Design Your Own Creative Suite 3 Icons Competition

Design Your Own Creative Suite 3 Icons Competition

This Competition Has Ended and is No Longer Accepting Entries. View the Winning Entries Below.

Winners announced, and icons ready for you to download, below.


In late December 2006, Adobe revealed a portion of its branding scheme for the next generation of Adobe applications, including the upcoming Creative Suite 3 and all CS3-version point products like Photoshop, InDesign, InCopy, Illustrator, DreamWeaver, Adobe Bridge, and Acrobat. Except in a few instances, the branding scheme, which incorporates all the formerly Macromedia-published products, foregoes the symbols and iconography so familiar to creative professionals in favor of color-coded, two-letter symbols for each application (see illustration).

Adobe's New Product Color Wheel O' Icons (thumbnail)

Click the image to zoom to the entire color wheel. Adobe’s new product icons create a cohesive branding scheme based on the color wheel.

The branding change has met with passionately polarized opinions–some adore the new icons, some despise them. Regardless of which side you count yourself among, Quark VS is giving you the opportunity to express your vision of the perfect Creative Suite 3 application icons in the Design Your Own Creative Suite 3 Icons Competition.

If you aren’t a fan of the new icons, here’s your chance to make your opinion known to Adobe in the language you speak most fluently–visual design. Even if you love the new CS3 icons, here’s your chance to step into Adobe’s shoes to visually explore and quantify what the tools of our trade mean to you. Starting from scratch, how would you have designed the icons?

The Quark VS Design Your Own Creative Suite 3 Icons Competition is a good-natured, fun, and friendly competition among graphic designers, illustrators, user interface designers, and anyone who enjoys using Adobe products to create–professionally or as a hobby. This contest is about celebrating our favorite tools and thanking Adobe for two decades of creating some of the coolest software that enables us to express our creative passions.

Now that Adobe has shown how it sees Adobe applications, Quark VS is asking you to show how you see your favorite tools, to communicate your vision in the unique and challenging art form of 128×128-pixel canvases. When all the entries are assembled together on Quark VS your designs will be among a gallery of voices from around the world articulating in visual language their appreciation for the coolest software I can imagine.

The Winners and Judging

First Place: Kimberly Smith

Second Place: Danny Dioguardi

Third Place: Vito Zgonik

Judging was according to the following criteria:

  • 30% Originality. Rotating Adobe’s own icons 90-degrees probably won’t score big.
  • 30% Appropriateness to Subject. In part, we will look for how obvious it is that the icon represents the application it’s supposed to. In a dock or button bar, no label will be present, so a user must intuit which icon belongs to which application. Part of this criterion will also be evaluating the ability of the design to retain its integrity and recognition at typical icon sizes–256×256, 128×128, 64×64, 48×48, 32×32, 24×24, and 16×16 pixels.
  • 30% Coolness Factor. Any iconophile knows that the appreciation of these tiny works of art is not limited to specific styles, palettes, or motifs. It’s about, well, icon coolness. Separate from the others, this criterion will look at how many and how big the oohs and ahhs the designs elicit, and how fast it makes us want to replace default icons on our own docks and launch bars.
  • 10% Number of Application Icons. The minimum eligible submission was three (3) icons. Among the various editions of Creative Suite 3 and all the non-bundled applications Adobe recently madeover, there were more than three dozen applications that were candidates to have their icons redesigned by entrants. Adobe created a cohesive design scheme for their icons, and we looked for entrants to do the same.

With so many creative interpretations of Adobe application iconography, judging was difficult. Between the first and second place winners especially. Kimberly Smith’s excellent and instantly identifiable object-oriented graphics and Danny Dioguardi’s evolution of symbols from an homage to previous versions through new symbols are both beautifully original, immediately identify the applications they describe, and certainly meet the coolness factor. In the end, judging between them rested on that 10% criterion, the number of application icons. Kimberly created four more icons than Danny, nudging her into the top spot.

Vito Zgonik, the third place winner, produced designs that hold true to Adobe’s CS3 branding scheme by using color-coded squares and two-letter identifiers for applications, but return the symbols and functional communication lacking in Adobe’s icons. Vito elegantly incorporated the symbols as subtle background patterns where others might have been tempted to add louder elements to compete with the central letters. Two things prevented this set of icons from scoring higher in the competition: First, the styled F Flash icon broke ranks and retreated into past Macromedia branding instead of holding a cohesive aesthetic. Second, the symbols Vito used in some of the background patterns didn’t make sense. For instance, grass brushes are used to represent FreeHand and Photoshop. I could understand such a symbol applied to the vector illustration application FreeHand or to Photoshop, which contains the grass brush patterns themselves, but by employing grass for both application icons, it weakened the result for both and looks almost as if the artist ran out of ideas by the time he got around to designing the latter of the two. Despite its relatively minor flaws, the set is beautiful. I particularly enjoy the way it incorporates and updates the popular glass-button style.

A couple of sets I received, those by Adam Betts and Anatoliy Omelchenko, were also strong showings. At the request of their authors, they were excluded from judging, but have been made available for download. Of the two sets not competing the design competition, Adam Betts’s, which brings the CS3 application box imagery into the icons and retaining the flavor of Adobe’s vision, is stunning. Among my favorites, however, is Anatoliy Omelchenko’s abstract representations of Acrobat, Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. Simple in design but instantly recognizable as harbingers of their respective applications, Anatoliy’s designs are remarkable examples of graphic design.

Click here to see the winning icon designs and download all entries free for use on your computer.

Want to see the incredible prize chests the winners are taking home? Kimberly’s prizes are on the next page, followed by Danny and Vito. Or, use the links box at the top of this column to jump right to them.

Next: First Place Winnings

Continued On...