A new face for Adobe

You’ve seen it in the “mnemonic logos” and splash screens of Adobe’s Creative Suite 3 and 4, and perhaps you wondered what that typeface was. After more than 25 years in the type development business, Adobe decided to have its own corporate typeface family. The Creative Suite uses were early versions of a family designed by Robert Slimbach. Now that it’s been officially adopted at Adobe, I can tell you about our latest design, called Adobe Clean. There’s no plan to make it available for licensing, but you’ll be seeing more of it in Adobe materials and products as time goes on.


Our initial question was “Why not just keep using Myriad Pro and Minion Pro?” These faces were designed to be timeless, and they’re among our most popular families. But that second part points to the catch in this situation: Myriad, in particular, is used to represent many other companies, including businesses close to Adobe’s (such as Apple and Verizon). Adobe wanted a fresh look that could remain unique.

While some typeface designers do much of their work for corporate clients, this area was new to us. Robert & I met with the leaders of Adobe’s Experience Design and Brand teams to develop a design brief. They wanted a 21st-century feel combined with an earnest readability. As the project grew, Christopher Slye led regular follow-up meetings with the client teams to keep them up to date and tease more input out of them. Robert’s accustomed to aiming his work at the more general case, so it was an interesting challenge to have a very specific set of design goals. What he produced is as classic as all his other designs, but with an uncharacteristic blend of contemporary touches for on-screen rendering and a more “progressive” feel.

Of course Adobe Clean had to work really well at text sizes, including on-screen. Most sans-serif families aren’t really designed for use in extended text, but Robert is a master at text and tuned the face to shine in these conditions. Text families require a subtle balance of harmony, rhythm and individuality, and Adobe Clean handles these remarkably well.

Another fairly unusual feature is the set of figure styles. There are four figure heights in Adobe Clean:
– one to align with the cap height,
– one at more traditional figure height for general mixed use,
– one to align with the small cap height,
– and of course one for oldstyle figures (both proportional and tabular).
The cap-height figures were a special case. Adobe uses a lot of product abbreviations like “CS4″. Non-aligning figures in something like a product splash screen would look pretty awkward!

Robert developed a font with weight, width and optical size axes. This allowed us to play around with the exact values, to find a final set of fonts that worked well for specific uses. And as future needs come up, we can easily tweak the “look” with new instances. At the moment Adobe is using a series of weights at text size for printed material. We’re working with the Brand team to help them think about other optical sizes, but it’s a challenge to educate the many outside vendors who produce Adobe materials.

There’s another set of instances for user interfaces, called Adobe Clean UI. (You can see early versions in the Adobe Media Player and Adobe TV.) Miguel Sousa did a lot of work in the Flash-based UI frameworks for Adobe’s next-generation applications, to make sure that the UI instances were optimally adjusted for that use.

Naturally Robert designed our standard set of pan-European characters for our usual broad linguistic support, as Adobe products are localized for an increasing number of countries. (Although the text family has polytonic Greek, we removed the polytonic from the UI fonts; we figured monotonic Greek was plenty for user interfaces!)

This will be a phased transition, so for now most materials you see are still using Myriad. But if you keep an eye out, you’ll see that changing over time. Product teams immediately asked when we’d have CJK support – and Arabic, Hebrew, Thai, and more. Maybe later! In the mean time, here’s a teaser: Robert’s nearly done with an equally-innovative Adobe Clean Serif, which may appear in promotional materials before long.

- David L

12 Responses

  1. really nice! well done!

  2. Sergiy Tkachenko says:

    Hi, please guys, re-design Cyrillic К (uni041A) and Ж (uni0416). You my consult about this with designers from ParaType or Letterhead.ru or others. Please.[Sergiy, we do speak with Russian designers regularly. We feel the Cyrillic designs in Adobe Clean are in line with the super-simplified style also used in the Latin and Greek. – David L]

  3. It’s an absolutely gorgeous typeface family. Outstanding work and attention to detail, Robert! My only regret is that it might not be available for licensing. ;)[There’s no “might”. Adobe Clean is unlikely to be released for non-Adobe uses for many years to come. It may eventually be replaced by another new family, in which case Adobe would no longer need to keep this one exclusive. -David L]

  4. Joe Clark says:

    I think it’s actually quite weak, monoline, and generic. Cap J certainly has a lot to answer for.[Of course any text design has to walk a fine line between the idiosyncratic and generic, and Robert made Adobe Clean more generic than his usual designs. Robert often used that term himself, and that quality is an intentional part of Adobe Clean’s character. As Joe knows better than most, a fair amount of this is also a requirement for good on-screen text.Regarding the cap J, I suppose Joe’s referring to its semi-descending design. Adobe is doing a lot with all-cap text these days. (That’s been controversial here, but for better or worse it’s a major context for these fonts.) Robert paid special attention to forms that work well in all-cap settings, and the J is part of that.- David L]

  5. Nice to see you are using small caps mixed with upper case letters. (In the figure styles pdf)How will this be possible with Adobe’s approach ignoring smcp feature?[The figure styles are linked to things like All Caps or the various standard layout features where that’s possible (so for example, applying “small caps” produces the small-cap figures). But each of the figure styles is also available through the Stylistic Sets features (supported in InDesign). – David L]

  6. Thank you David. But what I wanted to ask is:Will it still be possible to mix UC with small caps after Adobe decided to ignore smcp feature and make a case conversion before applying c2sc?[The case-conversion behavior Christoph describes here is limited to the text engine used in Flash. I believe the only solution in that context is the same as with InDesign’s “All Small Caps” feature: You need to select only the characters you want to be turned into small caps. – David L]

  7. typolion says:

    sorry guys, ok- it’s a nice mix between gil and dax (not really good: small g and small k) but who needs another look-a-like font, certainly not a company as adobe! this is a heavy, extended disappointment.[I’m sorry it looks that way to you. I’m not sure where you see the Gill Sans resemblance (except perhaps that there’s a two-story g, which is unusual for a sans; Robert did a one-story alternate, but we feel this one works better in text). And personally, I think Adobe Clean is a lot more sophisticated than FF Dax, which really wasn’t designed as a text face. – David L]

  8. Sandee Cohen says:

    It’s a nice typeface, but I wish they would give Myriad Pro a real small caps OpenType style like Adobe Clean has.The wimpy electronic small caps is awful.[Sandee, I hear your pain! The good news is that we are working on major extensions to Myriad, and they include real small caps. The bad news is that the scope of the project is quite large, and the results won’t be released any time soon. – David L]

  9. YL says:

    It’s good news to see Adobe having its own font. It would be nice to see this typeface elsewhere.”Adobe Clean Serif” sounds strange to me. I can’t quite imagine what will a serif version looks like.There is one thing that looks strange to me though. Latin K looks quite different than what we’re used to. The resulting icon may look strange if Adobe decides to start something starting with K. (A standalone manager for Kuler?)[Adobe Clean Serif looks pretty interesting, and I’m sure you’ll see it for yourself sooner or later. – David L]

  10. Terry Kauffman says:

    Can someone direct me to a place to get the Hypatia Sans font? I’ve looked all over but other than some questionable sources I have not found a place to get this.[Unfortunately, the Hypatia Sans Pro family is not available for licensing yet. We expect it to become available during the first quarter of next year – MS]

  11. Andrew says:

    will this font be released for non-commercial use, such as custom icons for other applications that will not be released to anyone, and will only be available to the creator (me)?[There are no plans to make this family available for any kind of licensing – MS]

  12. Thomas says:

    „Adobe wanted a fresh look that could remain unique.“ – Yes, you did it! Great font!

Comments are closed.

David Lemon

I fell in love with type in '77 and joined Adobe in '86. These days I manage the type development team. I like being at the intersection of art & technology, and am working to make good type easier for everyone.

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