Thursday, October 31, 2013

Creative Cloud a la Carte

I'd like to offer Adobe a perspective on a pricing model that may help convert more people to using Adobe Creative Cloud. In my discussion with various people about Creative Cloud, many times they say "I can't justify the price," or "It's too expensive to upgrade my entire team." Sometimes this comes from professional designers, sometimes from educators, sometimes from printing companies.

But Adobe says: the price is so affordable! You get ALL the apps for around $50. What a deal! Which is true is you're going to use them all, or at least a few of them. But as great as it is to have access to all the apps, I don't use them all. Nor will I ever you use them all. Nor will ANYONE ever use them all. Not even the best trainers in the world whose mission it is to know and teach all they can about Adobe software will ever use all the apps.

Why? Here's why. There are apps designed for various workflows. No one person will ever use all of these tools in a workflow.

Adobe has broken down these tools into several large categories. I've highlighted in red the tools that I used every day. I've highlighted in Blue the tools that I use once in a while, maybe a couple of times per year. Everything else in Creative Cloud I'm really not that interested in. Are they great and useful and loved by thousands of people around the globe? Yes. And I'm sure there are plenty of people just as passionate about their tools as I am about InDesign and Acrobat. But in my workflow, I only need a handful of tools.

But again they say, "What a deal! You get it ALL!" I liken that approach to going to a buffet. A buffet might serve 100 different items, and by paying a set price, I can eat all of the items, as much as I want. The price is all inclusive. How amazing! So I start eating my favorite foods, and then I go back for seconds, and then I start slowing down... Then I've eaten so much that I physically can't eat any more. Does that lessen the beauty of the all inclusive price? Well, it doesn't matter how great of a deal it is if at the end of the day, I  can't humanly take advantage of all the offerings to me. I'd rather just go to my favorite local restaurant, choose my favorite dish from a dozen or so offerings, and not feel guilty by not taking advantage of all the is available to me.

So I propose that Adobe adopt a similar approach to a restaurant, specifically a taco shop. Taco shops are interesting because they present their menu is such a way that it offers endless configurability at a reasonable price.

Each combination is composed of two or three main items, plus you choice of sides.

Prior to Creative Cloud, Adobe had grouped its software into a few major categories. They had:

  • a package for Print Designers
  • a package for Web Designers
  • a package for video editors
  • and a package that included everything.
 I propose that they do the same thing with Creative Cloud.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a handful of programs that I use every day. And another handful of programs that I use once every few months. And still another one or two programs that I will never use, but someone else in my office will. As it stands right now, if my husband needs to use After Effects (which I never use, but he needs to use every once in a while), we have two choices:

  • We can buy him a $50/month subscrition for a whole bunch of software that he'll never use, or
  • We can deactivate the license on my laptop for the duration of his project (so we have Creative Cloud installed on two computers owned by the same person, as the license allows for). When he's done with After Effects, he just needs to remember to deactivate the license so I can use the programs on my laptop again.
But should we really have to jump through those hoops? What I'd prefer is to order a Combo Meal: I choose the package that contains the main dish (the applications that I use every day). And then I choose a few items I'd like as side orders so that someone else on my team can use them (After Effects and team file sharing). 

I think by offering people choices that cost less than $50 per month, many more people would be likely to buy the package that best suits their needs. I won't spend $50 a month so that every once in a while my team member can use AfterEffects. But I will spend $5-10 month for a couple of add-on programs for him.

This problem gets compounded when a large team is involved. Years ago, I worked in the production art department of marketing/printing company. We were on old software, and anxiously awaited the day when we could get modern tools. I think we were perpetually three or four versions behind because the cost to upgrade a team of 30 designers was really high. We had the software installed on more computers than we had licenses for. Sometimes, I'd be working in Photoshop and get a call from the Art Department saying, "Can you please close Photoshop?"

Why? Because I had to share a copy with one of the designers upstairs. The price to upgrade the entire team to the latest software was so high that the management found it cheaper to have us jump through hoops to share a single license. (Never mind the legal aspects of that).

I'll take a guess and say that that printing company could upgrade one seat to Creative Suite Design Standard for $600.  Multiply that by 30 designers, and it costs around $18K to upgrade. But they only upgraded about once every five years or so, so they could amortize that expense over that timeframe. So the expense of upgrading software worked out to about $3600 per year.

Now, let's consider moving the entire team to Creative Cloud. $79/month x 30 designers x 12 months x 5 years: $142,200. Will many companies make the move? Probably not.

But let's go back to the restaurant menu analogy for a moment. Let's say I'm ordering Mexican food with my husband. He orders a burrito. It comes with 2 sides:  rice and beans. But he doesn't like spanish rice, so he asks for something else as a substitute. No problem! 

But as an alternative, to substituting another side item, he also has the option of giving the rice to me, because I will eat it. Of course, he could say "no rice in the burrito" and then I could order an extra side of rice. But if the cashier is thoughtful, they'll likely ring it up like this:

#1 BURRITO: $7.00
-No rice inside
   - Rice

Why do they do this? Because it is the same food packaged differently, and saves the customer money. The customers recognize that thoughtfulness and are more loyal.

Now what if the restaurant only offered side dishes when served alongside an entire entree? The order would look like this.

#1 BURRITO: $7.00
-No rice inside

#2 BURRITO: $7.00
- No burrito

Customers would throw a fit! We would be paying for 2 burritos while only getting the contents of one burrito. Likewise, I think it would be good move for Adobe customers to have the ability to mix and match products so they only pay for what they want.  I need:
  • InDesign
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Acrobat
  • Bridge
As an add on, every once in a while, I'd like to pay for a single month of After Effects. What if there was a package that included just the five programs I need, and then for a small fee (let's say $10 for a month long subscription), I can choose from one of the other programs in Creative Cloud. And for an extra $15 per month I can choose 2 additional programs. But here's the important part: I need those two programs to be used by someone else, with their own Adobe ID. The price point has dropped from $79 for the entire Creative Cloud to $15 for just what they need. Do you think more people would be willing to take advantage of that? I sure do. It offers a affordable entry point for those who cannot afford or are unsure about making the leap. This low entry point allows them to test-drive cloud services for a team, and see how easy it is to update software and share files.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hover Scrolling in InDesign CC: It’s a Feature Not a Bug

Apparently in InDesign CC there is a new feature that lets you interact with the dropdown menus without ever having to click on them. Sounds cool, right? It can wreak havoc on your document without you ever knowing what happened until it's too late.

I started out with a text frame filled with Minion Pro. Then I started Hover Scrolling and in short order, I had created this beauty. Let the fun begin!

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets:

Please leave a note in the comments there sharing your thoughts (pro or con) on Hover Scrolling.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Beware of the Fire of Crisis

For many people, moving from one crisis to the next is a life pattern. Living in crisis mode allows them to feel like super heros, rushing in to save the day, putting out fires just in the nick of time. The thing that crisis-minded folks don't understand is that the difference between them and mythical super heros is that the fires that they are putting out are largely ones that could have prevented in advance.

Some people thrive in the crisis environment. I've spent a great deal of time around people who, in a crisis vacuum, will go to great lengths to create a crisis. It allows them to boldly step, in take control, and tell people what to do. Narcissists are often like this. But this blog is not for narcissists. This blog is for creatives. So as one who makes my living in the creative field, I want to caution you, my fellow creatives, against living your life in crisis mode.

I've found that where crises exists, creativity is stifled. When we are in crisis mode, we're often in search of the most expedient solution to get us out of whatever trouble we find ourselves in. But the quickest and easiest solution is rarely, if ever the best solution.

My husband and I are both creative professionals. I am a designer and writer; he is a musician. But often, we find ourselves spending the bulk of our time doing non-creative tasks. So how does that happen? The better question is, how does that not happen?

Life is busy and messy, and it's so easy to get wrapped up in seemingly important tasks. Answering emails, running errands, attending meetings, dealing with clients, fixing broken equipment, searching for files, sitting idly by while an old slow computer churns away... And meanwhile, at the end of a 40 (or 50 or 60) hour work week, we look back and realize that we've only spent 5 hours on creative endeavors. For me, my creative endeavor is document automation. For others, it's software development. Still others make music, or videos, or fine art. Whatever creative itch you have to scratch, once you make that creative outlet become your career, the business-end of things will undoubtedly creep in and try to take over.

So how to deal with this?

How can you deal with a boss who thinks meetings are more important than creating stuff? If you're self employed, how to deal with the reality of being your own IT person, marketing department, accounting department and purchasing department, in addition to being in responsible for product development and production? How to produce creative work when you're being pulled in a dozen different directions with kids, pets, and needy clients?

I don't have a great answer for this. When I became self employed, I kept my day job for five months. I worked at my day job 40 hours per week and then an additional 30 hours per week on my business. At the end of five months, I was a wreck. I hadn't exercised for months, I was sleep deprived and was living on sugar and coffee. I was burned out and I had just started my own business. So I obviously don't have all the answers, but I can share with you a few tips that will help you have more time for your creative endeavors.

If you're self employed in a creative field and want to stay that way long term, it's especially important to plan ahead to avoid the pitfalls of falling into crisis mode.

Be organized

Let's say as a designer you edit 100 different files per day. That's about 35,000 files per year. If you stay in business for 10 years, that's roughly 350,000 files. You'll need to come up with a good file management system so that you can quickly locate the files you need and get back to your creative work.

Set up automatic backup

If your computer crashes, will you have your files backed up somewhere else? A few years ago, I was excited to have CrashPlan backing up my files. I thought I was safe. But apparently, I had the bandwidth set at the default rate of transfer and after 4 months, my initial backup was not done. And then my hard drive died. I lost hundreds of files. So check in on your backup from time to time and make sure it is backing up at the right speed. You may even want to contact your backup company and have them walk you through some of the more advanced settings so that your backups will be done in a timely manner.


Don't wait until that stiff back and sedentary lifestyle have caused you enough pain that you can't do your job. Get out from behind the desk. Get out and get moving before your body forgets how to and is locked in the typing-on-the-keyboard position.

Spend time with other Creatives

When I started the Raleigh InDesign User Group a couple of years ago, I thought I would be doing people a service by sharing with them my InDesign knowledge. But to be honest, I'm fairly confident that I've learned more from my fellow IDUG members than they have from me. They have introduced me to new features, plugins, and tools. They've shown me new ways of working that speed up my workflow and allow me to spend more time on the fun stuff. Your fellow creatives can offer insight and encouragement and keep you from making rash, career-impacting decisions after an exceptionally hard day.

Dream big

If you're still reading this blog, chances are good that you aspire to more than typesetting business cards for the local accounting firm. So write down your big ideas about what you'd like your future to look like. Share your big ideas with a friend. Set a measurable goal, and then work toward it methodically. This is important because when you're working toward a big goal, it puts into perspective all the petty annoyances that you may have to deal with on a daily basis. I remember back in college when I had to take dumb courses like macroeconomics and astronomy. I managed to get through those classes because I knew that I was working toward a larger goal: earning a college degree. If I hadn't been working toward a defined goal, I likely would have dropped out of those waste-of-my-time classes in the first week.

I speculate that one of the reasons that people experience mid-life crises is because their lives have been in a state of crisis for years, and over time, they have lost themselves in the sea of crises, waking up one morning thinking that suddenly, everything needs changing. Of course, I'm a mid-thirty-something, so I have a lot to learn.

But I do know that crises will get in the way of, and eventually burn out a creative career, reducing your flexibility and limiting your choices. And so with that in mind, I aim to prevent crises before they happen. Don't let the fire of crisis burn out your creativity, your health, or your career.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Introducing “Magneto Paths”

The great folks over at Rorohiko have developed an amazing plugin called Magneto Paths. This plugin makes objects stick together while they are being drawn, resized, and reshaped. This means you can effectively apply more than one stroke or fill to (what appears to be) a single object.

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.