An Inspirational Interior for a Digital Designer

April 22, 2015

GeoffThe New York Times peers into the work environment of Experience Design (XD) Director Geoff Dowd and shows how Adobe is encouraging creativity and innovation.

In a glowing interview with Geoff Dowd, the New York Times illustrates how the XD team leader gets work done, finds inspiration, and keeps motivated. Check out the article below, which was originally published on

Interview by Patricia R. Olsen and photos by Peter DaSilva, The New York Times

A building that breathes

Adobe occupies the historical Baker and Hamilton building in the design district of San Francisco. It has a raw, exposed interior, with the ventilation ducts and electrical conduits visible. It also has the original brick walls and steel beams that provide earthquake protection. It’s like being in a living, breathing building. The space reminds me of the way things work and that beauty is on the inside of an object, too, not just the exterior.

The company that constructed our building got its start supplying miners with picks, shovels and other tools during the Gold Rush of 1849. It’s kind of fitting that we make creative tools here today.

Creating an experience

My group, which works on seed projects, or tools of the future, is on the first floor. We took the name Adobe XD, for experience design, instead of the more common UX, or user experience. We were saying things like, “We need to get some XD on this project,” and it seemed to fit.

1. Open-ended environment

To me, the only way our creative team can work is in this open space. The low walls between cubicles allow us to peer over our neighbor’s fence to see where a co-worker is on a project. Or we might overhear a technical conversation or design critique and can jump in. If I see a group crowding around a computer screen having a debate, I’ll go over and give some guidance. Usually the group doesn’t want me there because I make more work for them.


2. Company collectibles

One of our designers came up with the idea of making trading cards of each person on the team. He commissioned employees to draw each other, and every quarter he gives out a new series of six or seven cards in a beautifully wrapped package, like baseball trading cards. We can’t wait to see who got drawn during the quarter. The cards make us celebrities, in a way, but keep us humble in knowing we’re part of a big family.


3. Birth of a pen

I keep prototypes around the office from our Adobe Ink product, which is a pen for the iPad, for use by designers, digital illustrators, art teachers and hobbyists. Lately I have a group of prototypes lying on a book about Richard Neutra, an architect.


After-hours inspiration

At the end of the day, we often retire to a pub while continuing a discussion about design. Our best critiques often happen when we’ve stepped away from our desks and are having some beers and brainstorming.

Out and about

There’s peer pressure to do well in this industry. We work some crazy hours and have pulled some all-nighters, but when there’s not a lot to do, we encourage each other to get outside and get inspired. As designers, we constantly have to be looking around, noticing people and trends. I keep a bike around the corner from my desk, and occasionally I’ll cruise down to the ballpark where the Giants are playing and catch an inning through the fence. Don’t tell my boss.


4. The motivator

In the summer of 2013 I flipped open New York magazine to this picture of Jay Z and haven’t moved it since. His expression is intimidating, yet motivating. When I have a failure and

am feeling sorry for myself, he just stares at me, cold. When I have a great success and trot back to my desk full of myself, he gives me the same stare. Get back to work, he says.


5. His hero

My late father was a graduate of Juilliard and principal timpanist for the Eugene Symphony in Oregon.

I grew up behind his kettle drums and deep in the back of an orchestra pit. I was constantly surrounded by professionalism, not only his, but that of his colleagues, students and stage hands. He’s so poised in this photo. Every day I look at it and sit up straighter, work with more intent and keep it professional.