Spectrum 2: Adobe Launches a Creative Recalibration

Makers, creators, designers, photographers, educators, and enterprises — drumroll, please! Today, Adobe has announced a significant update to its design system across more than 100 applications. A decade in the making, this expansive evolution isn’t just an upgrade; it’s a recalibration of how users engage with the Adobe ecosystem.

As Adobe’s audience diversifies, from newcomers to professionals, the company aims to enhance intuitiveness and inclusivity in its tools for creative exploration. Adobe Firefly and Spectrum 2 are part of this update. They represent a monumental shift to make Adobe tools more intuitive, inclusive, and joyful, catering to various user needs while staying true to their mission of enabling Creativity for All.

Three major improvements define Spectrum 2: inclusivity and accessibility enhancements, a more approachable and expressive design, and adaptability across platforms. To achieve greater accessibility, Spectrum 2 adheres to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and focuses on adaptive palettes, accessible colors, and attention hierarchy.

But the design evolution doesn’t stop at accessibility. Inspired by the success of the more welcoming Adobe Express, Spectrum 2 reimagines icons, typography, and UI themes to cater to a broader audience. Additionally, Spectrum 2 adapts its appearance across different platforms, providing a familiar yet tailored experience on each.

Comprehensive shifts in icons, colors, illustrations, and shapes underpin everything. The update transforms icons from classic to trendy, adjusts color systems for better integration with Adobe’s brand colors, and introduces a more versatile illustration toolkit.

I was thrilled to speak with Eric Snowden, Adobe’s VP of Design, to ask about the strategies, challenges, and transformative elements behind Spectrum 2’s evolution, offering insights into its sure-to-be monumental impact and future-ready design ethos.

(This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.)

It’s been a decade since the introduction of Spectrum 1. What were the primary factors or challenges that contributed to this extended timeline between the two releases? What influenced the evolution and scope of this latest design system?

It was a bunch of small to medium changes, adding up to a much bigger shift for us. With generative AI coming to many of our tools, there’s a real canvas to think about things differently. Once we started adding all these things up, it made sense to take a bigger step back rather than an incremental approach to look at the system for the next few years. We looked back at some of the original designs from 2013 and where our products are now. We’ve been iterating it since then on a yearly basis, but for us, it felt like time to do a more revolutionary versus incremental change. It was driven by many new products that Adobe is making and new markets we’re talking to. People are using more of our products even across the multiple Adobe Clouds in a way they weren’t ten years ago. There’s an intermixing of our tooling in a way that is happening more and more over time. The devices and the platforms people use have changed.

With the rapid evolution of technology and design trends, how does Spectrum 2 anticipate staying adaptable and future-proof while catering to the diverse needs of designers and users across Adobe’s extensive ecosystem?

The components we’re using to design are generated from the tokens, and the tokens generate the code people use in the software. We’ve got this really interesting connection all the way through to keep things up to date. If we change the underlying token, this cascades through the system in a much easier way to update than historically it has been. Having the token from design to code will make it easier for us to revise this as we move forward. We also want to ensure that while it is easier for us to update, there is a sense of stability for people. Our software is changing a lot. GenAI is a big catalyst and will continue to change. We want to make sure we have a system that allows us to move quickly and be flexible as these changes happen.

What feature are you most proud of and excited for with this new system update?

I get excited about the little things like the new icon set or tweaks we’re making to the typography. It’s not always the big features. As someone who lives and loves design, I think those little changes we’re making are really exciting. I get excited about it because bringing all our tools, especially our creative tools, to a much broader audience will allow more people to communicate and express themselves. That’s why I have been at Adobe for as long as I have been. Seeing what people are going to be able to make with our software in the future is the thing that drives me.

Are there any other aha moments you’ve had working on this project?

We’re building fairly fully functional software versions as we iterate a design, use it, and test the updates. It allows us to play with things like density on the desktop to see how it works, different contrast ratios, and what controls we want to give our users. A real superpower for us is having a strong engineering team within design that can help us abstractly think about design and make it real, use it, learn, and iterate. That feedback loop between design, research, prototyping, and our customers has been a real superpower for the team.

More and more people are using Adobe products than ever before. More people want to be creative. If you look at what we’re doing with things like Adobe Express and Adobe Firefly, we have all these new people making beautiful things for the first time, which is super exciting. We think Spectrum 2 can be a piece of modernizing and making those tools more approachable to a whole new audience of people.

Eric Snowden, VP of Design for Adobe

For a closer look at Spectrum 2 and its future, visit the Spectrum 2 site.

Pantone is Keeping Things Warm, Fuzzy, and Peachy Keen in 2024

If you’re anything like me, a self-proclaimed color obsessive, you likely anticipate Pantone’s Color of the Year with mad fervor. Admit it, fellow color enthusiasts! We await Pantone’s Color of the Year like it’s the Synesthesia Super Bowl. Some design sleuths sniff out color trends like detectives on a Crayola case. And there are whispers about folks shaping their lives around the chosen hue, as if creating yearly shrines to the color gods. Or so I’ve heard.

Yesterday, the Pantone Color Institute introduced their 2024 color of the year, Peach Fuzz — a cozy and comforting hue, nurturing compassion and heartfelt kindness.

The introduction of PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz brings a special milestone — the 25th anniversary of the Pantone Color of the Year program. First introduced in 1999 with PANTONE 15-4020 Cerulean Blue, the Pantone Color of the Year program captures the global zeitgeist, reflecting the mood and attitude of individuals. Over the years, Pantone Color of the Year has become an iconic cultural symbol, highlighting how our global culture beautifully speaks through the palette of colors.

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the 2024 Pantone Color of the Year launch party, a captivating blend of warm and fuzzy sophistication. The event, held in a venue beautifully adorned with the chosen color’s hues, highlighted the creative potential inspired by this new shade. Guests were enveloped in everything peachy from décor to fellow attendees’ attire. It was a carefully crafted evening that ended with an immersive dessert experience by Chef Jozef Youssef, the creative force behind the Kitchen Theory design studio. This visually stunning and warm ambiance made me wonder if I was living a sophisticated version of James and the Giant Peach. Needless to say, the hue is undoubtedly comforting, and I respect the theme of togetherness and kindness that the curators are imploring us to carry into this new year.

Photograph by Amelia Nash

Peach Fuzz radiates a sense of warmth and a sense of reassurance. Perhaps that is exactly what we’ve been missing and what we’re reaching out for, imagining ourselves in a time and place where kindness and empathy can lead us to write a better future together.

Elley Cheng, President, Pantone Color Institute

Photograph by Amelia Nash

The color we selected needed to express our desire to want to be close to those we love and the joy we get when allowing ourselves time to tune into who we are; it also needed to be a color whose warm and welcoming embrace could be a message of compassion, empathy, and one that is nurturing, who’s cozy sensibility brought people together.

Laurie Pressman, Vice President, Pantone Color Institute

This year’s official Pantone Color of the Year 2024 partners include Motorola, Shades by Shan (the first-ever cosmetics brand to be Pantone’s beauty partner), Ruggable, Ultrafabrics, and Spoonflower. Each partner has crafted swoon-worthy, inviting items for 2024’s collaboration with Pantone. I am currently churning my thoughts to see whether turning my living room into a maximalist, fuzzy, peachy oasis is viable; stay tuned.

Imagery supplied by Motorola, Spoonflower, Shades by Shan, and Ruggable for Pantone.

And the Pantone 2024 Color of the Year Is…

Things are intense out there! Pantone’s Color of the Year brings the sanctuary, warmth, and togetherness we all seek.

A cozy peach hue softly nestled between pink and orange, PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz brings belonging, inspires recalibration, and an opportunity for nurturing, conjuring up an air of calm, offering us a space to be, feel, and heal and to flourish from whether spending time with others or taking the time to enjoy a moment by ourselves.

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director, Pantone Color Institute

More from Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute:

“Drawing comfort from PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz, we can find peace from within, impacting our wellbeing. An idea as much as a feeling, PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz awakens our senses to the comforting presence of tactility and cocooned warmth.”

We’ll bring you more Peach Fuzz news tomorrow, but for now, deep breath …


Image and video: The Development

This Sculptural Book Maps Out a Journey Through Es Devlin’s Rich Creative World

An Atlas of Es Devlin is the first monograph on the British artist’s cross-disciplinary practice encompassing art, activism, theater, poetry, music, dance, opera, and sculpture. It was co-published in October by Thames & Hudson and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Devlin installed her 30-year archive across the third floor of the Cooper-Hewitt in November 2023.

Devlin’s protean output draws upon a lifetime of reading and drawing, thinking and seeing, and most of all, reimagining. Seven years in production, the 2.75-inch thick, 8” x 8” book is a solid counterpoint to the artist’s experiential works. Weighing in at nearly five pounds, its square proportions echo one of Devlin’s signature formats, the box. 

Despite its heft, the book’s complex form, designed by her cousin Daniel Devlin, feels intimate and inviting. Devlin describes her process as consisting of five ingredients: space, light, darkness, scale, and time; the book pays homage to all. Printed books always have a time element, marking the passing of the hours as a reader gets lost in the pages. In this one, a surprising variety of translucent and mirrored papers, page sizes, die cuts, and other unexpected moments invite readers to pause and appreciate the object they hold in their hands. The ideas startle, provoke, and reward. Devlin searches for ways to provide dopamine hits. As with her designs for the stage, she invites readers to become part of a temporary society traveling through a rich, creative landscape of observing and feeling.

“I do it for love…If I make a beautiful object, it’s the most important use of my time.”

Es Devlin

The book’s pristine white cover features a blind-stamped title and a hypnotic series of circular die-cut apertures slicing through multiple following sheets. The effect is to draw a reader through a portal into the artist’s world, focused on an image of her as if seen through a camera viewfinder. The back cover features a smaller oval opening as if to say: here is a simple way out; your journey is complete. Each boxed copy includes a die-cut print from an edition of 5,000.

© Es Devlin

From A Student Sketchbook 1985-
1995.
© Es Devlin, From A Student Sketchbook 1985-1995.

Devlin’s design practice is physical and conceptual; every project starts with a blank page, a pencil, and a conversation with the playwright or musician. She sketches, builds cardboard models, cuts holes in things, welds, and paints. The value of the craft process is integral to the book as well. The sculptural volume runs to more than 900 pages, with 700 color images documenting 120 projects over four decades. Of particular interest are 300 color reproductions of the ephemeral miniature paintings, sketches, paper cuts, and small mechanical models representing the development process of Devlin’s large-scale works. These welcome surprises scattered throughout appear as small accordion-folded inserts that jog sometimes to the head, sometimes to the foot of the book. 

© Victor Frankowski
MIRROR MAZE
Copeland Park, Peckham, London,
September 21-25, 2016.
© Victor Frankowski, MIRROR MAZE, Copeland Park, Peckham, London, September 21-25, 2016.

An Atlas of Es Devlin highlights the artist’s deeply personal collaboration with actors, playwrights, directors, musicians, and other creative clients. The project examples cover a range of venues worldwide: performances at the Tate Modern, Victoria & Albert Museum, the Serpentine Galleries, the Royal Opera House, the Royal Ballet, the National Theatre, and the Imperial War Museum in London; Superblue Miami; the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center in New York City, and La Scala in Milan. This monograph includes Devlin’s initial sketches, paintings, and rotating cardboard sculptures for the design of the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony, early materials for the 2022 NFL Super Bowl half-time show with Dr. Dre and Kendrick Lamar, as well as setlists overlaid with sketched diagrams of illuminated stage sculptures for U2, Beyoncé, and Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye. 

© Nikolas Koenig
LONDON OLYMPICS
Closing ceremony, London Olympic
Stadium, August 12, 2012.
© Nikolas Koenig, LONDON OLYMPICS, Closing ceremony, London Olympic Stadium, August 12, 2012.

Because Devlin didn’t like the onstage shape of rock shows as seen from the audience (a horizontal layout interrupted by spotlit bumps where the drummers, guitarists, and singers stood, with downlighting and maybe a huge banner behind them—boring!), she tore the shape apart. One approach involved putting each individual on stage into a separate box created with projection mapping and using enormous animated screens that visually synced to a second-by-second timeline of the music. 

© Es Devlin
Left (p 350): WATCH THE THRONE
Jay-Z & Kanye West, World Arena
Tour, October 28, 2011-June 22,
2012.
Right (p 351): TRIANGLE
The Weeknd, Voodoo Music Festival,
City Park, New Orleans, October 28,
2016.
© Es Devlin; Left (p 350): WATCH THE THRONE, Jay-Z & Kanye West, World Arena, Tour, October 28, 2011-June 22, 2012. Right (p 351): TRIANGLE, The Weeknd, Voodoo Music Festival, City Park, New Orleans, October 28, 2016.

In addition to stage performance design, some of her early ideas developed into public sculptures and installations exploring biodiversity, linguistic diversity, and AI-generated poetry. In September 2022, Come Home Again, a 16-meter-high interactive sculpture outside Tate Modern, attracted over 7,000 visitors daily to sing alongside a pre-recorded soundtrack featuring diverse London choirs and the sounds of 243 species. 

© Daniel Devlin
COME HOME AGAIN
Tate Modern Lawn, London,
September 21-October 1, 2022.
© Daniel Devlin, COME HOME AGAIN, Tate Modern Lawn, London, September 21-October 1, 2022.
© Es Devlin
BLUESKYWHITE
Lux Exhibition, 180 The Strand,
London, October 13-December 18,
2021.
© Es Devlin, BLUESKYWHITE, Lux Exhibition, 180 The Strand, London, October 13-December 18, 2021.

Devlin’s process relies upon a give-and-take of ideas, allowing her vision and that of her client to shine through. She collaborates closely with her professional studio team to bring her concepts to life. In an episode of the Netflix series Abstract, she discusses how crucial her collaborators’ support was during stage production for the play The Faith Healer, a series of monologues through rain, sludge, and bleakness. Devlin envisioned and sketched out a curtain of falling rain to create walls separating the actors on all sides from the audience without having the technical know-how to make it happen. Of course, someone else knew how. As she puts it, “It just shows you can design nice things without having any idea how they fucking work.” 

An Atlas of Es Devlin is an immersive, joyful reading experience, an encyclopedia of creativity, and a tribute to the sculptural possibilities of the printed book. It gives form and substance to the artist’s philosophy of why she creates: “I do it for love…If I make a beautiful object, it’s the most important use of my time.”


Banner image: Aperture p xi, © Es Devlin, Engineers and Fabricators