4 Fun Storytelling Exercises to Get You Thinking Differently

Contrary to Greek mythology, creative genius doesn’t just appear by divine inspiration. You have to befriend your muses by regularly flexing creative muscles in order to deliver original ideas on a regular basis. Experts ranging from Steve Jobs to Albert Einstein have touted the benefits of leaving the task at hand to let your mind wander.

The following classic writing exercises—with new technological twists—can help you do just that so that your mind is stretched and limber when it is time to create a pitch video for a new product, deliver a killer tagline, or pen a clickable headline.

Write a Story in Six Words or Less
Long before Twitter set character limits and flash fiction blew up on Tumblr, king of restraint Earnest Hemingway knew just a few words could say enough. According to literary urban legend, he made (and won) a $10 bet that he could write a helluva story in six words. His creation—”For sale: Baby shoes, never worn”—has endured forty-plus years as a great example of “less is more” when it comes to writing. The six-word story prompt is a favorite among writing teachers for the way it forces you to choose words with the most visceral impact. Just as necessity is the mother of invention, strict constraints can help copywriters resist cliche.

Turn your six-word story into a 1,006-word story with Adobe Post by pairing the words with an image.

Need inspiration? Try the subreddit Six Word Stories or explore Tumblr to see other people’s six-word memoirs. Apply this to work by describing your brand in one sentence in six words or under. Here’s ours:

Or simply make this a word game by distilling your favorite movie into six words. Can you guess which movies these are?

Slack for iOS Upload-5


Tell a Story that Follows Classic Story Structure
Even the most twisty, complicated stories can likely be distilled down to a very simple three-act structure. Those just starting out in screenwriting are often first challenged to write their story in just a few plain sentences. Practice establishing your own story structure by creating a six-frame Adobe Voice video that follows the structure: “Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.” This formula forces writers to think of cause and effect, a driving force of plot, and condense complicated stories into bite-sized pieces. Use this prompt to help you storyboard ideas. Consider telling the story of how you got into your line of work or tell the story of someone affected by a cause you care about, using imagery that captures the tone of your story. These six sentences could become the foundation for your very own three-act drama, but they will definitely help you define the main points of your message.

Create a Poem from a Newspaper Article
Borrowing and remixing is all part of the creative process and can lead to totally new, moving works. To make your own remixed poetry, grab a news story and highlight only the important words. Arrange the words in whatever order speaks to you, find images to go with each word and upload it all to glideshow in a Slate. Voila—your own animated poem! This storytelling prompt can help with the creative process by taking the pressure off you to come up with the words. Again, constraints are a good thing as they act as walls for ideas to bounce off of—you never know what brilliant idea will come to you when you let your mind wander to something mindlessly creative.

Narrate Your Favorite Short Story or Children’s Book
Instead of worrying about writing your own video script, take a work you already know and add your own spin to it by finding images and icons that make the text come to life. Play with narrating it line by line or perhaps changing the order to best adapt it for the screen.

This is a common exercise in schools to help kids with reading comprehension, such as in the case below:

But both kids and adults can benefit from this project. Take Catherine Winters’s Adobe Voice video, who turned a few pages of a fantasy book into a simple animated video.

Not only will you come away with newfound appreciation for the story, but you’ll learn valuable things about pacing, voice control, and visual elements that will help you when you create your own videos.

Inside Our Notebooks: 5 Key Takeaways from Social Media Marketing World Conference 2016

sketch notes 2Adobe Post’s Amy Zhong doodles her notes from Peg Fitzpatrick’s session on standing out on Instagram

This week a few members of our team attended the Social Media Examiner’s Social Media Marketing World Conference. We divided and attempted to conquer as much of the 100+ expert-led sessions and workshops as we possibly could. Now we’re opening our notebooks (literally) to let you in on our key takeaways from the unique perspectives of the team members who attended. Here are some of the learnings that made an impression on us.

“Snapchat is taking over the world!!!” – Amy Zhong, Adobe Post Junior Product Manager
As the fastest growing social network, Snapchat was the darling of the conference. At the keynote, Social Media Examiner founder Mike Stelzner predicted that by next year millennials would rate Snapchat in their top-three favorite networks. And many sessions focused on debunking the myth that Snapchat is just for teenagers who want to barf rainbows. Rather speakers guided businesses through how to tap into the network’s engaged users to make personal connections with customers. Snapchat expert and SMMW16 speaker Carlos Gil suggested using the platform to put a face to your brand with behind-the-scenes shots, hosting promotions to test conversions, and leveraging existing Snapchat influencers to grow an audience.


Inside Amy Zhong’s notebook from the talk Snapchat Marketing: How Businesses are Connecting with Millenials


“Video is the new standard.” -Peter O’Donovan, Adobe Post Developer
 According to Social Media Examiner’s data 73 percent of marketers are increasing their use of video in 2016 and 21 percent of marketers think its’s the most important part of their strategy. With video expected to account for 80 percent of mobile traffic by 2019, it’s clear that it’s time to get ready for your closeup if you want to compete.


(Pst, word on the street is that we have an  easy way to create video in just a few minutes.)



“Package your content for maximum share-ability. Segment and remix content so it’s tailored to multiple social channels.” -Michaela Strand, Adobe Voice Product Manger
Leveraging a strong article, video, or podcast across multiple channels is content marketing 101, but when you hear how some creators turn one piece of content into literally hundreds of unique shareable moments, it drives home how much value is in just one story that resonates with your audience. For video, segmenting and remixing means posting 10-second clips from one longer video to keep driving traffic from different social channels and taking advantage of Facebook’s auto-play function (make sure your video works without sound). Tease larger pieces of content by sharing the most quotable elements  over a compelling image on Instagram or Twitter in order to drive traffic and establish your voice as an authority. 

sketch notes 1

RELATED: Read Mari Smith’s Guide to Boosting Facebook Engagement with Visual Media

“Your brand is the sum of all experiences your customers have with your brand. Think collaboration and community when it comes to content.” -Amy Copperman, Editor/ Community Manager
You hear a lot of content creators and marketers talking about the importance of authenticity, but capturing a unique voice or experience that also inspires and galvanizes a community around your  message can often feel like coaxing goldfish through a maze blindfolded. In other words–a fuzzy, slippery endeavor, in which you have no idea which tactics will produce results. We thought that digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist Brian Solis captured the pursuit of authentic, relatable experiences and content the best when he advised his audience to search for common aspirations among customers and create a network through collaborative content. The pervading advice when it comes to building a network through digital experiences is to give before you ask for anything. As YouTube star and conference presenter Zach King says, “Give in order to grow.”


sketch notes 2
“People are looking for very focused solutions, not just tools.” -Thibault Imbert, Adobe Post Product Manager
As a product manager, Thibault was focused on talking to people and listening closely to the questions they asked in Q&A sessions. He came away with a better understanding of the challenges business owners and marketers face in a landscape that changes constantly and requires constant maintenance. “People have limited time and resources but many people are tasked with everything from customer service to getting their message out there. To top it off, sometimes they don’t know what the ROI is for say creating content for the hot new social network,” he said. As SMMW speaker Brian Solis advised in his talk, it’s important for brands to prioritize customer needs and goals over shiny objects.


Until next year, thanks for the memories, SMMW! P.S. Were you there? Share what you learned in the comments!



“Spring Has Sprung!” and 9 Other Marketing Cliches That Should Be Banned

Throw these marketing cliches to the wind and blow away the competition. (Sorry, we had to.)

“Spring into style with new sandals,” “’Tis the season for gifting,” “Let freedom ring with our 4th of July sale!” No matter what time of year it is, marketers consistently put out advertisements full of lazy clichés we’ve seen a hundred times over. In an attempt to be clever, they often forget that when it comes to marketing, it’s much more important to be clear. Still, while we’d love to see an end to meaningless statements in advertising, there are nine other egregious marketing clichés we’d love banished even more. Read on to see which ones they are and why it’s time to for them to go.

Hassle Free (and Other Superfluous Expressions)
In “Elements of Style” Strunk and White tell us to “avoid fancy words.” They say, “Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there’s a ten-center handy, ready and able.” Their advice pertains to everything from literary prose to ad copy. Words that are short and clear are easier to quickly comprehend, so eliminate the fluff and keep it simple. You wouldn’t tell a friend, “Setting up my new TV was completely hassle free!” No, you’d say, “Wow. Setting up my new TV was super easy.” If there’s a less complicated word you can use—use it.

One-Stop Shop
Yes, places like Costco and Wal-Mart sell everything from soda to sofas, but most of us still need to shop at other places to accomplish all of our errands. And people are okay with that because we don’t really want one store (or company or brand) to be all things. Instead, we want it to do one thing really well. If you’re tempted to describe something as a “one-stop shop,” figure out what the real value proposition is and say that instead.

Rockstar & Ninja
If you’re describing Mick Jagger or a mutant turtle in his adolescence, then by all means, use these words. But if you’re describing yourself or your employee, we must ask you to refrain because when it comes to job descriptions and resumes, rockstar and ninja are totally overused and, therefore, totally meaningless. Plus, be real: While a computer programmer may be amazing at his job, unless he’s also got crazy guitar skills, gorgeous hair, and insane stage presence, he’s simply NOT a rockstar. He’s a gifted computer programmer who likely very much deserves to be hired, but probably isn’t selling out stadiums across the country.

Think Outside the Box
When you say you’re “thinking outside the box,” what you’re doing is using a cliché to describe “being creative.” And there’s nothing very creative about using a cliché to describe the creative way in which you think. Plus, it’s unnecessary. No one expects or wants people to think inside the metaphorical box, so there’s no need to point out that you aren’t.

Best in Class (and Other Vague Guarantees)
There’s no point in a brand calling out their attention to detail, reliability, dedication, excellence, integrity, or honesty because those are all things that clients and customers expect. Instead, provide tangible examples, like what exactly you’re promising and the pledge behind it, exactly how you pay attention to detail, how long you’ve been in business, etc.

Going Viral
Viral marketing is a real catch phrase these days, and we appreciate the idea of creating a marketing message that is voluntarily shared on social media by hundreds of thousands of people. However, the thing about going viral is that you can’t actually plan for it. You can maximize your chances by doing certain things, but ultimately, it’s completely out of a marketer’s control. It’ll either happen… or it won’t. Plus, as much as we try, it just reminds us of that time of year when the entire office gets the flu.

Content Is King
While it’s true that content that engages an audience and gets a reaction can be an effective marketing strategy, it’s also true that the phrase “content is king” is overused and stale. Plus, it seems to imply that any content, as long as there’s a lot of it, is better. It’s not just about creating large amounts of content though; rather, it’s about finding a way to tell a compelling story that reaches your target audience in a way that will mean something to them and inspire them to interact and engage.

Friendly, Knowledgeable Staff
As compared to rude employees who are lazy and know nothing? Again, there’s no need to say things that people expect anyway. It’s a waste of space and time that could actually be put towards giving customers valuable information they want and need.

Culture and Gender Stereotyping
The stay-at-home mom who cooks and cleans, the jealous girlfriend, the incompetent male, the little girl wearing pink and playing with dolls… Advertising has not only the ability to mirror culture, but to mold it. Lots of brands are starting to show us more than these silly, outdated stereotypes, but the truth is, we still have a long way to go.

A Photographer and Chef’s 6 Steps to Taking Better Food Photos


The ancient Chinese proverb “you eat with your eyes first” has likely never been more true than in today’s social media-driven world. Thanks to customers using platforms like Instagram to make dining decisions, chefs and restaurant owners not only need to know how to work a line; they also need to know how to work a lens.

Wes Rowe, restaurateur/chef and photojournalist, knows first hand how powerful a mouth watering food photo can be. Before he was crowned San Francisco’s burger champ, he worked as a food photographer for publications like Zagat and Serious Eats. Wes says his background in photojournalism has helped him parlay his passion for creative juicy burgers and slow-smoked brisket into his own business, steadily rising from pop-up sensation to acclaimed San Francisco chef. Today the self-taught chef slings fried chicken burritos, tater tots, and award-winning burgers out of his own 1960s-style diner in the trendy Mission District, but he often trades a spatula for a camera, knowing that to fill seats he’s first got to lure with shots like this:



And this:


Bringing his unique perspective as both chef and photographer, here are Wes Rowe’s tips for taking better food photos whether you’re a professional cook, restaurant owner, or diner looking to up your Instagram game.

  1. Take color and contrast into account when cooking or staging.
    While Wes is much more focused on flavor when developing a recipe, he seeks opportunities to use color contrast in his dishes, knowing that the more colorful the dish, the better it will translate in a photo. “Monotone food is boring and one-dimensional,” he says. Instead he advises chefs to look for ways to have contrasting colors share a plate. “Yellows and greens and reds do well. Anything opposite each other on a color wheel will make the photo pop.” You don’t have to rethink your entire menu, however. “It can be as simple as adding a garnish at the last step that doesn’t affect the flavor of the dish, but adds depth to the photo,” Wes says.
  2. Consider presentation and plating style.
    Certain styles of cooking lend itself to certain presentations on the plate. Wes’s down-home cooking, for instance, needs a functional plating style–he uses the whole plate and positions food how diners would likely set about eating it. Meanwhile, fine dining “tweezer food” looks artful when contrasted with negative white space. In general, distinct elements translate better than piles of deliciousness. But as Wes points out, you can add balance and perspective to a shot by garnishing a bowl of chili, for instance, with sprinkles of cheddar cheese or green onions.  
  3. Shoot next to a window in the daylight.
    Inside lighting usually casts warm or yellow hues, while natural light tends to disperse cooler colors. According to Wes, when both lighting is present in a shot, it’ll create a muddled or uneven appearance. And in general yellow lighting can make even the freshest food look like it’s straight out of a greasy spoon, “The camera won’t know how to adjust for the two colors,” says Wes. So his trick is to move the dish to the window and turn off the inside lights, that way you’re left with a single light source.
  4. Bounce light onto the dish with a white surface.
    When dealing with natural light, you likely have a light source that brightens one side of the dish, but casts a shadow on the other leading to unappealing textures or colors. You don’t need expensive equipment to fix this problem–the key is to use any flat surface that will subtly reflect light back onto the dish. Wes takes a sheet of butcher paper or a white towel and has someone angle it just out of the shot so it catches the light and bounces it back on to the darker side of the dish. Alternatively, you could prop a light-colored menu so that it does double duty as a background prop and your reflective surface.
  5. Fill the frame with a prop.
    It’s important to think holistically about the shot and not just about the focus. A lot of empty space around your main subject can actually distract and make it look like your food is floating in space. Wes often pairs his subjects with an out-of-focus prop, like a beer or bottle of ketchup in order to lend a sense of scale and perspective.
  6. Adjust light and contrast in post-production.
    Though Wes avoids Instagram filters, preferring to keep the colors as true to the actual guest experience, he does sometimes adjust the light and contrast slightly in post-production. Again, no need for pro-tools. “Instagram’s simple editing tools are all you really need,” Wes says.

Check out Wes Rowe’s food photos from his new restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District:

WesBurger n’ More

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Adobe Voice! 12 Poems Worth Watching


Thanks to its roots in oral storytelling, poetry is best enjoyed when heard instead of read so the rhythm, rhyme, and pacing can truly come to life. To celebrate National Poetry Month, we gathered some of our favorite poems-turned-videos made by Adobe Voice creators. If you’re not a poetry fan, you probably haven’t had it set to music, visuals, and read aloud. And if love the art form, these renditions breathe new life into classic and original poetry.

Shakespeare Sonnet #18

Narrator Jeremy Wheeler aka The Postcard Poet demystifies Shakespeare with icons that literally translate lines in a classic Shakespeare sonnet. This is the poem to watch if you don’t understand what the master of rhyme was ever talking about.

Yesterday and Today by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes’s words capture heartbreak and Sage Glasglow’s choice of imagery carries that theme home.

Stitches and Scars by Candace Mealy

Spoken word poet Candace Mealy shows how powerful putting a voice to poetry can be in her excellently narrated Stitches and Scars.

Poem by Pete Jones

Instead of narrating his poem, this Adobe Voice creator puts his words to subtle, yet haunting, ambient sounds. The effect is a true multimedia experience of an original work.

Today by Billy Collins

Billy Collins, famous for his conversational poetry, is a modern favorite. This cheerful rendition of Today will remind you to get outside and appreciate sunny days.

If by Rudyard Kipling

Evan Katzel puts modern images and beautifully narrates this inspiring poem full of fatherly wisdom. This is your #MotivationMonday set to poetry.

I Need Nature by Daria Musk

Singer/songwriter Daria Musk combines her own watercolor paintings to an original poem for a social media campaign aimed at conservation and climate change awareness.

Enigman by Michael McGuire

There’s nothing like hearing Irish poetry read by the lilting accent it was conceived in.

Oh Me, Oh Life by Walt Whitman

No national poetry celebration is complete without Walt Whitman, considered one of the most influential poets in the American canon. Narrator Daniel Hawes not only puts Whitman’s timeless words to icons and cascading music, he adds his own verses at the end of the video, showing how he was inspired by the poet.

The Sea by Emil Caspar

This adorable narrator is clearly a natural performer. Hear how he becomes the sea.

Tough Kids by Shawn and Desmond

Kids reading poetry fluently and learning life lessons along the way.

The Sound Collector by Roger McGough

A favorite childhood poem gets the cute-kid treatment with this classroom-narrated rendition.

Celebrate National Poetry Month–Turn your favorite poem into a video with Adobe Voice!

9 Public Speaking Tips, According to Spoken Word Poet Pages Matam

pages matamThe first time Pages Matam heard spoken-word poetry, he knew it was what he wanted to do with his life. He was in 9th grade at an assembly for Black History Month, and the performance by a traveling poetry club transfixed him from the moment it began. “Poetry saved my life,” he says. “I’m so grateful for that day.”

In the years since, Pages has become a two-time National Poetry Slam champion, and his first book, The Heart of a Comet, was named a 2014 Best New Book by Beltway Poetry Quarterly. But his early forays into the art form weren’t immediately successful. “I used to yell everything when I started out,” Pages recalls. “When you’re young and passionate and just want to tell a story, it can get loud. I thought that for me to make my message more profound, I had to yell it out, which is not true at all.”

Pages credits his passion for the art form as the greatest contributor to his success as a storyteller. But he also as practical advice for speaking clearly and capturing emotion with your voice. These tips won’t only ensure a clean, crisp voice recording, but also help you speak confidently whether you’re presenting in a meeting or delivering a speech to a crowd.

  1. Practice annunciation.
    Pages has trained his mouth like an athlete trains his body and just like anything, speaking clearly takes practice that many people take for granted. Especially if you’re recording, it’s important to exaggerate the shape of your mouth. It might feel funny but it’ll force you to slow down and help your audience understand you. When first starting out, Pages would practice saying his speeches and poems with the bottom of a pen in his mouth. “It helps you learn to shape your mouth the right way and forces you to over-annunciate.” Just like running longer distance in training makes the shorter race feel easier, stressing your mouth in practice will make the performance easier.
  2. Practice diaphragmatic breathing.
    Because it’s an involuntary activity, many people never think about breathing. But spoken word poets, proficient public speakers, and yogis know how powerful breath can be. Vocal coaches regularly instruct their clients to practice breathing with their stomachs. One such exercise is to lie on the floor and breathe in a way that fills up your belly, paying attention to the rise and fall of your breath. Lay a book across your stomach to give your diaphragm, the curved muscle at the base of your ribs that allows oxygen to flow to the lungs, a little workout. When you stand up and breathe normally, your breath will likely feel fuller and stronger. You can also work out your diaphragm muscle with a yoga breath method that involves rapid, sharp exhales and passive inhales. To do it, take a deep breath through your nose and exhale completely. Then fill up your lungs about half way, breathe out through your nose in a short, sharp breaths while you snap your belly button to your spine. The practice will generate heat and warm up your core, making it a great exercise before public speaking or recording a voice-over. Diaphragmatic breathing doesn’t just produce a better sound, it also has a calming effect because it slows down your heart rate and reduces nerves and stress.
  3. Consider pacing, sound, and intonation to better tell your story.
    Once Pages has his poem written, he then identifies places within his story that he can add an extra emotional component through performance. “If I’m doing a heartfelt poem about my grandmother’s hands, I shouldn’t be yelling,” he says. “My voice should be as heartfelt as my grandmother, because that’s the spirit I want to evoke.” He anticipates the emotional reaction he would like to inspire in the audience, and prepares the performance accordingly by slowing down in places, giving certain words extra space for emphasis, and altering his tone or volume. Consider highlighting important words in your material and practicing delivering them in different ways. How can your voice emphasize the meaning behind the words? Which parts do you want people to remember? What’s the most important phrase or word? Take time to think about these questions and practice different delivery methods—it’ll make all the difference when it comes time to perform it.PRO-TIP: Turning your story or speech into a video? Adobe Voice allows you to easily add emphasis to important words or phrases by giving you the option to set them apart in their own slides or matching words to visuals with both designed icons and photos.
  4. Project from your diaphragm.
    Most people don’t fully engage their diaphragm. Rather, they rely too much on their throats, which not only strains your voice over time, but produces a weaker sound, instead of the round, full sound spoken word poets are known for. To engage the full support of your breath, inhale, allowing your stomach to expand with breath, and speak during exhale. The result will be a fuller, projected sound that won’t strain your vocal chords.
  5. Stand up straight.
    It’s obvious, but your mom was right (always). Standing up straight while speaking is essential to getting the sound out. It’s especially important to elongate the spine in your neck so as not to constrict the breath in your throat. Lift your chin slightly and imagine a string is pulling the top of you head up. Plus when you stand up straight and assume a strong, confident stance, your audience will be able to hear it in your voice.
  6. Slow down.
    Your mom probably told you to do this too. It’s harder to slow down than it is to speed up—especially when you’re performing and adrenaline kicks in. Practice slowing down your speech to an uncomfortable, unnatural level so that you can play with pacing in your performance. Emphasize important moments and change up pacing in order to help keep your audience captivated.
  7. Create a warm up routine.
    Pages likes to drink Gatorade to hydrate and avoids food before shows, but every performer has a different trick or routine to get themselves in the zone. Vocal coaches consistently suggest staying hydrated and soothing the throat with warm tea, lemon, and honey. Warming up the mouth and vocal chords is also a a good idea. Try humming your favorite tune to warm up vocal chords, massaging the muscles on the sides of your jaw to release tension, or rolling your tongue and blowing air through relaxed lips to warm up the mouth.
  8. Give the microphone room.
    Pages advises keeping the microphone about three inches away from your mouth to produce the best sound. “You don’t want to blow out the microphone or damage the quality of your sound. When you know you’re going to get louder, step back from the microphone.”
  9. Know that NO ONE likes the sound of their own voice.
    It’s science! When we hear ourselves speak in real time, we pick up on the internal vibrations, as well as the external sounds. You’re actually accustomed to hearing a slightly altered sound. But when we hear our voices in a recording, it sounds foreign because we’re not picking up the internal vibrations. Our disdain for our recorded voice isn’t so much because it’s bad, it’s because we rarely hear it and therefore find it unfamiliar. Trust us, only you hate the sound of your voice. No one else is cringing.

Inventing the Impossible: Storytelling Tips from Cyber Illusionist Marco Tempest

MarcoTempest headshot

Cyber illusionist Marco Tempest uses technology to “invent the impossible.” His unique blend of science, tech, and magic creates one-of-a-kind experiences—most recently, a dancing swarm of twenty-four drones. The power of his illusions comes from the way they tease our imaginations into believing that we are seeing something just beyond what we think we know can be real. As Marco puts it, “Magic makes possible today what science will make tomorrow.”

His interest in technology has inspired several hit talks at TED, and his creative approach is instructive for both aspiring magicians and those of us whose daily lives are firmly grounded in reality. His work reveals the power of persuasion and the value of keeping your imagination open to any inspiration.

In order to create a successful illusion, Marco emphasizes the importance of creating a believable story for the audience. “Once that story is embedded in the mind it’s difficult to change, and that makes it difficult for the audience to discover the secret of the trick,” he explains. “Magic, at its core, is about storytelling.

“Every magician will tell you about spectators they have met who have told them about the tricks that other magicians have performed. And all those tricks seem utterly impossible. That’s because the way the stories have been remembered, with all the vital details missing, they are impossible. The magician created a story that is difficult to unpick. Magicians are unreliable narrators, and audiences equally unreliable witnesses. But that’s what makes the magic a moment to remember.”


Marco started by learning classic tricks like the Cup and Ball that remain effective a thousand years after they were created because their stories still work. Once Marco learned the foundational tricks, he began to put his own spin on them. He believes it’s important to deeply study your craft—in his case, not only magic tricks and new technologies, but also the psychology of an audience. He had to learn how to build anticipation in audiences in order to figure out how to subvert their expectations.

Marco keeps his mind open when he is brainstorming new illusions and starts with the creative vision rather than focusing narrowly on what may be technically feasible. “Sometimes an idea occurs and I have no idea what technology will make it possible,” he says. “At that stage all I have in mind is the type of effect I want to do. Then begins a long research process of technologies old and new.”

This approach may not yield immediate solutions, but it’s important not to get frustrated or give up too soon. “Not every problem has a solution, at least not a perfect one,” he says. “When you hit a creative barrier, whether you are an artist or technologist, it is too easy to give up and start something new. Instead of giving up, lay it aside. Do something different. But keep those notes and those thoughts and an eye on the territory you are interested in.”

Marco says his best ideas for illusions often come when he least expects it. And he considers staying on top of the latest technology to be a part of his job, both so that he can keep his act fresh, and to push the boundaries of how we relate to our technology. “Technologists solve practical problems but often don’t realize how the technologies they develop will impact upon society,” he says. “It is the user who takes that technology and uses it in totally unforeseen and creative ways. Human behavior changes everything.”

The Future of StoryTelling (FoST) explores how storytelling is evolving in the digital age. http://www.fost.org

The 7 Elements of Art Everyone Should Know


You don’t necessarily need to know art lingo to create good work. After all, great art speaks for itself. But knowing the basic words that define the elements art and design allows you to share a common language with other creators and better identify tools you might already be using instinctually.  Continuing her series on essential words to knowAdobe Voice user Megan Kendall arms her audience with essential art words. Check out her short instructional video below.

Introducing Video for Adobe Slate 1.3!

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 2.06.35 PMYour web stories just got even more vivid, thanks to Adobe Slate 1.3. In today’s release, we’ve upgraded the web and iPad app to support video—one of the most-requested features. That’s not all, though: we’ve added access to Google Photos and given the Vintage theme a makeover. As always, Slate lets you create beautiful visual stories in minutes and syncs across the web and iPad platforms so your work is always up to date.

Check out the new features, available today at slate.adobe.com and on the iPad:

  1. Support for video
    You wanted it. You got it. Embed videos to your Slate stories from YouTube, Vimeo and Adobe Voice!Slate storytellers are already loving the new feature. Check out how the Clemson University football team is using video to add highlight reels to their game recaps:

  • Support for Google Photos
    Like Dropbox and your camera roll, accessing photos from your Google Photos account is now just a few taps or clicks away.
  • GooglePhotoScreenshot

    1. A new Vintage look
      Vintage is one of our signature Slate themes. We’ve refreshed the cover font and hope you’ll love it.
    1. A few tweaks under the hood
      We’ve done some tinkering to fix bugs and make the app perform even better. As always, shoot us an email at helloslate@adobe.com for any technical issues.

    Check out all the new features today — go to slate.adobe.com or download the iPad update. Happy storytelling!


    How to Boost Engagement on Facebook with Visual Social Media


    There’s a reason Instagram is so popular: the mobile-only app focuses exclusively on sharing images and videos. As one of the fastest growing social networks with over 400 million active users, Facebook clearly saw Instagram’s value back in 2012 when it purchased the company for $1 Billion. Add Facebook’s whopping 8 Billion video views a day to the mix and it’s obvious how important visual content is for marketers. Visual content – both images and videos – gets the highest organic reach on Facebook and is set to be even bigger in 2016. Marketers would do well to plan out a solid editorial calendar, ideally a few months at a time.

    In the blink of an eye

    On average, Facebook users check the platform 14 times a day for 41 minutes per day. That’s a lot of scrolling through the news feed, consuming a vast amount of content, most of which is visual. In fact, a whopping 2 billion photos are shared daily across Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, according to Facebook’s 2015 earnings call.

    As we scroll through the news feed quickly, our brain is processing as much as a dozen images in a fraction of a second. MIT neuroscientists have found that the brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds. That is very little time to catch someone’s attention and draw them in, encourage them to click like, comment or share.

    Tips and tools for creating eye-catching visual content

    Choose images and scenes with vibrant colors. Include everyday people, especially women, in your ads. Social advertising agency, Consumer Acquisition, conducted a study of over 100,000 Facebook ads and discovered that the best performing ads included images of women. Not super models or highly edited perfect women, but rather, regular women that we might see in our news feed as shared by any of our friends.

    Less is more when it comes to text overlays. Remember, if you’re going to boost your post on Facebook, you cannot have more than 20% text on images. Same goes for your video thumbnail.

    Shorter videos tend to perform better than longer ones, but it pays to experiment and see what your audience prefers. Consider animated videos and video montages, too. I love using video creation tool, Animoto, for creating professional looking video montages (using a combination of text, video and photos). Another great tool I enjoy using on my iPad and iPhone is Adobe Voice, which allows you to easily load your images or stock images and narrate with your own voice to create quick, professional videos.

    5 ways to stand out with your images and videos


    1. Fit in – what do I mean by that? Well, every time you scroll through your news feed on Facebook, you likely see a range of photos and videos from friends and people that you follow. Almost all of which are “home grown,” shot with a smartphone and feature everyday people doing everyday activities. While images should be enticing, they needn’t be overly professional. In fact, it’s better to seem as human and delightfully imperfect as anyone in your feed sharing what’s important to them.
    2. Get creative – It might be tempting to push your product or service, using Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as free advertising platforms, but you’ll see more engagement on your posts if you reduce how much you “sell” to your audience. Instead, your social pages should be extensions of your brand, in which you promote a certain kind of lifestyle, and naturally integrate your product or service as an answer to living that lifestyle. Think about who your customer is: What do they like? What’s important to them? What kind of image do they want to project online? Have a specific vision of who your customer is and then post visual content that speaks to their interests. When it comes time to promote your business (about once out of every five posts), your audience will feel like they know and trust you. Businesses that get it right across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter include Jetsetter, Callaway Golf and Lowe’s Home Improvement.
    3. Tell stories – I often get asked how a business that is seen as “boring” can possibly come up with engaging content on Facebook. Believe it or not, it’s easier than you might think. Create short videos that tell a story, ideally with an emotional, human element. Get together with your team and come up with all manner of stories that illustrate your company, its founders, the team, your brand, what your stand for, your company culture, and more. Spotlight customers – tell their stories. A great example is this Kleenex® video featuring a heartwarming story about an elementary school custodian who receives a surprise burst of love and gratitude from the staff and students. (You may indeed need to reach for a Kleenex®!) If you can include emotional elements in your video stories, you’ll draw your audience in even more.
    4. Crowd source – get your customers to submit their photos and videos by providing incentives, such as a chance to win something. Or, interview them on Skype, Google Hangout or Blab. Don’t be afraid to ask what they love about your company and its products and services. Of course, you want to select positive experiences and highlight these on your social channels.
    5. Captioning – for your video content, I strongly recommend adding captions to the bottom of your video throughout or to highlight key points. Given videos on Facebook automatically play without sound, you want to draw your viewers in within the first few seconds. In fact, you would do well to create your video content that would make total sense to anyone who watched with no sound at all. Many content producers post videos with just background music and let the captions do the work of telling the story.

    By Mari Smith

    mari smith
    Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Facebook hired Mari to teach at the 2015 Boost Your Business series of live events.