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A very vector story
July 31, 2014 5:57 AM   Subscribe

The Adobe Illustrator Story. Watch the Illustrator story unfold, from its beginning as Adobe’s first software product, to its role in the digital publishing revolution, to becoming an essential tool for designers worldwide
posted by Brandon Blatcher (43 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is there a torrent of this somewhere? Habit, you know.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:00 AM on July 31 [10 favorites]


I'd recommend looking on a torrent site.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:03 AM on July 31


I meant of the video. Because Adobe. And everybody steals that stuff and... God damn it, don't murder my joke.

Anyway, it is a good little mini doc. Recommended. Thanks for the link.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:08 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Yes, look on a torrent site for the video.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:11 AM on July 31


I think my first full-time use of Illustrator was v.3 on a Silicon Graphics Indigo box. Then, came a (very short-lived) stint on a PC before settling on a Mac.

FWIW, my vote for the most bullet-proof version of Illustrator has to be Illy 8. V9 wasn't bad, either. Something died, though, when the CS versions appeared, but I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it was the engine driving the interface, but it all started feeling a little less solid, and more focused on bells-and-whistles rather than bug fixes or performance.

And don't get me started on CC. Nope. Not even gonna...

Still, Illy is my weapon of choice, and has been for about 25 years now. Good lord, I'm old.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:13 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


I use Illustrator CS6 these days. Love it. I switched from being a hardcore CorelDraw user back around Illustrator 8. I still say CorelDraw is the more powerful program, though.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:29 AM on July 31


Aldus Freehand 4 lyfe
posted by ardgedee at 6:31 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


I'd recommend looking on a torrent site.

Did you just Schrab him?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:37 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I'm still in awe of the old-school Illustrator-slingers for whom traditional Bézier curve control handles have become a fluid, intuitive drawing medium. For me, they're a knotted mass of faffing about and swearing.
posted by scruss at 6:42 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


Something died, though, when the CS versions appeared, but I can't put my finger on it.

This may be part of the answer: For many years I had to work with beta versions of Adobe software for my job. So I had some insight into "back room", so to speak.

Around the time the CS versions came around the Illustrator team was outsourced, meaning they were no longer based in San Jose with the other Adobe folks. This resulted in a certain disconnect between Illustrator and Photoshop, for example. You'd think those two software teams would be all chummy with each other, but not the case.
posted by jeremias at 6:53 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I'm still in awe of the old-school Illustrator-slingers for whom traditional Bézier curve control handles have become a fluid, intuitive drawing medium. For me, they're a knotted mass of faffing about and swearing.

The major trick to Bezier points is to only have them at the apex of curves whenever possible. The fewer points you can get away with, the better.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:58 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


A friend of a friend is developing Affinity Designer, an intended Illustrator-killer for Mac. It's in beta testing now.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:32 AM on July 31 [7 favorites]


You Can Take My Letraset When You Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands!
posted by homodigitalis at 8:32 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


You Can Take My Letraset When You Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands!

Presstype 4-evar!
posted by Thorzdad at 8:55 AM on July 31


Thorzdad And don't get me started on CC. Nope. Not even gonna...

There was a point where we stopped being excited about new features in Illustrator and started worrying about how to contain the damage from bugs and feature bloat. My employer now only upgrade to maintain compatibility with the files we receive.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:07 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


jeremias...That may be part of it, and it always maddened me that Illy and Pshop always seemed to be one version off from each other, in terms of features/abilities. But, for me, the main difference between Illy 8 and subsequent versions was the interface. Illy 8 was simply a solid looking and performing workspace. Beginning with Illy 9, and especially once CS took over, the interface felt a lot more like a Flash app...kind of fragile and indecisive.

I know it sounds weird, but when you spend days and months and years with an app, you get a feel for how it acts, and the CS apps always just felt...dainty...to me. Like if I clicked just a little too hard, it would break or something. CS6 is the worst of them, in this regard. It just looks like something built in Flash, even though it isn't.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:10 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


"Did you just Schrab him?"

You mean Kumailing, right? ;)
posted by lem at 9:18 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I have to confess that Deneba Canvas was my weapon of choice. Still use it though it's sort of struggling on my now out of date Mac. Canvas is more out of date. I keep hearing rumors of a rebirth. Illustrator always struck me as too complicated.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:27 AM on July 31


You Can Take My Letraset When You Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands!

Presstype 4-evar!



Step up to a Kroy lettering system.

Or a Leroy!

How old am I? I dated Lorem Ipsum in high school.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:47 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


> I'm still in awe of the old-school Illustrator-slingers for whom traditional Bézier curve control
> handles have become a fluid, intuitive drawing medium.

I love having the Béziers there in place but I dislike editing them (let alone drawing them) so much that I make every possible effort to do every hard line I might conceivably need on paper with a nice fine Rapidograph and scan 'em in. You can always delete what you don't need later. And then vectorizing the lines with something that will do a centerline trace and starting the Photoshop work with all the paths already done.
posted by jfuller at 10:00 AM on July 31


Yeah, there was a definite shift in a lot of things about Illustrator around the CS era. Part of it was the shift from 'a new version happens when there's actually enough for it' to 'a new version happens every 18 months in lock-step with all the rest of the Adobe tools'; ever since then, most new features have felt half-assed and unfinished.

(My favorite example: variable-width strokes, introduced in CS5 back in 2010. On the surface it sounds great! Tweak the width of your strokes after you draw them. Except that this tool didn't work with any of the existing ways to draw pressure-sensitive lines. I just checked and they quietly improved this a little - it now works with two of the five kinds of ways you can tart up your strokes and make them respond to stylus pressure - but originally it was just completely isolated and utterly useless.)

I keep on upgrading. Sometimes I'm not sure why. My favorite recent version was CS6, whose major feature was "we rewrote a bunch of unsexy stuff deep inside and made complicated operations a lot faster".

oh and if anyone is curious here is a video I made explaining how I use AI to draw a graphic novel.
posted by egypturnash at 10:01 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


The fewer points you can get away with, the better.

This is the second-toughest thing to get across to students, in my experience (the first being why the pen tool isn't the pencil tool).
posted by aaronetc at 10:06 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Neat to watch. I started work at Adobe in 1990 in the PostScript department, which I thought was odd since I was a Mac programmer at that point. I made it a goal to try to know what was going on all around the company because there were a number of very smart people there and you learn things from smart people.

This is how I ran into joe holt (note that he preferred that lowercase letters in his name, which in the link of splash screens changes after version 3. joe and shared a great deal in common and did a lot to push each other's work. He did some really astounding work on the engine and design of Illustrator UI, especially improving font handling.

I think he was responsible for the plug-in that displays the number of shopping days until Christmas.

Adobe used to have bug hunts for beta versions of products and the teams had prizes offered that increased in value depending on the severity of the bug that you found. When Illustrator added a sketch tool on Windows, I remember sitting down and spending close to 20 minutes trying to paint every pixel on the screen black until the entire machine crashed hard. I think I got $100 for that one. Next bug hunt it was fixed.

I look through the credits and see so many names of people I worked with. Easily 1/4 of the Illustrator team went on to work on Acrobat.
posted by plinth at 10:10 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


You Can Take My Letraset When You Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands!

Presstype 4-evar!


Can't we all just get along? And laugh at the Chartpak users together?
posted by hal9k at 10:12 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but MS Paint is the real killer app!
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 10:17 AM on July 31


I'm currently working freelance in A Major Kids Network where I am not just dealing with Illustrator every day, but scripting it, automating it and spamming people who work at Adobe with questions about it. (I have an email in my inbox from the Product Manager for AI who said "how may I help you"—I geeked out like crazy).

So imagine my surprise in watching this to see that Burt Monroy, whose work I've seen in countless Wow Books and such, painted THE VERY ENTRANCE TO THE BUILDING I'M SITTING IN.
posted by Brainy at 10:45 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Also: Teri Pettit, who designed group blends, once mentioned in passing on the forums the best thing that I've ever learned about bezier paths.
Your handles should be 1/3 the length of the segment they're affecting.

Try it. It makes SO much sense.
posted by Brainy at 10:47 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


@Faint of Butt, I'm very interested to see what happens to your friend's Illustrator-killer.

I'm currently working on a tutorial for Sketch, which has gained a lot of traction in the UI design and web community as a low-cost alternative to Illustrator with features that reflect a more "modern" workflow. It's still young software but it does a lot of things very well, exporting artwork in the 8 million formats and sizes needed for today's web graphics, for example is a piece of cake.

Sketch is aiming more at the market that Fireworks used to own (R.I.P. good buddy) and therefore hasn't focused on the more "illustrative" tools that Illustrator dominates in: brushes in particular. But it looks like Affinity Designer will be doing that. Very cool, more competition in this field benefits us all.
posted by jeremias at 10:50 AM on July 31


Also: Gradient Mesh is, believe it or not, my absolute favorite medium to work in.
posted by Brainy at 10:51 AM on July 31


Why is this video asking me to install an installer before watching it?





Now it is asking me to update the installer.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:06 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


This is what I hear in my head every time I fire up Illustrator.
posted by rlk at 11:07 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Now it is asking me to update the installer.

You should looked for an updated installer on a torrent site.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:15 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Oh hey if anyone wants to trade some scripts... here's one I made to create new swatches blending between existing ones, and here's a couple I wrote to give me key commands to change stroke weight.
posted by egypturnash at 12:03 PM on July 31


I've been using Illustrator for years for scientific illustration -- it still does a better job making EPS and PDF files editable than anything else -- but with the onset of the godawful subscription pricing, I've been pushing my students towards iDraw, which does a surprisingly decent job. Maybe I'll give the Affinity Designer beta a shot as well.
posted by irrelephant at 12:19 PM on July 31


You Can Take My Letraset When You Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands!

I miss the well-waxed rubylith sheets we used to block out pictures. Some pieces had been used so often that they were the texture of a fruit roll-up.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:25 PM on July 31


It's still young software but it does a lot of things very well, exporting artwork in the 8 million formats and sizes needed for today's web graphics, for example is a piece of cake.

Sketch is a cool app, and I'll definitely play with it, but it's pretty myopic of them to ignore the print needs of graphic artists by leaving-out any CMYK tools, let alone include color management. I get that it's a big web world, but every graphic artist I know, young and old, still do a ton of print work.

It's the same issue whenever the Linux nerds start singing GIMP's praises as a Photoshop replacement. No CMYK. The real world isn't web-only.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:53 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Also: Gradient Mesh is, believe it or not, my absolute favorite medium to work in.

Very nice. I am sad to admit, in all my years, I never got the hang of using gradient meshes. At least not as well as you have.
As long as we're sharing samples of our Illy work, here's an oldie...
posted by Thorzdad at 3:07 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


In that video from the 80's the program opens in about a quarter of a second. This metric has progressed considerably since then.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 4:53 PM on July 31


> It's the same issue whenever the Linux nerds start singing GIMP's praises as a Photoshop
> replacement. No CMYK. The real world isn't web-only.

The GIMP devs do seem to be on the "print is dead and if it isn't it should be and will be soon" bandwagon. Part of me (the treehugger part) is perfectly OK with this. The other part is not fighting any rear-guard retro battles against e-books, though, it's going "where is the 3D printing support for cuneiform tablets?"
posted by jfuller at 5:31 PM on July 31


Damn, Brainy, that is some nice-ass gmesh stuff. I can't stand using it myself, I'd rather achieve the same kinds of effects with layered blurred shapes and the odd gradient/blend. Or more usually just be all "oh screw shading I like flat colors".

And that is pretty nice for an oldie, Thorzad!

I'm sitting in a cafe, and am debating between going to Illustrator to get something in progress done, or faffing about with Affinity so I can go on its forums and whine about it not supporting the 10% of Illustrator's toolset that I find absolutely crucial and can't imagine working without. And then maybe buy it anyway because man Illustrator has gotten soft ever since Adobe bought Macromedia and killed Freehand; it needs competition.
posted by egypturnash at 6:13 PM on July 31


Sketch is a cool app, and I'll definitely play with it, but it's pretty myopic of them to ignore the print needs of graphic artists by leaving-out any CMYK tools, let alone include color management.

I'm not convinced it's myopic as much as hyper-focused. Entering the world of CMYK means diverting a lot of resources for a shrinking market. Meanwhile, building a tool for the specific and evolving needs of mobile/web seems like a natural evolution to me.
posted by jeremias at 6:24 PM on July 31


Cringely, in Accidental Empires, writes:
This pressure to produce first became a problem when Warnock decided to do Adobe Illustrator, a PostScript drawing program for the Macintosh. Adobe’s customers to that point were companies like Apple and IBM, but Illustrator was meant to be sold to you and me, which meant that Adobe suddenly needed distributors, dealers, printers for manuals, duplicators for floppy disks—things that weren’t at all necessary when serving customers meant sending a reel of computer tape over to Cupertino in exchange for a few million dollars, thank you. But John Warnock wanted the world to have a PostScript drawing tool, and so the world would have a PostScript drawing tool. A brilliant programmer named Mike Schuster was pulled away from the company’s system software business to write the application as Warnock envisioned it.

In the retail software business, you introduce a product and then immediately start doing revisions to stay current with technology and fix bugs. John Warnock didn’t know this. Adobe Illustrator appeared in 1986, and Schuster was sent to work on other things. They should have kept someone working on Illustrator, improving it and fixing bugs, but there just wasn’t enough spare programmer power to allow that. A version of Illustrator for the IBM PC followed that was so bad it came to be called the “landfill version” inside the company. PC Illustrator should have been revised instantly, but wasn’t.

When Adobe finally got around to sprucing up the Macintosh version of Illustrator, they cleverly called the new version Illustrator 88, because it appeared in 1988. You could still buy Illustrator 88 in 1989, though. And in 1990. And even into 1991, when it was finally replaced by Illustrator 3.0. Adobe is not a marketing company.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 7:20 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Entering the world of CMYK means diverting a lot of resources for a shrinking market.

Print is hardly shrinking. True, a lot of small-press, low-profit jobs like business cards and brochures are going away, but commercial printing is still a healthy business. Unless you live in a sterile environment, you are right now surrounded by printed items of all sorts. All CMYK.

It's perfectly fine, of course, to focus your product on a single part of a larger business, like web design, but it most likely limits your product's adoption throughout the larger professional design market. Why would I use a dedicated, RGB-only product, when my day-to-day work includes both web and print? And, a lot of my work for any given client involves applying the same designs and graphics in both print and web. Better to use a product that manages both color spaces, and does so really, really well.

Anyway, I wish them well and, as I said, I'll definitely play around with Sketch.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:00 AM on August 1


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