Maria Yap could be called a digital imaging pioneer, but her love of photography and design dates back before her days as a software pro. Maria received her first 35mm SLR film camera as a teenager, and she dove head first into the world of photography, eventually taking photos for her high school yearbook and newspaper.
Maria went on to study photography and design at American University. “This was in the days before the desktop publishing revolution,” explains Maria, who feels she came of age at a very fortunate time. In college, she learned how to create documents “the hard way” using paste up, which taught her an appreciation for the amount of work that went into design before programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator were launched.
However, Maria graduated and began her career in design just as the desktop publishing revolution began. “When you’re fresh out of school you pick up things easily,” says Maria. “I hadn’t gotten too deep into my career or closed off to new influences. I enjoyed working in a much more experimental way, I was very open to new systems but I also appreciated how amazing the software was.”
Maria stayed in contact with her professors at American University, and when the design department decided to invest in emerging technologies, Maria was on hand to advise about which software programs would best provide the students with the professional skills they needed to be up to date with the design world after graduation. Maria eventually moved into the role of associate professor at her alma mater, where she developed a reputation as an excellent teacher. “The cherry on top for me was when one of my professors decided to take my class, because he wanted to learn computer graphics.”
In addition to teaching, Maria launched her own business as a freelance designer and consultant. “I grew up and matured as an artist at the same time the software was growing up and maturing.” Eventually Maria came to work for Adobe, where she has been in the product management field for fourteen years. Maria is now the Senior Director of Product Management for Photoshop, where she leads a team of product managers, evangelists and customer advocates who continue to pioneer new applications for design.
One of her team’s latest projects is Adobe Revel, a multi-platform program that allows users to store and edit photos from their laptop, tablet and phone. “The idea is to allow access to all photos from all devices,” explains Maria. “The user can make changes to an image from any location, and the change is immediately reflected on all devices.”
When she is not blazing trails at Adobe, Maria spends time with her eight year old son and five year old daughter, who share her love of creativity and art: “I have shown them how to take pictures, they use my digital cameras all the time. We also do a lot of drawing together. Whenever there’s a birthday party we’ll make our own wrapping paper and our own cards.”
Maria is also volunteering as a judge for the Adobe Youth Voices Aspire Awards, evaluating submissions in the category of graphic design. “I am always impressed with the level of sophistication and creativity that comes out of this next generation, it blows me away that they can come up with things that are so mature for their years,” says Maria about her excitement to review submitted work.
Feeling inspired? Visit the Aspire Awards webpage to find out how you can participate – submissions are being accepted until April 20th, 2012. Or visit the Youth Media Gallery to view examples of graphic design and other media created within the Adobe Youth Voices program.