Creative Cloud: skill up or get left behind

Adobe’s subscription-exclusive software model pushes you to be multi-disciplined whether you like it or not, argues Paul Wyatt

Creative Suite is dead. Kind of. Whether its successor, in the form of subscription-based service Creative Cloud, lives a long life remains to be seen. Adobe’s recent switch from perpetual licensing of its products to a monthly fee-based system caused a furore across the web. Message boards lit up with outrage, which whilst justifiable in some respects was a little unconsidered.

As creatives, our lives are all about making our thoughts appear in the real world, and as time goes on our toolbox for making that happen becomes bigger and more exciting. The thought of paying someone a monthly fee to use this box of goodies impinges on some holier-than-thou idea we’ve created for ourselves that never actually owning the tools to create with is inherently wrong. It could go back to that big box of crayons you had as a kid which was yours, all yours dammit, and you could create anything you wanted, whenever you wanted.

Paying a monthly fee and never owning the software outright does feel peculiarly corporate, especially to long-term users, but surely that’s just a problem with perception. It feels like you’re paying a monthly fee – like a TV subscription or a utility bill – to be allowed creative access. However, on the plus side, a monthly fee of around 45 quid (or $50) is preferable to forking out a few grand for a boxed version if you haven’t got the funds to make that initial investment. Surely this gives those who want to be creative a more accessible route to doing just that?

But perception shifts aside, what does Creative Cloud mean to your average ideas-infused creative? Well, for one, Adobe obviously sees all our work and skills converging. “Limitless creativity” means all the products are there for you to use. The push towards multi-disciplinary skill sets is clear, and with so much convergence happening in the industry it’s quite realistic that this is the way forward.

Dabbling in a number of software packages whilst retaining a specialism in one area will pay off when it comes to staying hired and inspired, and finding a job in an agency or a client as a freelancer. Companies nowadays want more bang for their buck and a person who is a specialist generalist will fair better in the job market. Creative Cloud will push you in that direction whether you like it or not.

The free Behance ProSite connection is also a nice touch. Being able to upload work straight from Photoshop and receive comments directly from clients may be useful, but Adobe suggests that you should use this function to share your work in progress. Is that something a pro designer really wants to do? Why not just upload the final version and stand behind your design? Sharing, commenting and rating doesn’t have to be absolutely everywhere.

Boxed versions of Adobe software have meant in the past that major updates across the suite were dependent on an 18 month roll-out plan. In the quest for bigger and better tools in our industry, that’s simply too long. With Creative Cloud, Adobe can be more responsive to user feedback and update the products without waiting for the latest release of the Suite. Certainly a plus point for users.

So, clearly there are some benefits to the new Creative Cloud. What seems to be causing most upset and the thing that will take the most time to change, is the shift in perception surrounding the idea of paying a monthly fee for your creative tools. Perceptions aside, Adobe seems to have seen our future. Specialism is dead and we have to embrace a raft of news skills to keep ourselves marketable.

Oh, that’s harsh. Or is it? More skills mean we can play a bigger role in projects and keep creative control, as freelancers take on bigger projects, experiment creatively and stop being a small cog in the wheel of a big project. Well, that’s the theory anyway.