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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Commercial Printing: Adobe Creative Cloud Suite

I’ve been receiving Adobe Creative Cloud promotions in the mail for several months now, so I thought I’d do a little research into the new service. After all, I do a little graphic design on the side in addition to my writing and commercial printing brokerage work.

(As a side note, I was pleased to see a coordinated marketing effort, using both upbeat online ads and printed direct mail packages. I always like to see proof that custom printing is still viable, and nothing confirms this like seeing a digital company use print advertising to sell digital products.)

Basically, Creative Cloud is software “as a service.” You rent the software; you don’t buy it. And the software in question is Apple’s Creative Suite (CS6), the de facto standard for graphic design, including everything from InDesign to Illustrator to Photoshop. But it doesn’t stop there. Creative Suite includes software to produce websites (Dreamweaver), video, multimedia, and audio. It also includes Acrobat Professional (unlike Acrobat Reader, Acrobat Pro allows you to not only read PDFs but also create and modify them).

CDs or Downloads of Individual Design Suites

I bought Adobe Creative Suite 5 Design Standard about two years ago. It cost over $1,200.00. As a print designer, I needed only custom printing design tools (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Acrobat).

Had I been a Web and print designer, I could have bought Design and Web Premium for about 50 percent more. This would have allowed me to produce Web applications (and iPad apps) and interactive designs as well as print media. The software suite would have included such applications as Dreamweaver, Flash, and Fireworks.

Adobe CS6 Production Premium would have been my choice had I been a video editor or motion graphics artist. The cost of this suite would have been commensurate with the cost of the Design and Web Premium edition. With this license I would have received Premiere, After Effects, Prelude, Encore, and a number of other video applications.

Or, if I had been flush with cash I could have bought everything (the Master Collection) for about twice the price charged for the Design Standard suite. This would have made sense had I been a cross-media designer, producing and then repurposing media for print, multimedia, interactive kiosks, mobile applications, and so forth.

Upgrades of Software Components

First of all, I don’t object to the price, even though the software cost me as much as my new iMac. I made back more than the initial investment with the first custom printing design job I produced (a perfect-bound, non-profit education directory).

Second, I have respect and gratitude for the software. It just works. It does everything I need it to do—beautifully and consistently.

That said, I bought CS5, but CS6 is now for sale. Even an upgrade license (from CS5 to CS6) costs approximately $500 (more or less, depending on where and how I buy it—less if I were an educational institution). If I did graphic design, or any of the other tasks listed above, on a full-time basis, I’d need to upgrade regularly, and this would involve a lot of money over time. For a design studio, on the other hand, this would be just a cost of doing business.

Enter Creative Cloud

For approximately $50.00 a month, you can now rent, rather than buy, design software. That’s $600.00 a year. Two years’ worth would match the amount I paid for CS5 Design Standard.

For this amount, however, you get far more than the software I purchased in CS5 Design Standard. You get access to all the Adobe Creative Cloud design software. You can download any of the software and any updates–for print, web, video, and audio. The software then resides on your computer. You might even argue that by downloading and learning these extra software packages, you could broaden your design skills and expand your business enough to cover the additional monthly cost of Creative Cloud.

What Is Creative Cloud?

Basically, your monthly rental fee allows you to download any Creative Cloud design software, and also provides access to cloud-based storage for your design files. Instead of paying one large amount for a CD, or for the right to download an unchanging software package, you are paying for reliable, broadly functional, constantly updated software, cloud-based storage, support, and tutorials (for individuals or teams). You also get new tools and services as they become available, such as Muse (for creating websites for desktop, tablet, and mobile, without writing a line of code). Since you can save your files in the cloud (20GB of storage), you can move from your office computer to your home computer or tablet and still do your work. You’re not buying a program; you’re buying a “solution” for all your design needs.

When you compare $50.00 a month to the revenue you can generate, that’s not a lot of money. When you compare that same $50.00 to the cost of constant upgrades, it’s a great deal, too (as long as you would normally upgrade about every two years—if my math is correct).

If, on the other hand, you do only a few design jobs a year, you might not want to commit to a long-term contract. Instead, you might want to buy the prior version on CD (CS5 when CS6 is the current version), or you may choose to hold onto your current software until you just can’t stand it anymore (kind of like keeping a car until it rusts out).

Then again there’s the “aggravation cost.” If you sign on to Creative Cloud, everything just works. If you buy software on the seconds market, or use an older version for ever and ever, sooner or later you will run into compatibility issues. Not having the aggravation may be worth $50.00 a month.

It all depends on your goals and circumstances.

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