Graphic designers are on the cutting edge of revolution. They get bored easily, so they're always quick to make a change, introduce a new style, push the envelope and redefine the term “bold.” So why is it graphic designers seem so complacent with the software industry?
If I want a soda, I can choose between Coke and Pepsi. Both are very good products backed by very good companies. My personal preference is irrelevant – what is relevant is that I have a choice in the soda market. Not so with professional graphic design software, where Adobe is king and doesn't appear to have any challengers for the throne.
This is a bad thing.
If Adobe has no challengers, there's no incentive to make the software better to meet the demands of graphic designers. Instead, Adobe seems to have a cash cow – plunk out a new version of Creative Suite every couple of years and remove you from another chunk of change. Like many companies, Adobe forges forward with new features and bug fixes, but doesn't seem to address nuisances that have plagued its software for years (admittedly, this might be in fear of negative retaliation – sometimes if you make something “different,” even if it's better, people will complain). Take the pen tool, for example – look at any tutorial on the pen tool and you'll read that it's tricky to get used to. Why does it remain tricky to learn, release after release?
I'm not bashing Adobe. In fact, quite the opposite. Adobe is doing what Adobe needs to do to stay competitive and profitable. I am chastising other software companies who either will not or cannot develop a legitimate contender that can refuel innovation in the industry, as well as the graphic designers who sit back with no demand for a competitor.
I was excited some time ago when Aviary launched, because it is a software-as-a-service hosted web application. This, I believe, is the future of all software. However, Aviary has stated that it does not intend to compete with Photoshop, and though I am impressed by Aviary it is not a professional tool for most (though it's great for the small business or webmaster).
After some research, I learned that Adobe is likewise looking at taking Photoshop and other popular software to the software-as-a-service platform. It's going to take years, they say, though I think it will be sooner than anyone thinks (NOTE: There is currently an online version of Photoshop at photoshop.com. It's a neat application, but not ready for professional deployment). It's a great project, but I also wonder if Adobe's resources will be focused mostly on the porting process and less on service innovation and – if so – has a window cracked for competition to step up?
When voters do not hold politicians accountable, their best interests are not upheld. When graphic designers and software companies become similarly apathetic, does the Adobe juggernaut continue to get better or does it simply continue to seek new ways to make money from the same old products?