Playful Invention

This story is part of a series of weekly posts that will give you a closer look at the people and technology that were showcased as part of MAX Sneaks. Read our other features on  Time of Day, Live Mobile Dev, and Visual Speech Editor.

Peek-300-Shape-Shade“Play” and “work” are often seen as two opposing activities. But for Remon Tijssen — a principal designer in Adobe’s Experience Design group (XD) — a spirit of playfulness is integral for the work he does reinventing design tools and product experiences.

“My personal style of interaction design is originally built around the theme of playfulness,” he says, “from the very beginning of my career, I always wanted to bring stuff to life.”

Remon says his interest in the intersection of design and technology began when he was just 11-years-old and discovered he could write BASIC code to draw graphics and change behaviors of simple games on his Atari 800XL computer.

Originally from the Netherlands, he attended a school for applied design as a teenager. “That school was very much about applied design — photography, video, animation, 2D/3D object design, graphic design, you name it. It was very broad, which I really liked. The broad notion of creation really appealed to me, ” he confides.

Later, Remon graduated from HKU University of the Arts with honors for a degree focused on art, media and technology, and managed his own creative design business, Fluid (www.fluid.nl), for eight years prior to joining Adobe.

Remon’s interest in Adobe was two-fold: the people, and the work. “A lot of it was the fact that I really connected with the people in XD,” he explains, “the other part of it was, I really liked the notion of designing design tools. … How can you create the tools, so that the creative industry can be more creative through play and more efficient in their process?”

One answer to that question is found in the work Remon revealed as part of the Sneaks presentation at Adobe MAX 2014. He impressed the audience with ShapeShade, a touch-based app concept that allows users to create illustrative design elements out of simple pre-existing shapes and manipulate them in natural ways. Along with mirroring and negative space capabilities, these elements make illustration more accessible to a broad audience and also provide the capability to create complex designs.

The concept, according to Remon, was to give designers a more playful way to explore the development of illustrative elements like icons, logos and patterns, than is traditionally available with tools like Adobe Illustrator. “A large percentage of those shapes are symmetrical,” he explains, “An even larger percentage of them are symmetrical with a little bit of an exception … that told me a mirror-like tool is super useful. It’s not only useful, but it makes it playful, because [with touch] you can manipulate the shape and see how it’s mirrored in real time.

“It’s really inspiring what kind of shapes come out of it. It allows for that playful exploration. That’s something I’m always looking for in interaction: to explore and play; to get inspired by what this tool gives you.”

Remon showed the MAX audience how quickly his app can be used to explore a variety of shapes, and very quickly built an approximation of the Batman logo in just a minute — an impressive display of touch interaction applied to illustration. But the most innovative aspect of the app, according to Remon, is its accessibility. “As a whole, the main thing is to make it more accessible to a broader variety of people, but also to make it more exploratory for creative professionals,” he asserts.

ShapesShades3

Remon, and the talented people in XD, continue to explore the potential for natural, touch-based interaction. One example is Project Context, a workspace for collaboration across multiple-connected screens to make in-person collaboration and content reviews more effective.

As for the future of ShapeShade? Remon envisions a series of shape drawing apps that offer stand-alone, focused functionality, but also work together to enable new ways of creating.

“It allows us to keep a single app experience really accessible, easy, fun and focused. But if you have 10 different apps that you can combine together, it unlocks a lot of complex possibilities as well,” he says.

For Remon, playing with the possibilities is just another day at work.

Connect with Remon on Twitter @remontijssen