Adobe is Drowning in an Era of AI-powered Design Tools

Adobe has been a mammoth in the design industry, but that may have held it back from adopting AI-enabled features at a quick pace. In the face of what’s already been done in the field, Adobe’s changes seem too little too late
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With constant innovations happening around generative AI tools in the text-to-image area, Adobe Photoshop is struggling to keep its head above water. At the Adobe Max 2022 event held last week, the company’s chief product officer and executive vice president Scott Belsky made a bunch of announcements around how AI capabilities would be integrated into Photoshop. The updated versions of the tool will now include new features like better-automated object selections in Adobe Sensei, file sharing and content-aware fills.

Host of Adobe applications

Adobe’s new AI features

Belsky spoke to the media in a press briefing, saying Adobe wanted to enable designers to create with AI and help beginners in a way that they could use the range of applications under Adobe Creative Cloud with ease. The add-ons are for brisk image editing like being able to remove the background, a one-tap auto tone feature, and an auto contrast feature. There’s also a new photo restoration neural filter that can enliven older damaged photos. The beta feature for attributing credit for images called Content Credentials also marks the metadata, while exporting the file gives creators credit without them physically watermarking their images. 

Despite its legitimate efforts to modernise, Adobe still appears to be falling behind within the design community. As convenient as Adobe attempts to make its tools to draw in non-professionals, users seem to have tethered themselves to the drag-and-drop trouble-free Canva. The nine-year old graphic design platform reportedly has 100 million users, which is four times the user base of Adobe’s Creative Cloud. 

Microsoft Designer’s interface

Crowding competition

Users have overwhelmingly latched onto Canva, which pioneered the drag-and-drop design. By September last year, the company had raised USD 200 million and touched a valuation of USD 40 billion. The Melanie Perkins-led company is expected to bring in a revenue of USD 1 billion this year. 

Besides, the rampant expansion of AI text-to-image generators like DALL.E, Stable Diffusion and MidJourney has unfortunately made things far too easy by eliminating the need for design tools. Applications can simply integrate the API for any of these tools and a number of them have done it already. 

Microsoft’s new design app Designer has been integrated with DALL.E 2 and helps users produce images by entering text. Fashion design app Cala announced that it will use DALL.E to come up with new ideas for clothing and accessories. 

And these tools keep evolving. DALL.E 2 went on to include the inpainting feature where a user can change the image while retaining the original context of it. Inpainting is a time-taking step in image processing where designers fill in missing parts of the original image. DALL.E 2 also added an outpainting feature with which users can extend the image beyond its original border in the same style with a text prompt. 

Thanks to these tools, designing has already been simplified to a point where generative AI tools are described as ‘magic’. For Adobe to attract beginner-level designers will be difficult in this environment. 

Adobe’s dissatisfied user base 

Competition aside, Adobe’s tools have their own problems. Professionals have often called Adobe’s tools ‘clunky’. Users have complained that the tool’s option to save designs to the cloud doesn’t serve designers working with large files. 

Designers have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the high subscription fee. It isn’t just paying the subscription fee for the tools, even cancelling the subscription burns a hole in the pockets. If a user cancels the subscription after 14 days, the company charges 50% of the remaining balance as an exit fee. “Why does cancelling my subscription feel clearly like an exorbitant ($142.95) expense during this day and age? I hope you guys improve your business model so that I don’t feel like I am being trapped into selling my kidney, next time I think about paying for your service,” a user tweeted. 

Adobe’s issues have spread discontent among its user base to such an extent that any advancements it made were also coloured by this perception. Early in September, Adobe acquired Figma, makers of a popular suite of UI/UX design tools for a massive USD 20 billion. Designers reacted immediately and most of the opinion was discouraging. 

Figma, unlike Adobe, was easy-to-use, offered real-time collaboration on a free-to-use basis and had browser-based accessibility that already allowed users across platforms to work together using different devices. Figma was already ahead of Adobe. 

Adobe’s editing tools may be the industry standard but designers are happy to move on to better alternatives like Skylum’s Luminar. Founded in 2016, Luminar has been praised for its easy AI-powered applications and simple interface. Luminar had already included colour correction features and filters in 2018 and the AI Sky Replacement tool in 2020. The light application makes the editing process much faster with Luminar than Adobe. 

Adobe has been a mammoth in the design industry but that may have held it back from adopting AI-enabled features at a quick pace. In the face of what’s already been done in the field, Adobe’s changes seem too little too late.

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Poulomi Chatterjee
Poulomi is a Technology Journalist with Analytics India Magazine. Her fascination with tech and eagerness to dive into new areas led her to the dynamic world of AI and data analytics.

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