Do the Math: New Designers Save Big on Creative Cloud
Hadley is a newly minted designer who graduated this year with a B.A. in design. Afternoons and evenings she pulls taps at a local bar to earn a paycheck. Mornings she spends combing Monster.com, DesignJobsLive.com, and various temp agency sites finding and applying for full-time and part-time gigs. In between she services freelance design clients and hits the same job sites bidding on freelance projects.
Like many who are making the transition from using Adobe Creative Suite to Adobe Creative Cloud, Hadley is railing against the financial realities of life immediately after college, student loan payments, and of making a monthly payment for the Creative Cloud applications on which she depends.
“I love Adobe products,” she says. “They’re easy to use [and] allow me to produce great design with minimal effort. But $50 a month is outrageous for a small freelance designer such as myself who is just starting out in this field. Like so many others, I have around $30,000 in student loan debts, and I’m having trouble making ends meet as it is. Tacking $50 every month on top of that really hurts!
“Adobe obviously doesn’t care about creatives trying to eke out a meager living. Like I said: I love Adobe’s fantastic software and what I can do with it. It saddens me that Adobe is forcing loyal customers to pay so much more and won’t go back to the old business model that let me buy [Adobe] software all at once.”
Hadley isn’t alone in her criticisms of Adobe Creative Cloud, nor is she the first to shoulder the heavy burden of student loan payments while starting out as a designer. Many of us were in exactly the same place when we started out. Those of us who began our design careers before 2012, however, had to fork out a few thousand dollars all at once to get the Adobe software we needed. Personally, for the option of getting all my tools for only $50 a month I would have sold my left arm (the “make it pop” and “use more fonts” clients I worked for to make ramen money already bought my soul).
If you do the math, you’ll realize that you pay much less for the Creative Cloud subscription than you did for the Creative Suite boxed product it replaced.
What applications do you use and how much will you save on them as part of Creative Cloud?
Let’s approach the question from the perspective of Hadley, a graphic designer who says she’s “focused primarily on digital imagery and illustration with some basic print design needs.” She would therefore need at least the following tools. Let’s first calculate their prices bought as the boxed product, the model to which Hadley wants Adobe to return. Prices are from Adobe’s CS6 price sheet.
- Photoshop (standalone, boxed product price: $699 for the Standard Edition; $999 for the Extended Edition with its 3D support and other advanced features)
- Illustrator ($599)
- InDesign ($699)
- Acrobat Pro ($449)
- Adobe Bridge (bundled free with Photoshop and InDesign)
Bought individually, those five products would total $2,446. Of course, Hadley wouldn’t buy them individually. She’s too smart for that. She’d cut the price in half by buying the Creative Suite Design Standard, which includes all of those applications—plus Adobe Media Encoder—for only $1,299.
Being a newly graduated designer on the hunt for a job while also taking on clients, Hadley must stay current and competitive, offering not only her experience and skills, but also the latest and greatest that Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, can do. Thus, she will need to upgrade her Adobe applications with every new version—annually if we’re talking about Adobe being agile enough within the boxed product model to stay only a little bit behind designers’ evolving needs. That’s $1,299 Hadley needs to cough up every year. If she can’t afford to keep her tools current with the latest features and abilities expected by her clients and hiring managers, then she can try to make a go of it by falling back on an every-other-version mindset and upgrading every two years instead of one. That halves the single-year software overhead cost down to $649.99.
With Creative Cloud, Hadley has on-tap, instant access to the latest versions of her tools built as fast as designers communicate new needs to Adobe for $49.99 per month, which is $599.88 per year. (She also gets access to all prior versions back to CS6.)
On an annual update plan for just Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Acrobat, and Bridge, that CC subscription saves her $699.12 every year over the cost of boxed products. Even upgrading every two years, Hadley still saves $50.11—the cost of a good meal—and that’s without even putting a price on the other advantages inherent in CC over buying just the Creative Suite Design Standard every two years.
Note that all my calculations have been using the $699 Standard Edition of Photoshop. If she needed the advanced features of the $999 Photoshop Extended—features that are rolled automatically into the single-edition Photoshop CC—then another $300 would be added to the savings of Creative Cloud over Creative Suite—that’s many good meals.
In fact, if Hadley only needed Photoshop, she would still save money between the boxed product $699/$999 price of Photoshop Standard/Extended and Creative Cloud’s annual $599.88 cost. Of course, if only Photoshop was needed, then Hadley wouldn’t pay $49.99 per month for the full Creative Cloud subscription. Instead, she’d opt for the $9.99 Photography Subscription, which includes Photoshop (inclusive of all the Photoshop Extended features) and Adobe Lightroom. That’s only $199.88 per year, which is less than buying Photoshop in the box every eighth version.
If Hadley is like many designers and freelancers early in their careers she will experience months that are bountiful and months that are lean. From her statement, it sounds like Hadley has the money for the software now but fears difficulty coming up with a monthly payment down the line, during the leaner months. Adobe, too, knows about the ebb and flow that can plague freelancer’s income. That’s why Adobe provides the option of pre-paying for a year of Creative Cloud. It can be paid all at once rather than monthly. That gives people like Hadley the experience and already-paid-for-the-entire-year piece of mind boxed product while still saving $699 at the lower $599 Creative Cloud price instead of the old boxed product $1,299 price tag.
Do the math.
Adobe’s change from pay-to-upgrade to always-up-to-date subscription can seem scary, but do the math. Take a moment with a calculator or spreadsheet and work out the costs. When you do that, you’ll see that, not only does Creative Cloud proffer so many more products and features than any of Adobe’s prior boxed product offerings, Adobe also significantly lowered the price of its products during the transition from Creative Suite to Creative Cloud. In the end, the math bears out that CC makes good financial sense for any creative professional, whether new or veteran, Hadley included.