Having begun her career as a paste-up artist in a prepress house, Jackie Lincoln-Owyang had a front-row seat to the desktop publishing revolution. See what she has to say about the power of layers, the secrets inside the splash screen, and the future of Photoshop. (The following was excerpted from oral histories taped with Jackie Lincoln-Owyang and other Photoshop team members in the summer of 2010.)
Q: How did the desktop publishing revolution affect you?
A: When I worked in a four-color prepress house, I literally used a T- square, a light table, stat camera, and knew how to run the typesetting machine. When this thing called desktop publishing—thanks to John [Warnock] and Chuck [Geschke]—ended up happening, I was smitten. I basically could do the work that five people were able to do.
I was just absolutely smitten with Photoshop—what it could do, the power, the magic of it. Layers ended up basically revolutionizing how people creatively did their work. It was a significant landmark in the evolution of how designers and people from a production perspective actually did their work. It was absolutely, absolutely mind-blowing.
Q: What is it like to be a member of the Photoshop team?
A: Because of what the Photoshop team produces and the level that they produce, it makes me want to do the best I can, and to push myself to keep up with those people who are the rock stars in pushing the envelope. You need to have the right team together, the right focus, the right personalities, and the right talent, to actually make it work. And that's the magic behind the scenes for making what our team does world-class. It's the passion, it's the devotion, and it's the teamwork behind it that make the product what it is.
Q: What's the story behind the Photoshop splash screen?
A: When you launch any CS product, Photoshop is the only one with everybody's name in the splash screen. The Photoshop team takes significant pride in having names on there. Typically just the engineering folks were on the splash screen. As the years went on and the product developed, QE (Quality Engineering) names started percolating up there. Marketing folks and a few other key individuals started making it onto the splash. The product became so large that the last four lines of the splash screen are actually rolling credits.
It's really amazing how far the recognition of your name in the splash screen goes. I literally will be at parties and it's like, "Oh my God, you work on Photoshop and I see your name every day—I think of you every day." So it really goes a long way, and it speaks to the pride of what the team puts into the product that they produce. It's incredible that a very low-cost but extremely important thing from a pride standpoint is having your name in the splash screen.
Q: Can you share any Photoshop secrets or lore?
A: We have this culture, not only within our company and with the product and the team, but obviously with our users. It adds to the mystique and the mystery, but also the magic of this thing called Photoshop. It's part of the Photoshop lore. Typically we pick a code name, and affiliated with that is a beta splash screen—something representative of the actual name. We just got done with White Rabbit, so if you go to launch a splash screen and hold down the Alt key, you'll see the beta splash screen with the rabbit. With Photoshop 9 we had a super-secret splash screen. If you took a screen shot, saved it as a TIFF, and then moved levels all the way to the left, you would actually see a version of Bruce Fraser. He played a key part in helping develop Photoshop. To have him be literally a part of an alternative splash screen really was a testament to what he did for the product.
I ended up choosing the White Rabbit name. I wanted there to be a musical bent. It was also Photoshop 12, so I chose Patti Smith from the Twelve album and the song White Rabbit. We've always done names or mascots or imagery associated with the code name as well. Probably the most famous one would be Becky, a nickname for Big Electric Cat. So, you'll see Becky in almost every alternative splash screen, either a mask, or a real subtle outline, or something more obvious.
Q: What are your thoughts on Photoshop CS5?
A: When the team was faced with a very significant challenge, making sure that we shipped on time and delivered a product of value, they met the challenge and actually rose above it. I mean, it's just an absolutely stellar release. The thing that's phenomenal about this team—and I've been on the team for 15 years in some capacity or another—is the greater the challenge, the more they deliver.
Q: What can you tell us about the future of Photoshop?
A: I grew up with a desktop version of the product, but I think as we move forward, the platform and the device by which you can interact with Photoshop, or aspects of it, are going to be very agnostic. You're going to be, let's say, on a road trip, and you're going to have your mobile device with you. You may have your laptop in your backpack with you for when you get to the hotel, but you shoot a picture, you have it on your device, you're editing it, and you may be sending it to a client to review. You download your card, you have your pictures, you review them, you have them on your desktop, and boom, you're off to the next client. And you may need to engage and use the product in ways that I can't even think of right now. I really think that's where the future is: Photoshop—or aspects of it—are going to be device-agnostic.