Adobe’s New Brainstorming App For Designers Is Here

30 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Adobe Wants To Kill Your Desktop.

The last time we saw Comp CC, the newest tool in Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite, it was called LayUp, and creator Khoi Vinh had just demoed it at Adobe MAX 2014. Comp CC, which is now available for the iPad, makes it easier for designers to take their design ideas for new websites, mobile apps and print from the back of a napkin (or in this case the iPad) to production.

Adobe has launched Comp CC, a new iPad app that lets designers work with their Creative Cloud account to quickly fashion a usable comp — complete with the same assets you would use in the final version. Comp CC (as in Creative Cloud—the surname of most of Adobe’s applications these days) lets designers draw on the tablet with some key assists and assets, and then continue working on the ideas in the more powerful desktop applications, InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop CC. As Adobe principal product manager Will Eisley told me last week, the company believes that creatives now look at mobile as an extension of their creative workflow.

With Comp CC, you could begin your mobile, web or print layout on the subway, stop off at the coffee shop and tweak it some more, and by the time you arrive at the office (on time, of course) you just need to upload your work to the computer and place the final touches. Over the next year, he has big plans to turn Adobe’s apps for your smartphone and tablet from a creative gimmick into powerful multitasking tools with workflows that are on par or even faster than what you can do on your desktop. The app, announced today, gives the designer access to brand assets and exact color values stored in his or her Adobe Creative Profile and Creative Cloud Libraries. The entire experience will all be centered around a free iPad app Adobe is launching today called Adobe Comp, a fast and capable layout tool for mocking up typefaces, graphics, and user interfaces. With touch devices there’s this opportunity to get the best of both worlds, and to work as quickly as you could on paper, and be as disposable as paper.” With Comp, Adobe wants to augment its role in the designer’s workflow.

Additionally, Comp CC lets designers combine Typekit fonts, relevant images, plus color swatches and shapes they need for layout-design projects on iPad. Not only does the app let you sketch out drafts, but you also can access the exact files, colors, shapes, drawings, photos, brushes and fonts you need for your final prototype. You start with any number of preset canvas sizes—like an iPhone screen, a business card, or an HD-resolution website—and then, through a series of pinches and taps, you can create highly accurate gridded shapes, images, and text. “We’re marketing this as the first-mile app for all of the desktop products,” Belsky tells me. “When you open a new project in either Photoshop or Illustrator, it’s a blank page. Adobe has been busy churning out mobile design apps, including Illustrator Draw, Illustrator Line, Photoshop Sketch, Adobe Shape CC, and Adobe Color CC.

Doing creative work on a mobile device is only useful if the results can be synced to the desktop, where the project can be perfected in a precise, professional-grade tool like InDesign or Photoshop. Comp CC was previewed in a sneak peek at Adobe’s MAX conference last fall under the code name “Project LayUp.” The app performs some processing in the cloud, so users will need a live Internet connection while using it. Once on the desktop, the heavy-hitting apps can take over to further develop and refine the layout into a production-quality project ready for the next step.

Using Comp’s touchscreen controls is both intuitive and tactile—and it comes with an immediate gratification that you just don’t get with a mouse. As with pretty much everything coming out of Adobe lately, Comp CC also requires an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, and it is available starting today on the iTunes App Store. There are two modes that you can toggle: Drawing mode lets you create frames, shapes and text placeholders; while Editing mode lets you resize and reposition objects, import images, format text, and add elements to your layout.

Switching back and forth between modes is easy — just tap on the left-hand tab — and once your rough sketch is finished, you can start filling it in with live elements. Every interaction was built with speed in mind. “Why would we need to tap on a menu item to generate a circle,” Vinh said when we first saw the app. “Why wouldn’t we draw it?” Everything created in Comp can be quickly exported to other Adobe apps and finished on a desktop. A three-finger swipe takes you back through the entire history of your composition. (You can export any and all stages of this comp to Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign.) A slider allows you to cruise through layers, rather than the more complicated outline format you’ve seen on desktops.

That’s still here, of course, but Comp has a more explicit gesture vocabulary, so a designer can learn a shorthand that allows adding details like rounded corners. Two- and three-finger swipes help you build, undo and redo parts of your comp, and Adobe has 16 special gestures you can use to set up your comp quickly. And within the app, they’ve not only integrated access to all of your files in your Creative Cloud Drive, but something called the Creative Cloud Market.

The team didn’t want to see how much of Photoshop and InDesign they could squeeze in, he told me, but instead focus on the basic things you want to specify when you ideate. The Market has all sorts of commonly needed graphics—like iOS navigation UI—that you can suck into your compositions, allowing you to grab necessary media quickly without Googling. (For now, the Market is free to use, though that may change in the future.) Without getting into too much interface detail, I’d say that what FiftyThree’s Paper has done for intuitive drawing on tablets, Comp is doing for building a more general layout on a tablet. Adobe started this project around the end of 2013 when the team talked to Khoi Vinh, the former Design Director at the New York Times, about the challenges he sees with the early part of the design workflow. Once the team identified the problem, Adobe set him up with a prototype and quickly landed on what Eisley called a “quick and dirty prototype.” Then, Adobe user-tested this first idea over the course of the summer. There are several options for working with placed images, including setting opacity, cropping, positioning, duplicating and adjusting the stacking order.

It’s hardly glamorous, but provides the seamlessness that is key to making a mobile experience work—and Adobe is committed to making it work. “Connected creativity, or the notion of creative profile library,” says Adobe VP Will Eisley, “That’s really the core of what the Adobe vision is.” In this way, Adobe offers a new perspective on the iPad’s value proposition, which has been murky since its debut five years ago. Once you’ve formatted a block of text, you can tap Copy in the Format panel, and apply the same formatting to other text blocks elsewhere in the document. It doesn’t have all the raw data you’ll find in a big PSD, but it’s a lightweight, universal language that Adobe’s mobile and desktop apps can share. Eisley and Vinh know this—Vinh even wrote about it on his blog Subtraction last year—and remain undeterred. “The idea is that it lets you do what you do on paper,” Vinh says. “Setting up a specific dimension for the workspace, I think that’s really hard to do on a big phone.

Even if you don’t need to create comps on such a high level — with professional assets in place — it’s easy to appreciate how far Comp CC goes in giving you professional looking output and can also serve as a valuable learning tool that’s easy enough for anyone to use. But for Adobe, deep linking will enable multitasking for the app era without making its interface overly bloated. “There have never been any great creative apps on mobile that worked together,” Belsky admits. “In some ways, the Camera Roll [as a central depository for your mobile media] is the worst thing for creativity.

We’re killing the reliance on Camera Roll.” Think about it: The full Photoshop interface—designed for big monitors and precise mouse movements—just doesn’t translate to an iPad’s finger-driven touchscreen. A single great batch of Photoshop filters can make all the difference to someone’s workflow, but negotiating plug-ins within the mobile OS infrastructure is a complicated proposition.

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