A Trip to Adobe Seattle, Where InDesign Is Made (Part 1)

Hey, folks, it’s time for a field trip! Let’s put on our coats, skip out the door, and head over to the Adobe office in Seattle, Washington — home of the InDesign team. (Actually, the people working on InDesign are spread all over the world, from California to India; but Seattle can rightly be called InDesign’s home town.)

Adobe’s Seattle office is located in the chillaxed Fremont neighborhood. Signs posted in the area proclaim that Fremont is the center of the universe. It’s probably true. Fremontians like cool art, good food, and a offbeat sense of humor. So as we arrive at the offices, we first see the concrete¬†Fremont Troll, tucked under the George Washington (“Aurora”) bridge. To give you a sense of size, that’s a real VW bug:

As we head down Troll Avenue North, we end up on North 34th Street, where we can find two more fun statues in front of the Adobe offices. First, another classic Seattle sight, Waiting for the Interurban — which locals dress up differently almost weekly, for virtually any occasion:

A relatively recent addition to N 34th is the Late for the Interurban, directly in front of one of two office buildings Seattle inhabits (note the tiny, subtle Adobe logo on the building behind the statue):

Let’s walk down a flight of steps running from street level between those buildings in the background. Here we find ourselves at the heart of Adobe Seattle:

Let’s head on in, shall we? Here at the lobby reception desk is Margie Belling, who has greeted visitors here with a smiling face for as long as I can remember. Easy-going, relaxed, and friendly is a Seattle theme well-reflected here at Adobe. Light wood is everywhere — cabinets, walls, doors — offset by brushed metal and glass. Very pleasant, very high-tech.

Next, let’s enter the sanctum through two sets of cardkey-locked double doors, stepping beyond where the public eye can normally see. In some respects, Adobe’s offices are much like any other large firm. Hallways of offices lead to hallways of more offices, laid out in a maze that only insiders can fathom (or not). The goal, I believe, is like that of fly-paper: If a visitor ever did get lost without a chaperone, they would wander until exhaustion, and be found by security that evening.

However, every now and then we turn a corner that opens up into a larger area, often with chairs, sofas, or even a kitchen area stocked with juice, sodas, fruit, and — yes, it’s true — large bowls of candy for the taking.

You’ll notice that the ceiling is mostly left unfinished throughout most of the Adobe offices. You can see heating ducts, concrete, water pipes, and miles of ethernet cables hung, strung, strapped, and screwed everywhere you go. Yes, it’s supposed to look like that. It’s a design aesthetic which I like to call “Nouvelle Brazil,” in which you get to see how it’s all done, like a magician showing his bag of tricks.

As we turn another corner, we find an open area with a few awards Adobe has won. Note that some of these may not strictly be for InDesign. InDesign was originally built by the PageMaker team, for example. And the Seattle offices are also home to the AfterEffects team.

Whew! That’s a lot of walking. Let’s sit down and take a short break… have some candy while you’re waiting for Part 2 of this 2-part series.

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9 Comments on “A Trip to Adobe Seattle, Where InDesign Is Made (Part 1)

  1. Now come on. What kind of a word is Chillaxed? Sounds like it was made up by someone who wears shorts and flip flops to me. You would never catch me associating with someone who uses the term.

  2. ROFL! Wow, that’s a pretty private joke on such a public blog, sir. If anyone wonders who the “Man From England” is, tune into Podcast 106, due out next week.

    Actually, sir, I think it was Adobe’s Chad Siegel who used that term, not Michael Ninness (who is famous for his shorts-and-flip-flops). I liked the word so much I wrote it down and am trying to use it once a day. Now chillax, and get back to work.

  3. Hmmm. That was sure a roundabout way you took to get to Adobe’s offices, going past both the Troll and Waiting for the Interurban. Were you lost? Or were you just driving around looking for cheap parking?

  4. @JohnG: No, it was far more practical than it seems: No visit to Adobe is complete without first visiting Peets coffee (or BlueC sushi, depending on your need).

    That said, Adobe insiders will also immediately notice that my photos and directions inside the building are not entirely accurate… for example, the awards cabinet I show above actually appears almost immediately after entering the offices, not down several hallways as I imply. But some poetic license was required… besides, as I said, I can’t let all the secrets out the bag!

    (I have a friend who designs amazing interiors of private 747 jets for extremely wealthy people. I wanted him to write a book about it, but he said it would be very difficult because of security concerns. For example, if you knew exactly where the master bedroom was inside one of these aircraft, it could compromise the safety of the family onboard. In the same way, Adobe is careful about the safety of Adobe InDesign secure information.)

  5. >I have a friend who designs amazing interiors of private 747 jets for extremely wealthy people.<

    I would imagine the market for that type of service for poor people would be rather limited. :)

  6. @Camila: Well, anyone can visit the building, but you need to be escorted by an Adobe employee to go inside. That’s the tricky part. ;)

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