCAD and free-hand drawing. No more are your programs for graphic artists, loaded on specialty machines inside a firm. With computing power running cheap and fast, your programs can be placed on every computer, for all interns to enjoy.

And believe you me, in the past week, I have thoroughly delved into your joys. I developed a great fondness for your erase tool, as well as the amazingly cool clone tool. I admit that I still struggle with the polygon tool, but only because I can’t seem to get the exact shape that I wish, and unlike an AutoCAD polyline, you can't undo a selection once it has been made. And then there is the always useful ability to undo. Well, except for the small fact that you can only go so far, and then you find yourself back to square one.

I have worked with many of your products, including Acrobat and Illustrator, InDesign too. The CS2 suite was, yes, something I knew of immediately upon its release. And having worked on the various software programs that fall under your broad wings, my only question is this. Adobe, why must you mock me with similar, yet different, interfaces? Why can I accomplish one thing in Illustrator, and yet not in Photoshop. Why can’t it all be in one master program, which could collate multiple pages, manipulate images, deal with both vector-based and pixel based files and print fast and easy? Must I always take a file from one to another to another? Yes, I’ve heard about the Adobe Bridge. And I am sure I could learn a more effective way to manage my file links. But, well, you see, I just don’t have the time to figure it out.

That’s the catch-22 of your growing popularity. Having seen the possibilities provided by your wonderful programs, everyone now expects them. For better and worse, your programs have changed the way we architects present our work to clients. The montages of computer renders over real photographs, the interior renderings with realistic materials and those crazy scale of people representing a broad range of ages, genders and ethnicities. Once too time consuming and expensive to use for anything other than extravagant public presentations, nowadays a standard design review meeting requires at least some type of “spatial” image. And, when you are thrown into a world where production schedules are tight, you do anything you can to get the product people expect, process be damned.

You see, most of the time we learn just enough about a software program to get by. And once we know what we need to know, we move on, because, well, we have to. So while I can do some very fun things with Photoshop, for example, I have no idea what those funny channels are for, or why you have an action tab. And because I haven’t found a need to find out, I probably won’t. At least for now.

So perhaps my question is already answered. Perhaps your programs can all do everything I want them to without needing to go from one to another. And perhaps, there are very good reasons why they are separated out into discreet programs, that, ultimately, still want to be bundled together. But, I admit that it bugs me that I have no idea.

No matter. Despite my frustrations, my moments of cursing, my declarations of forsaking any more days working under your tyranny, I know this much. Having learned how to use your programs, I just can’t go back. I guess that says a lot.


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