Zombies, Brains, and Adobe’s Creative Cloud

In April, Adobe’s Russell Brown brought his Art Directors Invitational Master class (ADIM) to Boulder, Colorado. As Adobe’s long-running «resident mad scientist» (and senior creative director), Russell has led ADIM in various cities since the 1990s, but this was the first ADIM after a five-year hiatus.

This year’s theme involved monsters, zombies, brains, and—the Adobe Creative Cloud. Amazingly, Ed and Marsha Edmunds, stars of the Travel Channel’s TV show Making Monsters, brought in their talented team from Distortions Unlimited to create some outrageously realistic props, including a giant head with its brain exposed, which had room inside it for several people to stand and pontificate from the stage.

Besides the ghoulish fun, the event was all about being creative with Adobe’s tools. Adobe’s favorite instructors were on hand to help attendees get a grip on the latest Adobe apps, with the goal of producing a personal label for bottles of Monster Brew, and also creating a custom laser-cut wooden tote for four bottles of the brew. Universal Laser Systems cut thin plywood into individualized shapes for the brew totes, while Roland printed individualized labels for the bottles using their unique metallic inkjet system.

As with seemingly everything Adobe touches these days, their Creative Cloud was at the forefront of the message—and rightfully so, since Adobe is doing everything in its power to convert their customers to subscribing to this online method of distributing apps and sharing content.


Clearly, Adobe is investing a large portion of its resources into creating what they hope will be an irresistible subscription service for every kind of creative professional. In fact, Adobe announced that for the first time ever they are no longer shipping boxed versions of their products; instead, your only option is to download the software. They’ve even changed the way they name the apps: you might expect the updated CS6 apps to be named CS7, but they’re all now referred to as «CC» (for example, Photoshop CC). The implication is that future versions will still be called CC—Photoshop may be called Photoshop CC forever!

Adobe’s reasons for going all digital should be obvious: by removing the cost of producing physical media, Adobe receives greater income from each product without having to raise prices. In addition, Adobe can provide upgrades to the products without having to throw away older packages and produce new ones. Creative Cloud subscribers benefit by receiving updates as soon as Adobe releases them, and they receive additional tools and services.

You may be asking, «What new tools, services, and updates?» Since Adobe introduced the Adobe Creative Cloud a year ago, Adobe Illustrator was updated in August, and Dreamweaver and the Digital Publishing Suite were updated in September. Also in September, Adobe added their Edge Tools & Services for making animations and fluid webpages, then December saw updates to Photoshop and Muse. The first quarter of this year saw updates to Edge, Muse, and Dreamweaver, and Adobe acquired the Behance online community and began integrating it into the Creative Cloud. All of these new features and services are available to Creative Cloud subscribers.


Besides receiving new features, tools, and services as they’re updated, a subscription to the Creative Cloud also gives you access to a host of opportunities that may or may not be of use to you. For example, you get 20 GB of storage space, which you can use to sync documents between computers and tablets (think iPads), though you can also use the space for backing up documents or sharing them with others. You also get the ability to sync custom settings from your Creative Cloud (CC) apps with any computer running CC apps—handy if you’re working remotely.

You can also sync documents between devices by designating a folder on your hard drive for syncing, and then any items you put into it will automatically sync to the Creative Cloud for access elsewhere. This, and other sharing features, are man¬aged through the new Creative Cloud app, which lives on your computer (and replaces the Adobe Application Manager).

Other activities managed by the Creative Cloud app include installing fonts from (for use on Websites or in any desktop app), and managing your Behance activity stream— which includes invitations to collaborate, comments on projects you’ve posted, and so forth. The Creative Cloud also gives you a way to publish iPad apps, post a customized portfolio of your work, and host up to five websites.


Using Adobe Creative Cloud, you can subscribe on a monthly or annual basis to one or all of Adobe’s products. For example, a single-app annual membership for Photoshop CC costs $19.99 per month and it gives you access to both Mac and Windows versions of the program that you can install on up to two machines (say, a desktop and laptop, or a home and office computer).

If you use two or more Adobe programs (say, Photoshop and InDesign), you might want to subscribe to the entire Creative Cloud for $49.99 a month. This includes all of their products (currently, at least 24 programs in both Mac and Windows versions) and some special services. Businesses can subscribe to a team version of Creative Cloud for $69.99 per month, per seat. In some cases, introductory pricing is available. In case you really need another copy of the old Photoshop CS6, you can still purchase it for $699, but there are no upgrade paths, only bug fixes.

HOW IT works

Whichever option you choose, you simply download Photoshop or other apps to your machine and install them, just like you normally would. However, with the Creative Cloud subscription, once a month your software contacts Adobe via the Internet in order to validate your Creative Cloud account; if Adobe can’t validate your account, your software stops working (though there is a 30-day grace period if your computer can’t connect to the Internet). Your documents are still yours to use any way you’d like, but the apps won’t run.

This is the major difference between the Creative Cloud and purchasing a standalone copy of the software—you can use a standalone copy for as long as your computer is capable of running it, which may be many years. The other major difference is that the standalone copy will not be updated with new features.


Since you can no longer buy upgrades, but only purchase a subscription, it may seem pointless to compare the cost of subscriptions to the former cost of upgrading. But in case you’re curious, here’s how the costs compare: If you normally upgrade your copy of Photoshop every other year, then a single-app Creative Cloud subscription to Photoshop will cost more than twice as much as you’d pay to upgrade it over that period of time. However, if you normally upgrade your copy of Photoshop yearly, then you’ll pay a mere $40 more per year for Creative Cloud but gain access to new features as soon as they’re released, as well as the syncing and sharing services mentioned above.

How you choose to «pay to play» is up to you, but the Creative Cloud is the future for Adobe, and we’re all playing in Adobe’s sandbox, er, Cloud.

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