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Hangin’ Around: Creating a Digital Identity with Analog Tools

By Terri Stone

While Adobe makes digital software, we also love analog. We’ve commissioned artists to build a wall of lights, turn our logo into a fish bowl, and transform thousands of purple pencils into performance art. With the new identity for the 2015 Creative Cloud, we went analog in a big way, working with Japanese artist collective NAM to construct a scene that is surreal but very much in the physical world.

WHY AN IDENTITY?

John Caponi and Eddie Yuen are creative directors in the Studio, Adobe’s in-house ad agency. They collaborated with NAM on the 2015 Creative Cloud identity.

Both have helped craft Adobe identities. In the past, the software came in packages, which needed beautiful imagery. But as John points out, even with the subscription model, “Products still need identities to give them a personality, a voice. There needs to be something expressive that talks about what the product does.” Below, the Creative Cloud identities from previous years show the evolution from more a literal representation to the conceptual.

Adobe Creative Cloud identity, or logo, from 2012

2012

Adobe Creative Cloud identity, or logo, from 2013

2013

Adobe Creative Cloud identity, or logo, from 2014

2014

In the case of the 2015 Creative Cloud, the product is actually many applications and an array of services. In addition, some apps are for mobile devices and some for desktop computers, and the services include sharing assets between mobile and desktop with CreativeSync.

“We wanted to express a transformative story because the Creative Cloud is transforming the way we all work,” says John. “We wanted to show the mobile to desktop process in one environment.” Executive creative director AJ Joseph asked John and Eddie to make the 2015 identity a narrative. That instruction set the tone for a more literal direction.

“We brainstormed about what this environment should be,” Eddie continues. “What about the Creative Cloud in a transit environment? Or a design studio? How could we make this space different, more creative? Then the idea of making it dreamy and surreal came up.”

Tolleson Design, an agency the Studio has worked with for years, explored variations on the theme. The best of those concepts involved defying gravity.

COLLABORATING WITH NAM

NAM Collective is known for fantastical imagery that’s often achieved in camera after elaborate preparation of the scene. The Studio had long wanted to work with NAM, and the 2015 Creative Cloud identity turned out to be an ideal opportunity.

Conceptual sketch of the 2015 Creative Cloud identity
Conceptual sketch of the 2015 Creative Cloud identity
Conceptual sketch of the 2015 Creative Cloud identity

Long before Eddie and John arrived in Japan for the photo shoot, they held long phone meetings with Takayuki Nakazawa and his team to refine the concept.

“It’s a complex story,” says Eddie, “and NAM had difficulty understanding at first. You need to know the products and the workflows to really get it.” To explain, the Studio sketched out their thoughts and shared those with NAM.

“John and I were careful not to limit their creative freedom,” Eddie notes. “But they really appreciated the direction we gave them. It was very collaborative.” 

Two weeks before John and Eddie flew to Japan, NAM began to bring the concept to life. The team made all the cubes you see in the final image by hand out of wood or plastic. They cut out pieces of paper, painted letters, and constructed a huge set.

The set included a grid from which the team suspended items. Eddie says, “NAM’s characteristic style is to hang everything with fishing line. For our shoot, even the model was in a harness.”

“They were so detailed about hanging things,” John recalls. “They knew where to position them relative to the camera to give a realistic sense of depth.”    

NAM Collective members at work on the set for the 2015 Creative Cloud identity photo shoot.
NAM Collective members at work on the set for the 2015 Creative Cloud identity photo shoot.
NAM Collective members at work on the set for the 2015 Creative Cloud identity photo shoot.
This video shows the making of the 2015 Creative Cloud identity.

Click to see the set being built, the model suspended in the air, and even a live bird become part of the final image.

Finally, it was time to bring the results of the shoot back to the digital realm and finish up the image in Adobe Photoshop CC. “The most significant Photoshop work was removing the fishing line,” John says.

Another Studio member, art director Robert Blatherwick, added the final detail: a 3D rendering of the Creative Cloud logo that reflects the busy scene surrounding it.