Adobe Systems Incorporated

The Journey of Design

The fourth installment of I Went to Adobe Creative Camp at SXSW 2015… And all I brought back is a series of blog posts, the firsthand account of a first-time Adobe SXSW Creative Camp attendee.

Learning How to be a More Inefficient Designer with The Made Shop

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“We view our process, our journey from not knowing to knowing, as our work.”

Like everyone, the founders of The Made Shop have been taught to value efficiency (time, after all, is money), but when they looked closely at the projects in their portfolio, many of them had a common thread: They’d been created “the hard way,” using tools they’d never used before, ideas they’d never tested, and paths they’d never previously followed. It made them question whether efficiency was all it was cracked up to be.

During their session, subtitled “How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Inefficiency,” they shared projects and maxims and explained how to introduce friction into the design process, how to un-automate procedures, how to design the hard way, and still consistently create solutions that imaginatively address client needs.

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“Not to find the answer but to ask the questions… that’s the job of the designer. Selling answers, that’s a product. Selling questions, that’s part of the process. We start with the idea that the client comes with the questions and it’s our job, and they’re paying us, to come up with the answer. But that’s not quite the right way to think of it.”

The “right” answers don’t always ensure the best solution. If designers only take on work they know… that is, projects for which they answers come easily, they sell only their most tested capabilities to clients. Only their most-accepted answers.

But clients call on designers for new. For unique. For innovative. So… Question. Learn. Explore. Then begin the process again with every new assignment.

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“Limitations act like a funnel; they direct focus and, because they cut away other options, produce a really pointed end result. When starting a new project, where you start directs the shape of it in an inevitable way.”

Creative minds wandering unencumbered by money or time or rules… it’s the creative ideal. Unrestrained imagination and problem-solving. The ability to stretch creative muscles. Afterall, controls are not for creative thinkers trying to solve problems for a living. Unfettered creative freedom is how other designers come up with meaningful and memorable solutions. Right?

Well, that’s for sure the knee-jerk reaction: Constraints (a lack of time, of budget, of experience) as not good for the design proces, stumbling blocks to work that’s valuable, rich and, well, creative.

The opposite is true.

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“One of our favorite methodologies is to work with tools we’re unfamiliar with…. that we don’t exactly know how to use. Sometimes, although difficult to use, they give us exactly what we needed in the first place—even though we didn’t know that when we started.”

Want a new solution for a problem you’ve solved before? Use tools that are unfamiliar, follow paths that are unknown, and say yes to projects that scare you:

Analog. Digital. Tools provide the direction of the solution. Unfamiliar tools force finding new ways to do things.

Sidetracked by an idea? Follow it. See where it leads. Not sure whether it will work? Not knowing is the first step toward knowing.

Say yes. Despite obstacles, lack of knowledge, or limitations. Dive into projects with no prior experience, no answers, and no expectations about how they will go. “You’ll be,” says The Made Shop, “inherently and unavoidably in an inefficient place.”

My conclusion: The goal of design is to NOT make things exactly the same, or in exactly the same way, every single time.

Read the wrap-up of Session 3: Failure As A Creative Catalyst with Erik Natzke

8:32 AM Comments (0) Permalink

Between Failure and Success

The third installment of I Went to Adobe Creative Camp at SXSW 2015… And all I brought back is a series of blog posts, the firsthand account of a first-time Adobe SXSW Creative Camp attendee.

Failure as a Creative Catalyst with Erik Natzke

“Anyone here who has not failed as a creative, raise your hand, stand up, and walk out the door. Because THAT is not how creativity is born. Creativity is born through struggle, through strife, through what happens every day when someone decides, ‘I’m gonna go try this.'”

Over the next hour Erik walked the audience through his career, and its portfolio of projects, and the serendipitous collision of challenges, setbacks, successes, efforts, and decisions that led him to…. now. Over a dozen stories, each connected by the thread of a falter, a restart, and success.

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“Never turn things down. Especially if something is a challenge for you. Test your reach not your grasp.”

Doubt plagues people in creative professions. More often than not, instead of believing, “I got this,” internal conversations are more of a faltering, ego-crushing, “I don’t know if I’m going to be good at this.”

Pushing through the insecurities is possible because of people who’ve gone before, who’ve also been troubled by finding satisfying resolutions and answers that address the needs of a creative brief. Every creative difficulty is supported by a community that knows the reward… of a solution that was hard to come by.

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“Everyone is always going to come to you to do exactly what you’ve done before, so you have to force yourself to evolve… unless you’re really happy with what you’re doing. I’m constantly trying to make sure that what I’m doing is something I enjoy.”

Each project leads to what’s next. An obvious statement perhaps, but Erik delivered a stern warning to the audience to be careful about choices, to not make them based on dexterity, or comfort, or convenience. But to always be doing those things that fuel passion. Because looking back at a career through a lens of “I stuck with what I did well,” might not be so satisfying.

Instead of spending a lifetime doing only what you’re “good at,” do what you love. Make a move. Make a change. Even if it’s painful.

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Erik’s first project at Adobe was We Are The Creative Class, “a rallying cry to the passion, the pain and the power of commitment to creative. It’s a creativity anthem that embodies the struggles and strife of the creative profession.”

Erik ended up at Adobe because he wanted to work on the tools that have played such a big part in his creative process. And, during the almost three years he’s been at Adobe, he’s created beautifully-memorable bodies of work like the TED All-Star Portraits and was the principal designer for the build of Adobe Brush CC.

But Erik’s first uplifting project for Adobe almost didn’t happen because of a series of Herculean constraints:

My conclusion: A creative path, littered with projects that didn’t go as planned, is not always an easy one, but the successes, the result of inevitable failures… worth the suffering.

 
Read the wrap-up of Session 2: Moving from Graphic Design to 3D Object Design with Paul Trani

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Innovating Innovation: A Formula for Success

If you look at a group of people who are creative for a living, you might see a room full of people goofing off, playing with toys, or staring into space, looking like they’re doing nothing at all. Then, you’ll immediately think, “Wow, I need to get a job like that.”

As the director of marketing, for the Creative Cloud Mobile division, I can promise you that we really are working. That’s what I say to my boss every time he walks past a room full of people staring at the wall. It’s all part of the process. I can’t say that my boss entirely believes me.

In fact, he decided to challenge me. He asked me to create a process for creativity. He wanted me to find a way to make innovation repeatable and predictable. He wanted it all delivered on the back of a unicorn.

Ok, so the unicorn part was made up, but the futility I felt when faced with that task wasn’t. After all, part of creativity is the ability to be spontaneous. How was I supposed to encourage creativity when I was trying to make everyone follow a paint-by-numbers process? Was I really being asked to innovate innovation?

As I sat down to write my letter of resignation, a sudden and ironic burst of spontaneous creativity came to me. While innovation might not be a process, there is a formula to it that anyone can use:

Innovation = f (passion * velocity * creativity * some array of variables) ^ risk

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This isn’t Beal’s Conjecture, so you can put away that calculator. If you want to make innovation repeatable, it’s not about specific actions you can take. It’s more of a matter of attitude. It’s what happens when the right product meets the right people at the right time. It’s understanding all of the moving parts that come into play to make that idea a reality.

Passion

Passion is a critical component for any innovation. If the team is not passionate about what they’re doing, they should be doing something else. Inventing is creating something new, but innovation changes the way we all look at a product. Inventing is creating that plastic thing at the end of a shoelace that makes it easier to lace your shoe (that’s an aglet, in case you’re curious). Innovating is turning the simple telephone into an iPhone, which changed the way we looked at communication entirely. Both are achieved through some desire to fill a need, but only passion can lead to true innovation.

Velocity

In math, velocity is the rate of speed at which something happens. Velocity in innovation is what overcomes all of the obstacles that get in the way. Velocity is what enables teams to “fail fast,” learn, and move on. And if you’re moving fast enough, you can share your ideas openly and benefit from customer feedback without being afraid of the competition stealing the idea and bringing a product to market sooner.

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Organizations need to foster a creative mindset among their people in order to keep creativity spontaneous. It’s not enough to tell your people to “think outside of the box” and then send them back to their box-shaped cubicles. Creativity is a byproduct of curiosity, imagination, and knowledge. Every single person has the ability to be creative, but when their environment doesn’t foster creativity, they might as well be robots. Robots can do a lot of things. They can solve algorithms, they can build cars, they can even beat Ken Jennings at Jeopardy. What they can’t do is innovate.

Even in an organization where people are expected to adhere to a specific process, there must be some amount of elasticity involved to inspire this creativity and improve on old ideas.

Variables

These variables might be within your control or outside of your control. Whether they’re changes in the market that might affect the need for your idea or internal company restrictions that might make it more difficult to bring an idea to life, all people who wish to change things need to accept the fact that there might be issues outside of their control that will change the end result. The important thing is to focus on what you can control and then identify what can’t be controlled without letting them become distractions.

Risk

Do you know the difference between a gambling addict and a professional gambler? Success. An addict will stick with a game even after they’ve lost everything to it. A pro knows nothing is certain, but if they don’t take the risk, they won’t reap the rewards.

All endeavors have some level of risk involved, and this risk can be especially high when you’re trying to innovate because you’re trying to change an established routine. People generally don’t like that, and shareholders may like it even less, but for companies to innovate, they need to embrace risk and reward risk takers. If the culture is too risk averse, all the company can do is maintain the status quo—the antithesis of innovation!

In this formula, everything is raised to the power of risk because without risk, there is no innovation. Without risk, you’d be reading this article in hieroglyphics on a cave wall. “Takes risks and is willing to fail” probably isn’t something you should write on your résumé, but it is an important part of how the world changes.

While it’s true that innovation can’t be planned, it can be inspired when organizations foster the right attitude in their people from the top down. By encouraging people to be creative, organizations can ensure that true innovation is a repeatable process, though it might not always be a predictable one.

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When Digital Waters the Seed of Natural Creativity

With another school year now well underway, I find myself thinking about an article in WIRED magazine in which Michael Gough talks about about drawing, children, and creativity—what we teach them, and how this is changing with the explosion of digital creativity tools.

Michael is the head of Experience Design at Adobe and a self-proclaimed “compulsive drawer.” He’s had lots of personal and professional experience backing up his ideas about creativity and technology.

I was especially struck by his comment that we’ve trained people to think of drawing (and, by extension, creativity) as a talent that only a special few are born with. Many of us over forty grew up hearing this old, tired idea.

Does it make sense anymore?

Michael believes that everyone has the inherent ability to draw, and that technology can help this ability bloom. I think the idea can be extended to creativity of all kinds—not just drawing.

I remember when our schools had programs to “teach technology” because we learned through formal instruction; today our children “play” with technology. This process of experimentation and exploration is fundamentally a process of creative thinking.

As the parent of teenagers (who’s spent some time working in a school), I see how differently young people react to media than the older generations. For them, their cell phones and tablets are extensions of their hands. They don’t think of gadgets as sophisticated technology that they have to master—they simply pick them up, download apps, and start playing (read: creating).

And with children getting introduced to devices with incredible power to capture inspiration and create at ever younger ages, they’re expressing themselves differently, whether for school projects or for fun. My daughters started doing homework on tablets in middle school; children just a few years younger have been playing with smartphones and tablets since they were toddlers.

When I saw the images that my daughter created using Photoshop on her tablet, I was amazed

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© Gwen Luhmann

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© Gwen Luhmann

“How did you learn to use that?” I asked.

“Mom, they give it to us at school.” (Duh, Mom, like I need someone to show me.)

Creativity scholar Ken Robinson agrees that it’s time to throw off the old ideas about who’s creative and who isn’t. In his book Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative, he writes:

“Human intelligence is uniquely and profoundly creative. We live in a world that’s shaped by the ideas, beliefs and values of human imagination and culture. The human world is created out of our minds as much as from the natural environment.”

Those of us who grew up in the pre-digital past were given things like crayons and paper to feed our creativity. As we moved through our educational lives we were sorted into students who were “creative” and those who weren’t.

Digital is changing all of that

Our children live in a world where there doesn’t have to be any distinction between people who are creative and those who aren’t. Digital is leveling the playing field so we can experiment more freely and develop everyone’s creative side. And it’s an incentive for parents like me to spend more time experimenting with new apps and tools to try to keep up with the younger generation.

With all the new possibilities for expressing creativity, people everywhere are going to be running around shooting and playing with pictures, drawing, making music, and capturing inspiration in all kinds of ways. I can’t wait to see how much fun we all have doing it.

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The New Creatives Report 2014

We love talking about creativity, but we seldom take time to examine the state of creative professionals themselves. For those of us who chose creative careers, are we happy we did? What inspires and motivates creative professionals to do their greatest work? How do Creatives feel about the pace of change in the industry? Today we released some striking research to delve into what really makes creatives tick. Get Scott Belsky’s full rundown of the “The New Creatives” report.

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Sometimes the Hardest Thing to Get is the Easiest Thing to Give

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One of the benefits of social media is that it allows us to keep up with what our friends, colleagues, and mentors are working on. But, one of the consequences of having constant access to an almost unlimited stream of inspiration is that it can make us feel self-conscious about our own productivity or creative ambitions.

Whether it’s a series of illustrations or photographs, a mural, a short film, or a new blog or podcast, just about everyone I know has had trouble getting started on some kind of creative project, or has left one unfinished.

There are an infinite number of reasons for putting the things we’re passionate about on hold—from a lack of time and energy, to insecurity and fear of failure—but there’s one thing that seems, universally, to help get people going: encouragement.

At Adobe, we build the tools and services that help creatives express themselves. But having access to the latest tools and technology isn’t always the answer; new features and more intelligent algorithms are great, but sometimes what we need, more than anything else, is to know that someone is in our corner, with all the reasons why we can do something instead of all the reasons why we can’t. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do:

A group of us at Adobe got together and decided that one of the most meaningful (and, quite frankly, fun) things we could do for our community is help as many of you as possible either start a creative project you’re passionate about, or finish a project that you’ve already started. If that describes you or someone you know, send your name, mailing address (anywhere in the world), and a description of the project to act@adobe.com. Let us know what your challenges are, and what obstacles are getting in your way. Obviously we can’t work miracles, but what we can do is send you a little encouragement, and let you know that there are people at the finish line cheering you on.

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Revealing Our Creative Cloud Mosaic

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Adobe is celebrating creativity by bringing together artists from around the world to help us co-create our new Creative Cloud identity. The idea is simple: we’ve invited 48 designers and artists from around the world to contribute “tiles” of their own creative expression which we’ve assembled into the world’s most creative digital mosaic. This mosaic will actually serve as our Creative Cloud identity to be released on June 18.

If you haven’t already, please visit our Behance page and watch as we build out the mosaic one tile at a time. You can also learn about each artist and visit their full online portfolios.

And don’t miss the final, big reveal as we unveil the finished mosaic during our live online event on June 18; register for it today to see firsthand everything new that’s coming to Creative Cloud.

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I AM THE NEW CREATIVE

Art directors are becoming animators. Print designers are becoming web designers. Illustrators are also photographers and editors who also shoot film. They are the New Creatives, and we are celebrating their work.

With the Creative Cloud our product teams have removed the barriers to creative expression: Designers can build parallax HTML5 experiences. Illustrators are making EPUBs. Photographers are using their cameras and Adobe technology to become filmmakers. And coders have the tools to make beautiful design.

It’s an amazing and interesting time in our industry; people have the ability to self-express, in any discipline, without boundaries. I Am The New Creative promotes the amazing work our community is producing and marks this moment in time as a movement and a celebration of creativity.

One of the most incredible aspects of this program has been watching creative professionals merge their mediums and their portraits to produce “New Creatives” versions of themselves.

There’s something magical about the compositions. As a designer there’s always a part of me in my work, but to personalize my work in this way, to make my work more representative of me, presents an alternative perspective. All of the artists we’re working with are enjoying this experience and are appreciative of our desire to promote their amazing creative output.

Our new site highlights the New Creatives, their disciplines, their work, and their stories.

Visitors to the site can join us and become New Creatives (submissions are made through Behance and curated by our team); we’ll be choosing a number of artists and celebrating them and their work throughout our social properties and on Adobe.com during the coming year.

 

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Be sure to check out the work of the New Creatives, get inspired, and join us.

AJ

Graphic Designer / Executive Creative Director / Maker of things

 

 

 

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EMC Design Joins Creative Cloud

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Update: October 18, 2013: A few months ago we welcomed emc design to Creative Cloud for teams. Take a look and see how they’re benefiting now:

Welcome to Creative Cloud, emc design (@emcdesignltd). This UK-based design shop recently announced on their blog that they’ve signed up for Creative Cloud for teams. In their post, they list several of the features that are helping them streamline their workflow and create even better work.

As you can see, not even a burglary has kept them from producing top-notch work, thanks to CC. Here are just some of the advantages that emc design laid out in their post:

  • Every staff member is granted access to all of the Creative Cloud applications from anywhere, which increases flexibility for remote working and gives people the option of working at home when deadlines are tight. Because pulling an all-nighter is a lot better when you can do it in your sweatpants, on your couch, with real food, instead of in a dark office with only cold pizza and vending machine snacks to munch on.
  • emc staff has access to the latest creative tools, which lets them experiment more and push their creative boundaries. No more waiting for the newest tool, only to see your competition get it first.
  • We’ve all lost valuable time, or even missed deadlines, due to IT issues. But with CC, administrators at emc can easily manage licenses and install applications – case in point, after their office was burglarized, they were able to quickly re-install Creative Cloud on 5 new Macs and keep producing their best work without skipping a beat.

We’re excited to work with emc design. So stay tuned for more updates spotlighting this great shop, here and on our Facebook and Twitter channels.

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Eames Remix Winners

To coincide with the launch of the new Creative Cloud apps, we paid tribute to the late, great Charles Eames by hosting our own Eames’ Chair Remix contest. The task: take the iconic Eames chair and using Adobe products (Illustrator and Photoshop) personalize a digital version and share it with us and the Behance community.

Among the impressive and creative entries we received (check them all out below), we’re excited to announce that ANDESIGN is our grand prize winner and will be receiving an Eames Molded Plastic Dowel-Leg Armchair, one year membership to Creative Cloud and an Eames poster for his impressive “Eames Nest” design.

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Also, did you know that we put six top designers to the test as well? See what impressive designs they came up with.

A big thanks to everyone who participating. For more fun, news, tips and tricks, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t be disappointed.

All Eames’ Chair Remix Entries:

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