Wednesday, December 13th, 2023 Posted by Jim Thacker

Adobe unveils Spectrum 2

Adobe has unveiled Spectrum 2, an update to the set of design principles that govern the look and feel of its products, from web apps to desktop software like Photoshop and After Effects.

The new design system, which is intended to make Adobe apps easier to use online and on mobile devices, will roll out over the next year, initially in Adobe’s web products.

Below, we’ve provided a quick summary of why the changes are taking place, and how they’re likely to affect the look of the Adobe apps you use.

Why is Adobe doing this?
The switch to Spectrum 2 will the be first major change to the look of many Adobe applications in a decade, the firm’s current Spectrum design system having been in place for over 10 years.

It governs most aspects of the way that Adobe apps look, including how interfaces are laid out, the colors and fonts they use, and the way that their icons are designed.

Compared to the fanciful justifications that big companies sometimes make for design changes, Adobe’s rationale is pretty pragmatic.

Although the blog post announcing Spectrum 2 includes a few choice phrases about making Adobe tools “even more intuitive, inclusive, and joyful”, its key aim is simply to improve usability.

When Spectrum was designed, its products were mainly desktop applications, but now they’re increasingly mobile or web apps, and the way they look needs to suit those platforms too.

How will Spectrum 2 change the look of Adobe tools?
In particular, there are formal standards for making web content accessible to users with visual impairments, and Adobe describes these Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as the “definitive starting point” for Spectrum 2.

Key parts of the work include giving users more control over the tonal contrast of interfaces, and ensuring that the palettes they use are accessible to people with color vision deficiences.

The Spectrum 2 website goes into detail on this, but the take-home messages seem to be that compared to Adobe’s current professional-looking but rather minimal UI designs, the new interfaces will be more colorful, with heavier icons, and feature more rounded corners.

When will Spectrum 2 come to the apps I use?
According to Adobe, Spectrum 2 will begin to appear in updates to its products “later this year”, beginning with its web applications, with a “larger rollout” in 2024.

Read more about the design principles behind Spectrum 2 on Adobe’s blog