Photoshop Likened to a City

by Tom Kenny (@tkenny)

“I love and hate Adobe,” he said when we first discussed this piece. See, Adobe doesn’t build Photoshop for my dad. Adobe just builds Photoshop, and Photoshop is an insane mess. Every couple years brings a new version, costing hundreds of dollars, chock full of new features he doesn’t need, and lacking the improvements he wants. Later, he downgraded his original sentiment: “I hate Adobe.”

This is almost exactly how I felt about Adobe for a while, until I came to the same realisation as the author of this article did.

From day one as a Photoshop developer, it’s made clear that you’re making the app for a crowd, not an individual. They have a rule in the hiring process: if someone claims to be a Photoshop “expert,” they terminate the interview. Photoshop is too big for experts. Only a specialist can thrive inside it, and any specialist will rankle at all of the irrelevant stuff tacked on to “their” Photoshop.

So CS6 isn’t for Thomas Knoll. It’s not for my dad. It’s not for me. It’s not really for anybody. It’s just for everybody. Amateur head-choppers, professional graphic designers, and everyone in the world with a BitTorrent client or a student discount somehow needs Photoshop. Because only Photoshop can Photoshop.

I have to highlight this quote to demonstrate the ambition of what Adobe wan’t to achieve:

The holy grail is to give Photoshop computer vision. The app should simply select “objects” the way users see, like a “beach ball” or a “tree” or a “head,” not as “blob of color one,” “blob of color two.” Then the user should be able to do what she pleases to the object, with the software filling in the details like what might’ve been behind that object — something that’s available in a nascent form in CS6. Content vision also means the software should know when you’re working on a family photo and when you’re working on a logo, adjusting color grading techniques accordingly. It means unifying many of Photoshop’s features — which, once again, its architecture is uniquely suited to do.


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by Tom Kenny

I’m a freelance web designer and front-end developer with over 7 years of experience designing for the web. Follow me on Twitter here.