In 2013, Adobe shifted it’s software delivery method by forcing users wanting to use the newest version of it’s Adobe catalog to pay a monthly fee on their cloud servers. Although everyone thought Adobe was forcing people to use software with a constant internet connection, this is not true. You can use the software without being online, and you don’t have to always be online to open the program. But for someone who thinks of the future like me, there is a problem that is not being addressed to this day…
There has been pro creative cloud audience and the nay creative cloud audience in one of the most controversial business strategy done by Adobe in 2013. Although the idea of a cloud software subscription service was available from Adobe before that year, it wasn’t forced until 2013. There has been many speculations and myth’s surrounding the Adobe Creative Cloud service, Adobe has spent countless hours, many marketing campaigns, and rumor control on social media trying to bust myths and false speculations. To make sure some of you understand the real truth in the Adobe Creative Cloud issue, here is a simple list explaining what you need to know. I am not going to go into specific prices since it can change anytime and you can always look it up yourself easily.
The first issue: Lack of options
Although the list I wrote above seems like a great deal in all angles, there are a couple of things that come to mind when it comes to the Adobe Creative Cloud. First of all, I just jumped on the bandwagon of using Adobe CC software. But it doesn’t come with a good feeling of upgrading to a new software and using something new like how I felt with the other Creative Suite versions. Jumping from CS2 to CS3 felt great, jumping from CS4 to 5 felt great again, and then I felt like CS6 was an amazing upgrade from CS5. So why do I have this bittersweet taste in my mouth when I jumped on to the Adobe CC platform?
Well to put it simply, I put myself in the shoes of other designers outside of myself and felt that there was a lack of options within the subscription tiers. Now I consider myself a designer and artist with multiple disciplines and experience in various software. I am tremendously well adept in Photoshop, I do most print work in Illustrator, and I definitely use Indesign from time to time. I also know how to web design so I can technically use Dreamweaver without a problem (I say technically because I am a hand coder and do not use Dreamweaver 98% of the time). I am also fluent in Flash so I can make use of Adobe Flash CC, although Flash is indeed a dying technology on the web. I am experienced in motion graphics and video editing so Adobe Aftereffects CC and Adobe Premiere CC will come in handy. I work with PDF’s all the time, so yes, I can make use of Acrobat XI. So with someone like me, the $50/month subscription plan is a great deal and benefits me greatly. But does it really benefit me? The reality is, although I am very versatile and my multiple disciplinary experience is something to be proud of, I mostly only use 3 to 4 of the software I have mentioned above. I’ve only had a handful of projects using Aftereffects or Premiere thus far, and I rarely use Flash now, but only to update my existing clients website that is powered by Flash, and as stated above, I rarely use Dreamweaver because I hand code HTML and CSS with an advanced text editor.
With the current subscription tiers, you are pretty much stuck to buying everything
But let’s stop talking solely about me and talk about the other general population of the design world. Not everyone is like me and there is nothing wrong with not being or having multiple disciplinary experience. Everyone is different and have their traits, specialty, and focus on what type of designer they are. As many experienced designers will tell you, choose a specialty in the design field and get good at it because you are never going to be good at everything. This is very true, because as stated above, my primary business is web design and print design but never will I say I am an environmental designer or an expert packaging designer. Some designers are only print designers while some are just web UI designers and so on. The problem with the current Adobe CC subscription plan is that there are lacking in options as to what you want to purchase and what you don’t. If you are a print designer, I can almost say with confidence that Photoshop is essential to edit and color correct photo’s you use, Illustrator is an absolute must for typography and logo design, InDesign is definitely important to create brochures or editorial design. Now you may have dabbled in web design a little bit but doesn’t mean you have the experience to launch it as part of your service, therefore, Dreamweaver, Flash, Muse, or any software related to the web would be useless to you. Let’s face it, you are not going to use it anytime soon, nor does everyone have the time to learn how to web design.
So now you realize that you need 3 of the many software Adobe CC offers. In the current plan, if you want to rent Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, you have to pay $60/month instead of the $50, because individual apps cost $19.99 to rent. If you are going to spend $60 a month, basically you might as well get the $50/month plan and get the whole suite regardless of you using the other software or not. Do you see the problem so far?
What I suggest
Currently Adobe is offering a plan for Photographers that features Photoshop and Lightroom for $9.99. That is indeed a good deal and I would have signed up for it immediately (without considering the next issues coming up). But there are no other package plans for other people and other scenarios. For example, why not make a bundle pack geared towards print designers, which includes the 3 core software for print design which is Photoshop, Illustrator, and Indesign? Why not make a web designers bundle pack with software such as Dreamweaver, Edge Animate, Reflow and Muse? This concept sort of goes back to the idea when Adobe was creating Creative Suite platforms. The CS platforms came with different bundle packs such as Adobe CS design and web premium collection, Adobe CS design standard, Adobe CS production premium, and of course the all in one pack titled Master Collection. I am not going to sit here and talk about how much a web designers pack should be, or how much a print designers pack should be, but at the current pricing model, Adobe is basically forcing you to buy the $50/month platform ($70/month without annual commitment) regardless of you using all the software or not.
The authentication DRM issue
In May of 2014, Adobe servers powering the Creative Cloud went down for over 24 hours. This prevented some users to be able to validate their membership on the cloud. Now I am not sure if everyone was affected or if some people were actually able to use the software, however, if I was the one affected and had a deadline that day, I would have had a big problem with Adobe. Some people even had to go back to CS6.
The upgrade issue
There are some amazing new features in the Creative Cloud platform. I have experienced some of the most amazing standard features to hit the Adobe suite by no doubt. To create a short list of things…
But there is one pivotal concern I have for the future of Adobe CC and me constantly paying a monthly fee. Truth be told that when a new feature comes out with every Creative Suite version, I was amazed at what it can do but rarely did I find any use for it. Photoshop CS5 and CS6 introduced the content aware scale technology, which in short basically allowed you to physically shorten an image, but at mediocre best, prevented the image or objects in the photo from skewing. The first time I used it, I was amazed at what content aware scale can do but did I really use it in the real world? The answer is a solid no. Because if a client supplied me an image that needed to be shortened but keep the whole image visible somehow, I would have still used traditional methods to do so. The content aware scaling, as stated above, was mediocre at best, and it was still far from perfect.
So to use the content aware scaling as an example, there were many amazing features added in the past 10 years, but still lacked in seeing the light of day within real world projects. I still found myself doing the same methods over and over again because it worked, and I still didn’t find a place to use the “new features” every version it followed. You may ask me why I didn’t learn my lesson upgrading from CS2 to 3, 3 to 4, etc… Well quite simply, I was upgrading for performance and stability of the software. It is fact that with every version of the Creative Suite, it demanded more computer power and more resources. But with more power and resources came faster production and performance. Who doesn’t want a Photoshop that runs faster than the predecessor? Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of 64-bit instead of 32-bit Photoshop?
Now of course it is a great possibility with the constant upgrade of Adobe CC, we will see performance stability and speed enhancements. I have no doubt in my mind that Adobe will continuously update each software catering towards new computer technology. But the issue is, even if you do not want to upgrade to the newest version, you are forced to pay the monthly fee if you want to continuously use the software. So the position from the consumer becomes a “forced upgrade”, because if you are paying $50/month, why not get what you paid for?
Upgrading is not always a good thing
Every designer and artist works in different computer configurations and OS versions. Upgrade is not always the best thing for consumers because with upgrades comes new problems or compatibility issues. There were several consumers who experienced a tremendous slowdown in certain Creative Cloud apps when they upgraded to OSX Mavericks. Who’s to say that we will not experience such problems when we upgrade to a new version of a particular software? Let’s not kid ourselves and acknowledge that not everyone is looking for a particular feature I personally would find amazing. Some users will take it as a “bloatware” or features they don’t need or even want to use.
Let’s take OS upgrading as an example; I personally don’t upgrade to a new OS immediately because I like to read reviews and see how it performs before I jump on the new ship. Yes, the truth is, I am using other consumers as guinea pigs before I clutter myself with multiple problems installing a new OS. So with that said, in the Creative Cloud platform, I either upgrade and utilize what I am paying for or not upgrade but continue paying.
As of this writing, Adobe Creative Suite 6 Master Collection is going for about $2,500. With the new CC subscription, you pay $600 a year, $1200 in 2 years, $2400 in 4 years and so on. Sounds like a bargain, only because it is a bargain. But let’s consider that there are printers, designers, artists, and others who are still thriving and going on using CS2, CS3, and on and on (which also forces me to back save to a legacy version of the particular file, which in return is a pain for me). CS2 is literally almost a decade old, but they use it because it works. So if I to say, I was to go 8 years without upgrading and continue using Adobe CC 2014, I am basically paying more than what I would have paid in the old perpetual license plan ($600 x 8 years would equal $4800). Now of course one can argue with me and say why I would go 8 years without upgrading in the first place. Now I have never went over 3 years without upgrading to another CS version, but if I stop and think about others, that is another option lost. The concept that I am arguing is the actual principle ideology in question, that consumers will sooner or later be forced to upgrade to get what they are paying for. Or else it would just be the consumer paying thousands of extra dollars for something they are not fully utilizing.
The affordability issue
Great news about the Adobe Creative Cloud platform is that their pricing options have increased as of this writing. Before they only had a month to month plan which required you to commit a whole year or else you either paid a penalty or had to pay a higher monthly plan if you wanted to go month to month (Really Adobe, where is the extra $20/month going to when users go month to month?). However now they have an annual plan where you can pay for the whole year (although no discounts are applied… come on Adobe), which is a good step forward because not everyone can afford that extra $50 a month. Some would rather pay it all off and take care of it, some just doesn’t have constant income in a same pace because they are commissioned artists or freelancers.
Ummm… so what is the issue?
As stated above, not everyone can afford $50/month and for up and coming designers, that extra monthly output might hurt their wallets. And another hard truth is, not every individual has the extra $600 to pay it all off. Although $50/month is not that steep of a price, the very problem is that not everyone’s financial situation will constantly stay the same. The perpetual license plan allowed us to save up (if needed) to pay for it once and never worry about it again, because we owned the software. With the subscription plan, if your financial climate were to change and had to allocate that $50/month somewhere else, Adobe literally would cut off your bloodline as a designer or artist. Should consumers be punished for having to prioritize their outflow of cash away from the Adobe subscription plan?
The grand issue is that Adobe basically has total control over access to your native files. In the perpetual licensing era, the technology and the software was never technically yours, however, you had the option of using it whenever you want and as long as you want. You never really had to worry about not being able to use your software because you didn’t pay your monthly bill. But now, Adobe has total control over shutting off your software if you do not pay for it. The principle becomes that if you do not pay Adobe, you might lose access to your native files of your artwork. This sole concept leads up to the next issue…
The future issue
One of the most far thinking issue I have with the Adobe CC plan is my thought on retirement and what the future holds, let’s say, 40 years from now. I can only hope that by the time I am in my mid 60’s, I would be comfortable enough to slow down as a designer in the commercial world. Now my philosophy and my personality says that I will be a designer and artist my whole entire life, but this doesn’t mean I will be using Adobe applications on a constant basis when I am 70 years old. Now as I have stated above, the issue is that if you stop paying for the subscription, you will not be able to open the applications at all after the validation check. So this basically means that all your native files (i.e .PSD, .AI, .INDD) files will be useless and just take extra space.
What I am suggesting
The least Adobe can let us do is open our native files and perhaps print it out. They can program a feature where if you stop paying for the subscription, all features that allows us to edit and modify is turned off, but the option to open and save it to a high resolution JPG, or print it out should still be there. There is a really blurry line between the idea that the artwork you have created is under your ownership, yet the technology and software you used to create it with is in Adobe’s ownership. But in reality, after being a loyal paying customer for many years to come, that is the very least Adobe can do for us no?
My name is Chris Takakura, I am an art director and visual designer servicing businesses and studios around the world. I specialize in print design, brand/identity, with a strong concentration in web design & front-end development. I am always looking to connect and be involved in creative projects, so if you are interested in my creative services, please contact me here.