Author Archive: jmilovic

Adobe Design Achievement Awards – Alumni Feature

Kirsten Southwell, ADAA 2012 Winner of Mobile Design category, shares her experience with us….


As designers, we’re always looking for ways to better our work, to evolve as artists and individuals. We grow up, mature, and our understanding of great design grows along with us.

Kirsten Southwell with ADAA 2012 trophy for Mobile Design category

Kirsten Southwell with ADAA 2012 trophy for Mobile Design category

Kirsten Southwell, North Carolina State University and ADAA 2012 winner of Mobile Design category, shared her perspective of the ADAA experience in Toronto. Her story demonstrates how sometimes, the little things become most memorable –  when our colleagues share in our achievement, when our friends share in our joy, and when our professors lift us up, are the times when we truly grow and connect to our community.


Since becoming an ADAA winner, I think I’ve gained a lot of perspective about my own abilities as a designer, as well as a greater appreciation for all of the wonderful support I have as an aspiring professional. I think that the place I have found the most support has been from the studio that I work for, Second Story Interactive Studios.  

For example, within an hour of winning the ADAA award, I was extremely touched to receive a phone call from David Waingarten, a Creative Director at Second Story. David temporarily derailed a meeting he was in, just to congratulate me and share the news with the rest of the studio.  It was a simple gesture, but it became obvious to me, that the individuals I work with enjoy sharing in my success in a way that is far more personal than by simply acknowledging it.

Kirsten hanging a Second Story logo in her studio as an image experiment

Kirsten hanging a Second Story logo in the studio as an image experiment

I was also surprised by how my alma mater, North Carolina State University, took such pride in my achievement. I received emails from all of the professors in the Graphic Design department!  Not only that, but someone thoughtfully took the time to create a large poster, announcing my achievement, then hung it up in the main breezeway of the College of Design.

A poster created to celebrate Kirsten's profile in the ADAA Gallery

A poster created to celebrate Kirsten’s achievement and profile in the ADAA Gallery





I feel my education is invaluable. I am thrilled that I have an opportunity to share the ADAA honor with the program—and specifically the faculty and TA’s—who gave so much of their time and effort to help shape the designer that I’ve become.

My friends have been really excited for me. I think it has been a little eye-opening for some of them to get a bigger understanding and context of the work that I do.  My friend, Chris, came all the way to Toronto to attend the DesignThinkers conference and share in the moment with me. He confided that after they called my name to come on stage, his heart didn’t stop racing for a few minutes later. I found that incredibly endearing that he literally experienced my anxiety – for me.

As far as what I have learned as an artist… I’ve learned the value of making an effort and taking a chance to claim recognition, and become distinguished for your work. I work at an award winning studio, and it’s great to contribute to projects collaboratively. However, receiving individual acknowledgement can only empower you, validate you, and heighten your sense of awareness for the designer that can become.

Kirsten exploring with GIF 2D and 3D, along with colleague, Pillipe Laurlheret, in the studio

Kirsten’s recent exploration, working with GIF 2D and 3D, along with colleague, Pillipe Laurlheret, in the studio

Recently, I’ve been exploring motion. Part of this is in thanks to the DSLR camera I bought with my ADAA Prize Money! It started with a desire to create high-quality GIFS as a storytelling method on the Second Story blog. This has kind of taken off into creating long stop motion animations in Photoshop and creating prototypes in Flash. Now I’m learning AfterEffects – I’m committed to exploring as a designer.





Since being distinguished by the ADAA, I was also honored as a winner in the Optimizing category of the IxDA Interaction Design Awards.   So just last month, I found myself back in Toronto to receive an award at the IxDA13 Conference.

Kirsten's ADAA trophy on display!

Kirsten’s ADAA trophy on display!



At the ADAA 2013, we too share in the joy and achievements of Kirsten and all alumni in the community.  As the ADAA embarks on our thirteenth year, we’re looking forward to recognizing more emerging artists and designers, pushing their pursuit of greatness in design. 

Congrats, Kirsten!  To view Kirsten’s honored work, visit the ADAA Gallery at

ADAA12 Awards Ceremony: Part II

Our second day in Toronto, was the one for which our Finalist had been waiting for for months! The day had finally arrived when we would announce the Winners in each of the 16 Categories – ushering in the next generation of bright talent and honouring educators who work every day to advance design pedagogy.  The ADAA Team was buzzing with excitement too: many months of hard work were coming to fruition as we finally got to see the Finalists seated in the auditorium!


The ceremony!

The ceremony!

We were treated to not one, but two, stellar keynotes from Stephen Sagmeister and Sean Adams.  Sagmeister challenged the packed auditorium to consider what truly makes them happy and the very delicate relationship between pursuing your career and your passion.  Sean Adams took us back to where it all began: to the early days of AdamsMorioka and shared with us the trials and triumphs – and jokes – along the way of building one of the most successful agencies in North America.


Sean Adams talking about the early days.

Sean Adams talking about the early days.


Stefan Sagmeister checking in with the audience.

Stefan Sagmeister checking in with the audience.

After their talks, both of these design luminaries stayed backstage, as they both took part in presenting the ADAA Awards to our deserving and very excited Winners.  They were joined by Noreen Morioka, Mick Kanfi, Pum and Jake Lefebure, Susan Bradley, Kris Sowersby, and Harry Pearce!  It was certainly a starpower awards ceremony – honouring the best work from over 20 countries and representing the hard work of over 70 finalists and team members.

The ceremony was followed by a reception at the ADAA Gallery where the DT attendees, ADAA presenters and our ADAAers all mingled, and raised a glass to their achievements.  The most common response amongst our Finalists is that everyone had already felt like a winner, whether they were awarded a trophy that evening or not – because the experience of coming to Toronto and getting to know so many people – peers, industry leaders and design thinkers – had already felt like a prize.  It was a really pleasure to get to see all the Finalists from all over the world get to know each other and share their ideas!


Undoubtedly, Photography winner Pablo Jimenez said it best when he noted that “The moment you have Stefan Sagmeister handing you a trophy, you realize it is not just an award, it is a life experience.”


But we were not done yet!  After the reception, we were treated to a celebratory dinner and a visit to the CN Tower, which as one of the world’s tallest structures was an ideal venue for our ADAAers, who from such heights could see the broad horizon of their bright futures!

Our memories and the friends we all made will certainly stay with us for a lifetime – and as we continue to track the achievements and successes of our honourees, we will continue to grow our international community and recognize the power and impact of global design education and practice.

ADAA12 Awards Ceremony: Part I

We couldn’t have imagined a better time – amazing, talented designers from all over the world, meet in a vibrant city to celebrate their achievements and make connections that will last a lifetime! 

The 2012 ADAA went to Toronto to hand out 16 beautiful trophies to some very deserving young designers and design faculty.

Upon settling in our hotel at the base of the CN Tower and overlooking the Rogers Centre stadium, we were ready to explore the city and get to know some of the local industry leaders.  The ADAAers were off to TIFF Bell Lightbox for a special presentation by Pixar’s Susan Bradley.  That evening, the Finalists visited top design studios around Toronto – and got to meet and chat with Creative Directors, entrepreneurs and designers…not to mention, see some of the coolest offices around!

The people of Grip Limited sure have figured out the best way to get to work!
Photo courtesy of Jacklyn Atlas

More gorgeous studios!
Photo courtesy of Jacklyn Atlas

Toronto Studio Tours

Studio Tours
Photo courtesy of Jacklyn Atlas


The next two days were filled with inspiring and interesting talks at the RGD DesignThinkers (DT) conference – with mindblowing presentations from the likes of Harry Pearce and Tom Eslinger and so many others!  Everyone had that invigorated look in their eyes, when new ideas begin to flash and new projects begin to formulate!  We cannot wait to see where this momentum takes our ADAAers!


The whole event was incredibly inspiring. I feel energised and ready to start jumping into the professional design world. The ADAA and DesignThinkers also showed me that there is so much out there, so many directions I can take my work in and so many people ready to use, share, critique, praise and play with the things I create. The volume and range of creativity all concentrated into the people at the event was mind blowing, and if I were to now have to choose a place to host the Awards, Toronto would be at the top of my list, for the amount of design work there, and the energy the city has.
– ADAA12 Game Design Winner Mitchell Brien

DesignThinkers 2012
Photo by Spencer Xiong


In between the sessions, we mingled in the ADAA Gallery, which had on display all Finalist work.  The word on the street (errrr..convention center lobby) was that the ADAA designers were nothing less than impressive!  The delegates cast their votes for the Audience Choice Award and got to choose their personal standout design!


Zhongxuan Liu stands proud by her work!
Photo courtesy of Jacklyn Atlas

Hanging out in the ADAA Gallery!

Pablo Jiminez shows off his project and his good humor!
Photo courtesy of Jacklyn Atlas


We celebrated the first DT night on the Thomson Hotel rooftop, with a magnificent panoramic view of Toronto.  This was but a taste of what was to come the next day!


Overlooking downtown Toronto from the Thompson Hotel rooftop.

Look at this crew! ADAA12 Finalists on top of the world!


Stay tuned for Part II of the Toronto experience: hanging out with Stephan Sagmeister, the TROPHIES!, and climbing the CN Tower!


ADAA in Russia

Moscow Design Week: 9-14 October 2012

Moscow Design Week: 9-14 October 2012


There is nothing we love more than showing off our talented ADAA Alumni – and we had another chance to do just that this month at Moscow Design Week.  In collaboration with our media partners at Design42Day and regional Adobe offices, we held an ADAA exhibition at MDW last week!  Not only that, but the exhibition was also on display at the Adobe Education Summit in Moscow, held the week prior and attended by the likes of Jon Perera, Vice President Adobe Education!

Both events drew industry professionals, leaders and educators and we took this opportunity to showcase our Russian ADAA Alumni along with the Russian 2012 Finalist!  We think this is just the perfect lead-up to the 2012 awards ceremony, just a few short weeks away in Toronto.

Thank you to our partners and everyone who made this amazing show possible!

Looking good, ADAA!


ADAA work getting some well-deserved attention!

ADAA work getting some well-deserved attention!


Alumni Feature: My Favourite Animal, ADAA 2011

It is always a pleasure to hear about what our ADAA alums are getting up to. Lara Lee, a winner in the Animation category 2011, hailing from Daegu in Korea tells us a little bit about her ADAA experience.  Lara studies illustration and animation at Royal College of Art in London.  She draws, documents memories, reads and is a self-proclaimed story teller, and trinket collector.


Lara Lee

Lara Lee


When she was in Uni in Seoul, Lara was encouraged to be aware of influential international design competitions. Excited to share her first proper animation to the ADAA community and the world, she submitted her graduation project – four digitally drawn pieces – at the very end of the third round of judging.  Lara enjoyed the other submissions so much that she wasn’t expecting her own animation to be announced a winner.


Since what she describes as an exciting, mind-opening and unforgettable ADAA experience, Lara has participated in a group exhibition, studied sound and image juxtaposition for her dissertation and term projects, and is now preparing her RCA graduation project.  The ADAA experience has left a lasting impression on her work, influencing and honing the approach she takes to her future practice.  The experience has also shaped her opportunities as a designer by exposing her to a priceless network of students, faculty and judges in the ADAA community and countless opportunities for meaningful feedback.


What is Lara’s advice to design students such as herself? “Definitely read watch, share and be as productive as much as possible.” Her hopes are that the design world will become more hybrid and foster diversity, creating space for myriad opportunities for artists and designers, while also keeping society’s best interest at heart.

2012 Finalists Announced!

We have announced the Finalists and Honourable Mentions for the 2012 competition!  You can download the complete list here.  We will also be featuring the selected projects on the ADAA Gallery, which will go live with the new Finalists very soon.

This year, our 41 Finalists and 20 HMs are an eclectic group, coming from every corner of the world.  We have representatives from: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and United States!

When we talked to Clare Erwin, the Senior Manager of Education Community at Adobe, she commented, “We’re thrilled to see such a worldwide presence, with finalists and honorable mention recipients representing a total of nineteen countries. Seeing such a varied list of countries confirms we are connecting a worldwide community of next-generation designers to one another.” 

And “connecting” will be the name of the game when all the Finalists arrive in Toronto for the ADAA Awards Ceremony taking place on November 9, 2012.  These designers will have a chance to meet each other, network, and attend RGDOntario’s DesignThinkers conference, attended by some of the biggest names in design.  Along with having their project presented at the ADAA gallery at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the Finalists will also participate in studio tours and design events happening around the city!

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto Canada

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto Canada

Toronto Lakeshore

Toronto Lakeshore









As you know, we pursue our mission of broadening the worldwide design community in the judging process as well.

“The judging process for the Adobe Design Achievement Awards brings together an impressive, diverse and accomplished group of design educators and professionals,” commented Marilena Farruggia, Managing Director of Icograda.  “This year, hailing from 16 different countries, our 50 judges enriched the program by contributing a unique cultural perspective and a wealth of design insight to their task of selecting deserving work.”

And when we asked the judges for their comment on the finalists this year … they were clearly JAZZED by the results!


Jazz hands by ADAA Judges and Icograda staff
Photo courtesy of Sean Teegarden

We send a hearty congratulations to all those who qualified this year!  We look forward to meeting the 2012 Finalists in November and getting to know more about the people behind the designs that so impressed and inspired us.

Toronto: get ready!


Category Judging

Boy, have we been busy!

Since our last post, the 2012 competition submissions closed with a record number of entries. We received 4969 entries from over 70 countries and our online Selection Panel identified 1200 Semi-Finalists in 16 Categories, making this the biggest year in the history of the competition!

We tried something fun on Facebook this year, and featured all Semi-Finalist pictures on our ADAA Fan page. The response was phenomenal! Talk about a tagging frenzy! We couldn’t be happier with the results, especially because we were overwhelmed by the supportive words from contestants’ friends and families who shared their encouragements and congratulations. One of our biggest goals at the ADAA is to offer world-wide recognition to talented young designers, and this was just one of the ways in which we are doing that this year. Just have a look for yourself and share in the celebration with our 16,000+ strong community!

2012 ADAA Semi-Finalist albums on Facebook


Then we were off to San Jose, California for the Category judging at the impressive Adobe Headquarters.  The Semi-Finalists had sent in their projects to be judged on-site by our international panel of design leaders and educators.  We were joined by judges from Montreal, Sao Paulo, New York, Tokyo, L.A., Nantes, Cape Town, Mumbai, Singapore and the San Francisco Bay area.


The real deal!

The real deal!


You can just imagine that this diverse group, with a wide array of cultural and design practices, had some very strong opinions about the next generation of design!  What might surprise you, however, is how fun and inspirational the judging process was!  The judges confessed that they had seen something in the Semi-Finalist work that had surprised, challenged and creatively invigourated them.


The judges hard at work!
From Left: Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Tokyo), Mickael Kanfi (Montreal), Nancy Juliber (San Francisco), Gregoire Cliquet (Nantes), Hephzibah Pathak (Mumbai), Fernanda Saboia (Sao Paulo), Stephen Johnson (New York), Ravi Naidoo (Cape Town)


We wish to impart this to all the contestants who submitted their work to the competition this year: the judges were continuously impressed by the level of skill, creativity and enthusiasm in the designs they saw.  Well done to you all and we wish you continuous success in your creative pursuits!

The excitement continues as we are preparing to make the announcement of the 2012 Finalists!  You will soon be able to see the Finalist work in the ADAA Gallery.  Also, stay tuned for details about the upcoming Awards Ceremony and Gala event in November taking place in Toronto, Canada, and exclusive content from the judging itself.

Adobe Headquarters, San Jose

Adobe Headquarters, San Jose

Beautiful San Jose skies

Beautiful San Jose skies

Alumni Feature: Whispering Reeds ADAA 2011

An Ancient Greek myth inspires the Mobile App of ADAA 2011 Finalists Damiano Gui, Martina Maitan and Paolo Basso
Iuav University of Venice

The combination of their University’s impressive ADAA track record (10 Finalists/Winners since 2008!), and the encouragement from their professors, lead to the team sending in their application concept.   The project entitled “Whispering Reeds” is an interactive system, accessed by a mobile device, through which people can “plant a reed” anywhere in Venice to record their thoughts and sensations, and can listen to the “whispering reeds” of others. Their project was inspired by the Ancient Greek myth of Midas and plays with the unifying human experience of imbuing our physical surroundings with our emotional and intuitive lives.

We really enjoyed the chance to talk to the team and find out what they have been up to since the 2011 awards in Taipei.


Martina Maitan

Martina Maitan

Damiano Gui

Damiano Gui

Paolo Basso

Paolo Basso

Tell us a little bit about your project and the process of getting it done.

Martina: My team I decided to enter the competition because this seemed to be a good opportunity for measuring our ability as interaction designers at an international level. After the initial phase of brainstorming, we created the perfect interface to fit the need of the user, and then a working prototype and finally checked our work with some user tests.


Your impressive design earned you some attention after the awards! You went from Finalists in 2011, to being the team behind the fully functional Wings app for the ADAA 2012 campaign!  How did that happen?

Damiano: Shortly after the ADAA competition the guys from LABOR Studio, the team responsible for the design of ADAA campaigns, got in contact with us asking for our help in making the official ADAA 2012 App. We agreed enthusiastically, even if a bit scared: all of our past projects were just prototypes, and we had never built an actual application before! It was a real challenge, but we eventually succeeded. We couldn’t have done it without the help and support from our friends and from Mathias, Arnfried and Stephan (LABOR team). The Adobe Awards Wings App is now available in Google Play and in the Apple App Store and we are so proud of it!


How else have the ADAA’s impacted your  opportunities as designers?

Damiano: This July, I start a four-month internship at the MIT SenseAble City Lab in Boston, MA. I couldn’t even think of something like this a year ago. I just had interviews with studios from Madrid, Paris, Berlin, London and New York. All this thanks to my portfolio, which now includes an ADAA Finalist award and an Adobe featured App on top of all my other projects.

Martina: The ADAA has given me the opportunity to see my value as a designer on a global stage.  Like Damiano, I have also gotten a summer internship – mine is at Fjord Studios in Berlin.

Paolo: And I will be in Treviso, Italy at Studio Log607 for my internship!


How did the ADAA experience influence your outlook as designers?

Martina: The ADAA has been a force pushing me to pursue my path with much more strength and conviction than before this experience.  It gave me the chance to see other people with the same dreams and expectations and they have been an example for me.

Damiano: The ADAA’s jury choices made me reflect on what should be the aim of a designer today: not from the market point of view, but from an ethic and social one. Our project was a user-centred service design, which can shift technical complexity into a simpler and more emotion-oriented and poetic shape. I think this is the reason why Whispering Reeds was one of the Finalist projects. I think this is the right way to go in design for the future.



So where do you see design going in the next decade?  What do you think its role will be in industry, culture and society?

Paolo: I think that the role of design will be increasingly in the direction of the user experience, with the intention of improving the person’s life, not just with new functionality, but with the ease of use.

Martina: I think so too.  In my opinion, interaction design will have a central role in the future of any person.

Damiano: I see the role of a designer finally gaining the importance that it deserves.  People are coming to understand that technology is not just a brain’s matter: it’s a heart’s one too. Only thanks to designers we will achieve a world in which human beings and technology have a virtuous relationship.


Thinking about these reflections on the role of design and looking back over your experiences as students and ADAA Finalists, what advice or insight do you have for current design students?

Martina: As a student you should aim to keep a clear focus on your goals and dreams, but to always remain passionate and curious for new things that happen around you.

Paolo: When it comes to designing, the most important thing is to never design from start to finish alone! Discuss your project as many times as possible with different people during the process, so you can see mistakes and opportunities for improvement that often you don’t notice on your own.

Damiano: What I learnt is that you can’t do everything, but there is nothing you can’t learn if you have passion and ambition. So don’t worry too much about your technical skills and try to keep your mind and eyes wide open to the world, even to what is not related to your field. Aim high and don’t refuse any good opportunity, even if it could scare you in the beginning.


This impressive team are all finishing their Masters at Iuav University of Venice: Damiano and Paolo are writing their theses in Visual and Multimedia Communication Design, while Martina is doing hers in Interaction Design.  You can learn more about the Whispering Reeds project in our ADAA Gallery.  You can see more of Damiano, Paolo and Martina’s work in their personal portfolios:

Did You Know?!

As the deadline is fast approaching (competition closes in less than two weeks!!!) we are getting many daily questions from applicants.  We thought it would be useful for everyone to do a post on the topic to share with you all!

Here are some important tips and guidelines:

  • Each contestant can submit up to (3) three different projects in each category.
  • Each contestant can submit projects in as many categories as they like!  The only limitation is that you cannot apply to a category in which you already hold Semi-Finalist status.
  • If you submitted your project to a previous Session and it did not get selected for the Semi-Final round, you can re-submit the same project again, BUT it has to be changed or updated somehow.
  • You can see the website and application form in 14 languages.  Use the drop-down menu at the top of the page.
  • Even if you are a recent graduate, you can submit work that was created after May 1, 2011, if you were a student at the time of its completion.
  • We encourage all contestants to submit more than one project!  Send us all your end of term work!
  • We encourage group projects!
  • Entries into the Application and Game categories do not need to be functional!  Send in your amazing concepts.
  • There are (3) three categories that are just for faculty!  Know an innovative educator?  Get them to send in their projects!
  • You can download fully functional trial versions of the Adobe software you will need to make or finish your project on our website.  Your entry must be created primarily using Adobe tools (50% or more).

And last but not least – the ultimate piece of important information that you should write on sticky notes all around your desk:

  • Final deadline is 22 June 2012, 17:00PST!!!

Hope that helps!  If you have any more questions, feel free to drop them in the comments.

– The ADAA Team

Session II Semi-Finalists Announced

Oh, how time flies!

It seems like it was mere moments ago that the 2012 ADAA’s kicked off the call for entries for this year’s competition – but here we are, already in the third and final session of submissions!  Not only that, this week we made the big announcement that over 1200 Session II hopefuls were waiting for!  The whopping 289 Semi-Finalists for Session II are officially announced and visible on our live Semi-Finalist Page.

What exactly does it mean to be a Semi-Finalist?  A lot!  The most amazing thing about the ADAA’s (in our humble opinion!) is that to enter the competition is to already become a member of this incredible international community of designers, students, educators and professionals.  Adding your Semi-Finalist status to your resume or portfolio is a great idea too and will increase your profile!  It also means that you are one step closer to our amazing prizes which include a trip to Toronto and passes to DesignThinkers, $3000 cash and Adobe software!

But even if you did not make it in this round, by joining us on our social media and networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and G+, you gain access to worldwide network of individuals – all committed to the same goal: encouraging and supporting design potential in emerging designers, and celebrating the innovation of design educators.  So, go ahead, join our community and start a conversation – the ADAA’s are not just a competition, but also your platform for sharing ideas, perspectives and inspirations with people all over the world!  And remember, you can submit again in the current session!

We are proud of our growing worldwide family!  So far we have contestants from 57 different countries: from Malaysia to Germany, Colombia to Taiwan.  It is amazing to think about the incredible diversity in culture and in approach to design that we see in our applications. Reflecting on this diversity, Pre-Selection Panel Judge Monica Zacarias (Mexico), believes that:

“Even though we are living in a particular moment where global communication gives access to all, it is inspiring to feel the different nationalities in the works submitted to the ADAA competition.”

We all continue to be inspired by the relationship between design and its expression through the diverse approaches of our contestants.  Yet, no matter where a designer comes from, the objective of the project is always the same: to express, to move, to motivate, to help us understand.  The real value of exploring other cultures is the ability to see the goals of design expressed in new and interesting ways.  In the words of Monica:

“Culture gives personality to the work.”

– The ADAA Team