Like almost everything in 2020, Adobe MAX looked a little different this year. Instead of jetting off to LA, our creative team got cozy at home and logged into the newly digital conference to learn the latest design trends and tools.

What did our team learn from the 350+ sessions about creativity and design? For starters, a ton about Adobe’s latest tools and technology. But also, so, so much about the human side of design and how creativity helps shape our world. Let’s hear it from Olivia Cancro, Nicole Stormer, and Joel Andrade!

Just like the good old days of in-person conferences, Adobe MAX 2020 came with swag—including branded face masks.

Why we should design around humans (formerly known as end users)

Olivia Cancro, Graphic Designer, Seattle Studio

Naturally things were a little different this year, with a virtual conference that could be attended from anywhere in the world—in any kind of sweatpants. Mine are highlighter yellow and have a matching sweatshirt that I may or may not wear at the same time.

As you’d probably guess, the conversation at Adobe MAX centered a lot around the pandemic and how it’s changing the role of a creative professional. This gave way to the theme of human connection (a big theme for Deloitte Digital, too!) and what tools we can use to achieve it in this increasingly digital and remote world.

I was especially inspired by a session that featured bookmaker Irma Boom. Each book she makes is commissioned, and she puts a lot of thought into how the physical appearance of the book will translate the subject matter. For example, she designed a book about luxury perfume and embossed the letters rather than printing them. This subtle design choice is a nod to how something can exist in the physical world almost invisibly—much like the perfume’s scent. Because the end product ultimately exists in someone’s hands, she puts a lot of thought into the user experience of each book—transforming each into a piece of fine art.

I also had the chance to sit in on a few courses on interactivity, and how illustration or infographics can be elevated with some simple steps. The idea of interactivity really excites me because it’s something we can use in our everyday work that promotes user engagement and ultimately makes things more human.

I hope to attend the conference in person someday, but for now I will be watching all of the recorded sessions I missed for more inspiration and knowledge about all of the Adobe programs!

Tuning in from home meant that Olivia's dog, George, got to check out a few sessions, too.

All for MAX, MAX for all!

Nicole Stormer, Associate Creative Director, Chicago Studio

While it was sad to miss out on the experience and energy of the typical live event, a huge benefit of this year’s conference is that it was FREE and hosted on a global scale. This meant that attendees could tune in around the world and around the clock to learn, explore, and connect without the traditional barriers of conference fees, attendance limits, and travel.

Many sessions that would have been hard to attend or get into at the live conference were suddenly available to all. The platform was great as a lot of the content is still available on demand (check it out!), and it was easy to pause to sneak in calls between sessions. I really loved that the site had a viewer count feature to see how many others were tuned in to the session you were watching, and a heat map with where in the world they were watching.

By the end of the week, my brain was filled with all the fun and inspiring new announcements from Adobe. I’d love to wax poetic about them, but for now, I’ll just share a quick list of my personal favorites:

  • Illustrator on the iPad: The development of a full version of this app is a huge win for people who create. 
  • Photoshop Neural Filters: These help alter a person’s appearance of age (I’m dreaming of taking some years off and bringing my skin back to my 20s… or seeing how my husband is going to age) fueled by artificial intelligence.
  • The Content Authenticity Initiative: This partnership between Adobe and Twitter helps stop the spread of misinformation and altered photographs. 

Our current social distancing and stay-at-home situation has led so many people—including non-traditional creatives—to start making. From art to writing to baking sourdough, we’re all finding creative outlets to express ourselves, kill time, and frankly, maintain some sanity through the roller coaster of emotions that has been 2020. It’s important that a big design company is opening up to people everywhere to further promote creative outlets and careers.

Just thinking about neural filters...

Diverse design starts with a diverse team

Joel Andrade, Graphic Designer, Chicago Studio

MAX 2020 was the first virtual event like this that I’ve attended, and I set the goal for myself to learn something new in each session I tuned in to. Which turned out to be a super low bar, as after my first session my brain was already buzzing with all the new tools and techniques I just learned about.

I’ve been interested in learning more about animation recently (I’m a graphic designer who typically works in static images), so the Adobe Animate session seemed like a good one to check out. The speaker presented a step-by-step “how to” project for beginners. I left the session feeling extremely inspired and ready to test the capabilities of this new program. I can’t wait to try it out on upcoming projects!

The most impactful session I attended wasn’t about tools or technology, though. My entire design team sat in on “How Diverse Teams Elevate Creativity,” which was focused on why diversity in the creative workplace matters. It turns out, diverse teams are actually the most innovative, creative, and productive on average. So, while we all know that having diversity in our workplace is the right thing to do because it’s the right thing to do, we also learned that teams like this perform better when it comes to the bottom line (Sound familiar? Our Heat Test unlocked the same findings). In fact, there was a mind-blowing stat shared that the IT industry could vastly improve their profits through simply increasing diversity efforts.

The speaker left us with three key ways to elevate diversity at work, and I’d like to share them here:

  1. Be aware, and listen to peoples’ experiences
  2. Be a voice and speak up on injustice
  3. Be a guide to lead to diversity

Overall, I found the virtual event a great balance of professional, relaxed, and inspiring. I can’t wait to use the knowledge I gained over the past few days and apply it where I can. I would definitely recommend the event to anyone interested in sharpening their creativity at ANY level, and I’d definitely attend again next year!

Joel's CFH (that's conference from home) setup.

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