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.

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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.

Pariah Burke

Author, consultant, trainer, guru: Digital Publishing, ePub, InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Quark. Empowering, Informing, Connecting Creative Professionals™

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1 Response

  1. Thomaso says:

    But Hadley is no dum­my. She will pick up a copy of QuarkXpress 2015 “full life­time license” on eBay for $250; Affinity Designer for $30; and Pixelmator for $30. She will be per­fect­ly pro­duc­tive. In just 6 months she will be ahead on the cost of an Adobe rental. She won’t be tied down by a per­pet­u­al pay­ment scheme that would take away all her work tools if she missed a pay­ment. It is eas­i­er to be cre­ative with­out hav­ing to wor­ry about pay­ing the man every sin­gle month.