How Adobe Is Advancing Design-Led Innovation in the Public Sector
This post is part of our ongoing Unexpected Creative Careers series. Click here to view all posts in this series.
Jerry Silverman has been evangelist for creativity for as long as he can remember. While growing up in the Orlando, Florida area, you could find Silverman doing everything from making text-based “choose your own adventure” computer games to drawing illustrations for comics to making films.
The first Adobe tool he ever used was Photoshop v4. While playing around with rudimentary bitmaps, he never imagined that he’d join Adobe in 2008 first as a Sales Engineer, and then move up to his current role as Principal Solutions Consultant on the Public Sector Digital Media team eight years later. In 2015, he was an Adobe Founders Award recipient.
In his role supporting Adobe’s Public Sector business, Silverman travels around the US presenting to defense, civilian, state and local government agencies about how Creative Cloud products can help communications teams be more impactful, innovative, and design-focused in their work. His clients range from NASA and The Smithsonian to the State of Missouri and city of San Francisco, among others.
In recent years, Silverman has been witness to a “quiet renaissance” happening in the government sector where design-led innovation is becoming the rule rather than the exception.
In the condensed and edited interview below, Silverman talks about why he’s excited about the state of design-led innovation, how Adobe is helping further the movement, and how anyone can be a visual storyteller using basic tools.
Adobe: What’s been surprising so far about working with the government sector?
Silverman: I’m constantly surprised by the minions of bright, motivated creative types in every government agency who are doing fantastic work and eroding the well-worn stereotypes that have accrued around government communications. There is a real desire and emphasis to innovate via design thinking.
Adobe: What’s design-led innovation, and how have you seen it have an impact?
Silverman: Design-led innovation is about solving problems in a holistic way that takes the entire experience of the solution into account. It’s about making things simple and intuitive, understanding and prioritizing the user’s needs, and addressing the whole experience from start to finish.
A great example from years ago is the ClearRX bottle at Target pharmacies. Deborah Adler, a now famous designer, was a student at the School of Visual Arts when her grandmother accidentally mistook her prescription bottle for another and wound up hospitalized.
Deborah redesigned the entire bottle experience and labeling system – made it much easier to read and differentiate one bottle from the next using better color, layout, and type treatment. Target then adopted those ideas into their nationally available prescription system!
Adobe: What’s challenging for creatives in government?
Silverman: We recently surveyed government communications professionals, and found that while most believe being creative and innovative is part of their mandate, they feel restricted by outdated IT policies, lengthy approval processes, and emphasis on efficiency over creativity
Turning those constraints into opportunities is the main challenge for any government creative right now. Our team is publishing our survey results along with a guidebook containing some practical recommendations in late February, and hosting a live talk and webinar to promote them.
Adobe: How are things changing?
Silverman: Best practices are being standardized at the federal level by the US Digital Service.They’ve created a playbook through which any government agency’s IT and communications offices can understand how to architect services that think from the customer-out, not agency-out.
They’ve also created a set of free and open-source web design standards and a style guide to go along with the playbook. Some government agencies have already started creating their own style guides – look at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the US Patent and Trademark Office, and Healthcare.gov.
Seeing these examples and many more popping up gives me confidence that this transformation is well underway.
Adobe: Tell me about Adobe’s Creativity in Government Awards, and how it’s helping showcase design-led innovation.
Silverman: We wanted to engage these government agencies competitively so that the best work could be recognized across a broader audience of designers. We solicited entries via the Behance community, where many customers already had accounts, and had many hundreds of entries spanning across the US and Canada.
It culminated in an Awards ceremony at the MAX 2015 conference where we awarded winners in four categories: Most Engaging Citizen-Facing Campaign, Honoring Heroes, Best Integrated/Cross-Channel Campaign, and Community Choice. We had winners from the US Air Force, the National Cancer Institute, the US Architect of the Capitol, and the National Parks Service, among others.
One of my favorite winners was The Art of Data project for the city of Kansas City, Missouri. They visualized their civic data around crime, population growth, housing, utilities, etc. as a physical art installation and displayed it in a gallery setting. It was a very refreshing and innovative way to break loose from Powerpoint and PDF.
Adobe: How do your presentations for state and city governments help seed more out-of-the box, creative thinking?
My goal is to show these customers how you no longer have to be a professional designer, or even well-organized, to easily create compelling visual stories
The day before my presentation, I’ll walk around the city for a couple hours snapping pictures of landmarks and local arts culture with my phone.
There’s a vibrant texture to every state capitol I’ve visited, from Helena to Phoenix to Honolulu.
While I’m in transit, I’ll load my photos into Lightroom Mobile and start picking the best shots, and do quick retouching with Photoshop Fix — all on my phone. Also, using Adobe Capture, I’ll make a library of colors, vectors, brushes, and patterns based on the city landscape.
During my presentation, I’ll show the audience how to combine all of these raw materials into a simple yet professional looking layout with Adobe Comp, and make a cool, responsive HTML5 travelogue using Adobe Slate in a web browser.
It’s fun to hear them gasp when they realize I made this very professional-looking presentation right before their eyes within minutes, using simple tools.