Of Shape and Form: Leandro Senna’s Adobe MAX Logo
Every year we reinvent Adobe MAX to capture the essence and focus and heart of the creative community; and every year, a handful of people from that same creative community breathe new life into the Adobe MAX logo.
This year is no different. Except, this year, we asked the artists to come to us. To work in the basement studio of our San Francisco office. On a bare, mural-sized, dimensional version of the MAX logo. Visible from the first floor, everyone in the building could glimpse the projects in process and watch the work take shape.
Designer Leandro Senna looks back on the project and his ideas about geometry, pattern and irregularity, the allure of imperfection, and the slow reveal of a message:
How did you and Adobe “meet”? I was first invited by Goodby Silverstein & Partners to create lettering for a TV spot to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Photoshop; Dream On was art directed by Samuel Luchini and Roger Baran and received many awards from the creative community.
A few weeks later, I got an email from Kashka, creative director at Adobe Studio, with the title: Adobe MAX wants you!
What was your reaction to being asked to design a version of the MAX logo? I was excited by the challenge; it’s not everyday Adobe approaches you with a blank wall and tells you to do whatever you want with it.
Applying a design or artistic style to a logo makes the project part marketing message and part art project. How did that combination affect your approach? As a graphic designer I’m used to facing briefs like this. Every design project has elements of marketing and strategy. This one was no different. I understood I would have to leverage all of the brand equities that the MAX logo carries and add my touch to create something that also works on an artistic and emotional level.
After some initial ideas and sketches I ended up with two concepts. I focused on the one I thought would work better with the MAX logo.
Please tell us a bit about your concept for the MAX logo. (What’s the significance of the inclusion of “learn the rules then break them”?) The logo is powerful and geometric. I wanted the quote to look like an extension of it—integrated and serving more as a complement rather than another design. The geometric letterforms seemed a natural solution.
But quotes can sound generic. This adaptation of a quote by Picasso is strong and inspirational, it captures the essence of Adobe MAX, and I knew I could graphically capture its meaning. The sentence applies so specifically to lettering: we first have to learn the basics, the history, follow the rules and understand why they exist. Once there’s a solid understanding, we can start to play with the shapes.
It’s not a super fast read. And that’s good. I wanted viewers to pay attention to the details and discover the message by themselves.
Is this your first time working on a mural-sized project? Was the size of the blank canvas daunting? Yes, it was my first mural ever. I loved the experience. It’s curious, painting a mural was one of my personal goals for this year—and then this cool Adobe project came along. I couldn’t have been happier.
How did you work change from concept to final? Can you point to any one thing that heavily influenced the outcome of the project? The whole process was a constant evolution. My work always ends up being very different from my initial idea. That’s the fun part about being a designer; seeing your raw ideas develop and take shape… until you lose control and the piece starts choosing its own way.
I started drawing all the letters in my sketchbook, one by one, then creating words, thinking about the relationships between THE/THEN/THEM, and slowly putting the whole thing together.
When I moved to illustrator CC, a lot of the lines changed. I was playing with alignment and proportion, looking for a better balance, trying to make each letter more interesting. Then I started playing with color and the whole thing looked different; again, some areas needed extra lines, others less. (It was during the color studies that I realized it would be cool to have one bolder line in the center of each letter, reinforcing legibility.)
Your lettering for this logo is so geometric and precise. And you were working on such a large surface. Did you draw it to scale precisely beforehand? By the time I got to the wall, a whole new series of limitations were presented. I had to project the image on the wall, so I could scale up the complex shapes and crazy alignments in a precise way.
For the golden lines I used a Montana marker. Its tip has different widths depending in which direction/angle you trace, so the thinner lines were made using one direction and the bold ones on the other. The circles were definitely the trickiest part (to draw a small circle by hand is hard enough; to make a big one is even harder). I put a pin in the middle of the circle, then tied a string to it and the marker to the other end of the string, creating an adjustable compass.
So many projects, and so much work is done on computers. But this project, and its mural surface, forced at least part of it to be made by hand. How did that melding of media and tools affect your concept? And the outcome? The final result is full of imperfections and that’s the best part of the project, it gives personality and uniqueness to the piece. Getting your hands dirty and working outside of digital media is always fun and rewarding.
It’s important to know what technology can offer and really take advantage of that, but every now and then I like to step back from computers and get back to basics.
Have you ever attended Adobe MAX? No, I haven’t. I’m planning to visit this year.
Music/background noise when you’re working? Yes or no? I had the help of a super-talented friend, Fabio Benedetto, for the mural execution. We worked two full days over one weekend, during our free time, and spent the whole time listening to music and having fun with our mistakes.
How did you like the Adobe basement workspace? We had the chance to take a tour of the whole building…. There were old vaults on the upper levels, historical details like wooden stairs and exposed brick, and the basement studio where the mural was installed, has lots of natural light, coming from a colorful glass skylight four floors above it. There was plenty of space to work and spread our stuff on the ground.
Finish this sentence: Inspiration always seems to strike… when a deadline is approaching.
Leandro’s days-long project in 48 seconds
Leandro Senna’s ideas and influences… in Adobe Inspire’s 5 & 3/4 Questions.