September 27, 2006

Interview: Seetharaman Narayanan

This is the second in a series of occasional interviews with people I find interesting or who work on interesting projects.

Seetharaman NarayananBy now, you either recognize the name, or you’re wondering who Seetharaman Narayanan is, and the difference probably depends on what you do for a living. If, like me, you have a job where you launch Photoshop on a daily basis, then maybe, like me, you can’t stop staring at this guy’s name on the Splash Screen every time it launches. Seetharaman Narayanan. It’s hard to look away. Sure, other people worked on Photoshop. But nobody else has a name like Seetharaman Narayanan.

If you too have been unable to look away from his name as you open Photoshop, you may be thinking, “I thought I was the only one!” Take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Back in 2004, a simple comment was posted on the forum. It said, “Every time I open up photoshop I am mezmorized by this guy’s name. It’s all I can look at. Don’t know why…” Six pages of “Me, too!” responses followed.

He has gone on to inspire a Seetharaman Narayanan fan club group on Flickr, and being unable to get his name out of your head has been recognized as a sign of Photoshop addiction.

So I decided to find out just who this mysterious Seetharaman Narayanan is. What does he do? What does he think of his notoriety? And what’s interesting about him other than his name? Mr. Narayanan, who goes by the much shorter name “Seetha,” was nice enough to answer these questions and more.

When did you become aware of the fascination with your name among Photoshop users?

Jeff Schewe [Photographer] sent me an e-mail sometime in the fall of 2005 about the existence of Seetha’s fanclub thread from

What do you think about it?

I thought it was funny and was amazed at the amount of free time people had at their disposal. I always thought that I was fortunate in getting hired by Adobe at the right time since any Tom, Dick or Harry would have done the same thing I did and perhaps better than what I did. They may not have become famous unless they had some weird last name that is almost un-pronouncable.

How long have you been at Adobe?

I have been with Adobe for 15 years to date. I joined Adobe as a peon on Photoshop 2.5 on September 23, 1991. Peter Merrill (who now works on Acrobat and is still with Adobe) was the lead engineer on the task of making Photoshop run on Windows 3.1 and I was his deputy in the early days. Peter is one of the brightest engineers I have ever worked with in my 20 year career (he may just be the smartest of all!). I still remember the interview I had with Peter before I got hired at Adobe. Peter had this toy application (that later became Photoshop) with ugly Icons and Cursors he showed me and mentioned to me that he had that code ported over from the Mac and he could even open an image (Flower.psd which by the way, shipped as a sample file with Photoshop 2.5) on Windows. I had previously worked at CrystalGraphics and we had just ported over Crystal’s TOPAS over to the Mac platform just weeks prior to my interview with Adobe and I was totally under whelmed by Peter’s demo of Photoshop on Windows. In spite of my lack of enthusiasm, Peter hired me anyway and the rest is history.

What are you responsible for in Photoshop?

Lots of things. I joined Adobe as an engineer responsible for making the Windows port happen. After laying the foundation for the Windows effort, one of the first things I did for the product was to make it multi-threadable. Those days, Mac did not support multi-threading but Windows NT did. In my spare time, I wrote the multi-threading plug-in that took advantage of multiple processor in Photoshop. Peter was of immense help here. When I was re-writing the image processing algorithms in the plug-ins, he pointed to me that there was no need to do any image processing in the plug-in since the plug-in need not know about algorithms and it would be sufficient to just split the tasks and call the functions that knew how to do image processing. It just shows how stupid I was and how much of a genius that Peter was in pointing me to that simplicity. After we shipped 3.0, the Mac and Windows teams got merged and I worked on several things in the core product. Since the team always viewed me as the Windows guy, it would be interesting to note that I was one of the key persons responsible for the Photoshop port to Mac OS/X.

What is your professional background?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Regional Engineering College, Tiruchirapalli, India. I came to the U.S to pursue my Masters in Engineering at the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Since that place was so much fun (Playboy’s number one Party School in 1987), I decided to get another Masters from there in Computer Science. I joined CrystalGraphics (I think they are still around) as an engineer on Crystal TOPAS and after a few years at Crystal, I joined Adobe.

Do people express fascination with your name in the real world? Or is this just an on-line phenomenon?

Not really. I had to spell my name a few times before they get it. I got used to it now.

Are there other names on the Splash Screen that you think deserve more credit and get overlooked because people can’t stop staring at your name?

Every one of the engineers and QE deserves as much credit as I do. But I took the cake because of my long name. Too bad Joe Ault, Chris Cox and Scott Byer don’t have the long names as I do.

Are you working on any new projects we can look forward to seeing your name on in the future?

I worked on Bridge 1.0 (I had the opportunity to work on that since I championed the cause for the FileBrowser in Photoshop 7.0 and CS) and am currently working on getting Adobe Lightroom ported to Windows. But Photoshop is always my home.

Everyone knows about your interesting name. What’s one interesting thing about you that people don’t know?

I bike to work every day, rain or shine. My bike route is 20 miles round-trip and I have been riding to work for the past 10 years. I even influenced my mentor Peter Merrill into biking to work. Since Peter is a maniac, he is now doing double-centuries on weekends.

Thanks, Seetha!

Previously: Interview with illustrator and author Adam Rex


It’s guys like this that you just want to work with in your professional career. Well aware of his own capabilities, but a team player that praises his co-workers and is willing to take time out of his schedule to do an interview like this one. Screw his name, I might join the fan club based on this interview!

Very cool.

What a marvelous gentleman, and glad his name provoked his talent to be called out.

My favorite mesmerizing name was of a college classmate, Sharmila Anandasabapathy, who wrote on the college paper with me. I pronounced her name correctly when I met her, and she was flabbergasted that I got it right. (She and her husband are now both doctors working in fields that save lives.)

awesome — but how do you pronounce it?

i want to say “seeTHA-ra-man” “na-RA-ya-nan”

or that’s how i say it to myself (sometimes all day long)


Man! Thanks so much for the interview. I have always and always wondered about it.

I was hoping for a pronounciation guide.
I made a shirt for Seetharaman Narayanan.

The shirt is set in Myriad, Adobe’s Helvetica killer.

we’re such nerds…

My buddy and i at work (we’re landscape architects)made a shirt.

It’s Seetha’s head and says “Thank You Seetha”

I think I might have to start riding my bike to work as well.

It helps with pronunciation if you break down the name as such:

Seetha ramen Nara yanan

Freebay, Not eBay!

Don’t even know how may times I’ve read that name over & over again….while waiting for photoshop to launch! & thats the the name that jumps out the most!

What a bizarrely amazing world to be a part of to be entirely overwhelmed with joy to finally know just a little something about the person that is Seetharaman Narayanan

Actually, Seetharaman is a very common name. As is Narayanan. In fact, it happens to be part of my name.

I know lots of Narayanans but no Seetharamans… so i guess its… sort of… different?

Ah, well, humility definetely is a sign of greatness.

Thanks for bringing out the persona from behind the splash enigma!

I’m listening to the prodigy song Narayan as a tribute. I used to think I was a lone Seetharaman fan, but now I have a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart, I’m not alone.

I also went to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. But I went for photography. We used to poke fun at the computer guys. Boy do I feel stupid…

SeethaRaman Narayanan…..
Its a fame to our Tamilnadu(India)

Only a day or two back was i searching the net to know more about SeethaRaman Narayanan. Lo and Behold today i get to read this. I have looked at the name right from photoshop 3.0. Being an Indian myself and a great photoshop lover I feel proud every time i see that name. Keep up the good work.

Seetha = is the wife of Rama from Ramayana

and i always assumed Seetharaman Narayanan was a woman. Great work Seetharaman.

I simply stumbled on this site page.But all along I was thinking Seetha narayanan is a female working in Adobe !
I am sooo glad that my name NARAYANAN has become so facinating to so many people due to SEETHARAMAN NARAYANAN

More than anything, seetha’s pic is what i wanted to see.

Wow!! I always wondered everytime i started photoshop ,
now if only the rest of us were lucky enough
to have co workers like that.

Very nice to put a face to the name,
thx for the posting it here.

Sundara Pandian

wow! i used to think who this wiz guy is… i would have read his name a thousand times… another name i have noticed was vinod balakrishnan… any whereabouts of him???

i’ve got a nude picture of Seetharaman Narayanan. email me if you want it

Don’t forget Todor Georgiev. I want to see what he looks like.

This is cool to know about Seetha, cause i m an indian


Man internet is such a wonderful thing to connect people who wonder about the same things no matter how silly it is.

Seetaraman Narayanan has always intrigued me….but i am humbled by the way this guy takes the questions…wish i could be part of his team and when i get a team to lead, be like him

If there is a god for designers to worship are the men behind Photoshop and Illustrator. But of course I appreciate Sitharam for considering the credit as a chance and success as a result of team work. My best wishes…

I kept chuckling to myself as I read the article. I feel as though I’ve joined a secret organization…Photoshop Users Who Know the Truth…

Godd!!! I can’t believe I started my hectic Monday Morning with this! I spent over an hour looking at all the related links! Thanks to my friend, Ranjit Arvindakshan, who is now hoping someone will start a fan club for him ;)!!

omg, yes! i always stare at the name of this guy when i open Photoshop… Very nice to see this interview… and god bless Photoshop…

ThereĀ“s another name that always grab my attention: Sandra Alves… (maybe she is brazilian… or portuguese… anyone here knows?)


Haha. Wow. I see this guys name everytime I open Photoshop, and I thought I was the only one who cant stop staring at it! Thanks for the info, it’s nice to finally see a face to go with the name.

This is fantastic! I’m only disappointed that Seetha did not mention Mark Hamburg. After seeing his name second (I think) on the list for several years, I decided to Google him and see if he was same Mark Hamburg that had a little sister in a wheelchair with whom I had an awkward, parent-forced friendship in elementary school thirty years ago. As a result, my sister (Mark’s age) had an awkward, parent-forced friendship with Mark himself, who, by the way, was a supreme geek then. It’s him! Go Geeks! Way to invent something fabulous!

Seetharaman Narayanan…is really a long name, and well I spend every 10-15 secs of my life with the computer staring at his name. Thats how, entertaining this interview was! I actually know that guy now :)
and hey, its pretty easy if u are from India..
every man in south of india, has such trying names, but they are just great fun, human beings..
We are proud of Seetha :)
Thanks for Adobe.


Keep the cool good work Seetharaman Narayanan

hello sir…

this is rajshree form hyderabad etv.

on the internet I am searching a good job in animation filed.

lukely I a saw ur net intrview page.
I read it, its nice…

is there any good opportunity for animator???


Seetha is the man! Good interview.

Seetha.. u rock man..

I totally stared at his name all the time whenever I opened photoshop. It was fun reading about him.

I happen to be one of the folks lucky enough to work with him. He is brilliant, and no matter how improbable the odds are when we hit an issue (ie bug) he always says “Not a problem, we’ll get it working.”

Hehe.. he’s my uncle!

Wow…. I knew he had a fan club… but I didn’t know my uncle was a celebrity. And it amazes me that people made T-Shirts for him.

Congrats. I might have to join up and be part of your fan club now!

nice interview…pls post a writeup abt Vinod Blakrishnan also… He is Keralite…

Been a staring at that splash screen for 10 years now! He was perhaps the first person I googled, a long time ago!
Oh, the name is pronounced:
Seee-Thaa-Raa-man Naaaraaaya-nan

But my name will beat Seetha’s to pulp!
Unnikrishnan Vazhapallil Ramesan

how many are old enough to remember an old version of photoshop, maybe as old as version 5, where seetharaman was abbreviated seetha, and was way down in the list? i always thought seetha was a woman and was happy to see her move up the list in responsibility lol! i just finished telling this to my husband after watching the splash screen (he’s a graphic artist but still thought i was nuts) and decided to google him. who knew i wasn’t alone in my obsession???

Udal Manukku, Uyir Tamilku!

Nice interview there! Anyone got any information about Vinod Balakrishnan? Or Muru Palaniappan?

Seetharaman Narayanan is really eye catching, I also agree. Altough the first name on the spalsh screen of Photoshop Thomas Knoll is, we photoshop users (addicts) always catch the name Seetharaman Narayanan. Any way thank him and his team for creating such a beautiful software like photoshop!

Don’t know how many days and hours I have accumulated staring at the Photoshop startup screen in all those years. Nice to see the face behind the name that has been read a thousand times.


I was searching for seetha’s details and in between came up with this forum…beyond the length of his name, i really liked his words in the interview me too joining here….!

I used to repeat his nice-sounding name like a mantra, just for the sound! I thought I was the only crazy enough Photoshop user :-P
And there is the classic Sita story in the Ramayana.
I’m very happy with the possibility of having my little comment read by one of the authors of Photoshop which I use almost daily since version 2.0 in 1993. A big thanks to all.
(Don’t look too closely at MY name, it’s of Spanish/Basque origin, not Indian :-)