Adobe's Creative Cloud shows the incredible potential of pay-as-you-go

Credit: Eric__I_E via Flickr

In examining the potential skills and experience that Kevin Lynch will bring to Apple after leaving is post as Adobe's chief technology officer, one of the areas that I highlighted was Adobe's Creative Cloud service.

Creative Cloud is a powerful suite of tools and services, virtually of which the company makes available to individuals and companies through subscription licensing. It's a service that truly levels the playing field for individuals, small businesses, and ad-hoc teams in enterprise organization and democratizes access to Adobe's vast selection of print, web, and mobile design applications and other resources.

Creative Cloud is similar to other subscription-based software licensing systems like Microsoft's Office 365. It offers an extensive series of desktop apps to users for a monthly fee. You get a price break if you sign up for a full year and if you're an existing customer moving from earlier Adobe releases to Creative Cloud, which is based around Adobe CS 6. Students and educators also qualify for discounts provided they sign up for a full year of Creative Cloud.

The standard Creative Cloud subscription includes Photoshop (including an extended version with features not found in the desktop app), Illustrator, In Design, and more than a dozen other apps. (See the full list here.) The apps can be installed on multiple computers running either Mac OS X or Windows, but you can use the apps on only one machine at a time.

Adding up the boxed software cost of all those apps comes to a whopping $8,536. Creative Cloud also offers several business services, particularly services useful for freelance designers and developers. Most individuals or teams aren't likely to use all of them, and some folks may need only one or two of the apps on a regular basis. Adobe offers a single-app option for that situation that is a good deal if you only need to work in Illustrator on a regular basis.

My introduction to Creative Cloud

The big benefit of Creative Cloud is that it lets an individual or team pay only for what they need, when they need it.

Here's my example. Although I've written about and taught some of the Adobe apps in my career, I don't use any of them on a regular basis at this point. Two recent events, however, made me consider buying a few Adobe CS 6 apps.

The first event was running out of business cards. Rather than order more of the cards I designed for myself seven years ago when I decided to leave full-time employment as an IT director and start my current life as a technology journalist and consultant, I decided it was time to design updated cards (and related stationary and promotional items). Consider: when those cards were designed, the mobile landscape was dominated by BlackBerries and Windows Mobile devices, and the original Palm OS was still available on devices.

The second event was the decision to design the invitations and related items like save-the-date cards, RSVP cards, and program for my upcoming wedding (February of next year, if you're curious). 

Both of these projects are one-time events. The new business cards and logo should remain fresh for at least a few years (and I don't even want to contemplate the possibility of a divorce followed by another wedding). More importantly, they aren't massive undertakings. They're projects that will realistically take a few weekend afternoons. Spending the money on Photoshop, Illustrator, and In Design would be extravagant given the limited use they'd get after the next few months.

So instead of paying nearly $2,000 for those three apps, I signed up for Creative Cloud for $74.99 per month with the expectation of canceling my subscription after a couple of months. Total cost -- $149.98. That's quite a savings and it provides me with a wealth of additional apps as well, including tools that could be used for redesigning my professional website, creating a wedding website, and even exporting digital content as a native mobile app or web app. That's a lot of value for money.

Creative Cloud in the business world

The pay-as-you-go approach offers a serious opportunity for professionals from a range of industries.

Traditionally, most marketing and promotional material for a company goes through a design department who design brochures, posters, and interactive web content. In that paradigm, a store manager for a regional chain might end up with nothing but Microsoft Office to create fliers or brochures for a local event or promotion. Although marketing and design professionals are available for the company as a whole, they may not have the time or budget to develop a smaller campaign that impacts a single store.

Purchasing just a month of Creative Cloud at $74.99 for an employee with design skills certainly fits within the store manager's discretionary budget and allows his employee to design a complete set of professional-caliber promotional items -- something that might not have been possible without an option like Creative Cloud.

Because Adobe offers Creative Cloud memberships for teams, a small group of individuals working at a non-profit can pay just $69.99 per user per month. That brings their technical functionality up to be on par with an independent graphic design team. Although there may be a learning curve, that group can split of the tasks (and the training) between them. The result is the capability of running a membership drive, capital campaign, or other types of fund raisers with most of the work being done in-house for a relatively small amount of money.

Creative Cloud also includes business services, cloud storage and sharing, training options, social peer support features, and varying levels of technical support. Those features are just as important as the apps -- particularly training and social support options, because we are talking about professional design and publishing solutions that require a certain technical proficiency as well as an understanding of basic design principles. (Though excellent books like "The Non-Designer's Design Book" by Robin Williams can help anyone gain a handle on effective design.)

Adobe didn't so much create a new licensing and business model with Creative Cloud. It created a new platform that borrows from some of the best cloud, social, and licensing concepts out there and manages to distil them into an effective solution for individual designers and design companies as well as for students, hobbyists, teachers, ad hoc committees and teams in enterprises, and virtually anyone else. Unlike Microsoft, which seems to be viewing cloud integration and subscription licensing largely as a new profit center, Adobe seems to have focused on delivering the best of its features to anyone who can make use of them -- and that's in line with so many values baked into Apple's DNA that hiring Kevin Lynch makes a lot of sense.

Here's a list of all the apps in the Creative Suite:

  • Photoshop Extended -- includes features not found in the boxed version of Photoshop
  • Photoshop Lightroom
  • Illustrator
  • In Design
  • Muse
  • Acrobat XI Pro
  • Flash Professionals
  • Flash Builder
  • DreamWeaver
  • Edge Tools and Services
  • Fireworks
  • Premiere Pro
  • After Effects
  • Audition
  • SpeedGrade
  • Prelude
  • Encore
  • Bridge
  • Media Encoder
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies