I was starting to feel a little bit heavy and somewhat weary of 2020 when Adobe’s creativity conference, Adobe MAX, came along. It came just at the right time to light up the sky of my imagination again and refuel my fire.
If you too need a bit of a boost to get you to the year-end with some sparkle in your eyes, I highly recommend these surprising, eye-opening, and inspiring videos.
Now, let me start out by saying, I’m not the primary audience for this conference. The purpose of this annual software conference is to share the latest releases of Adobe’s wide range of graphic tools with its users and build community.
I’m not a graphic designer, artist, illustrator nor 3D creator and the only Adobe tool I currently use is Adobe Acrobat PDF reader! Nevertheless, this conference has way more to offer than software. The company put a huge emphasis on the human creativity that not only drives each creation using their products, but that drives innovation in business and progress in society as a whole.
When I used to DJ at clubs and parties, the bulk of the preparation for each event went into the careful selection of the music for the set. In those days (showing my age here), this involved hours spent in record shops around London (are you still going, Plastic Fantastic?) picking out records and listening to them on record players in the shop.
There was no Shazam, so if you liked a track you heard somewhere, you’d have to squirm your way to the DJ booth and ask for the name of the song. Usually the DJ would hold up the record cover for you to see, then the trick was trying to remember it the next day (or finding a pen and writing it on your hand.) Sometimes it would be a white label record (independently created) and that was the unicorn you’d be searching for for weeks afterwards.
With over 350 sessions delivered globally over two days, there’s a lot of Adobe MAX content to trawl through. Let me save you the time and energy and present to you some of my favourite sessions. These are videos usually ranging from 3 minutes to 30 minutes. Given the number of gems in there, this ‘review’ is going to take two parts, possibly three.
So without further ado, here is part one.
As you can imagine, lots of the conference sessions feature Adobe’s very slick and high-tech software. One such tool (my fave) makes multiple colours flow into one another to emulate water colour paint under the touch of your smart pen on the tablet (Adobe Fresco) – it’s incredible!
Now, I’m all for high-tech stuff and my little mind was sufficiently blown, but it was the sessions that focussed on lo- tech creativity that really moved me. These were the sessions involving artists:
As a rather impatient person who usually tries to get more done in a day than is humanly possible (and gets super frustrated when things slow me down), I so appreciate and admire these artists’ extreme attention to detail and deliberate slowness in their craft.
Not being exposed to this kind of thing in my life right now, it is so refreshing to witness close up how these artists work. If you need a break from the US election news and a restoration of your faith in human wonderfulness, then I urge you to do yourself a favour and explore some of these sessions.
Designing to Challenge Reality — A Conceptual Toolkit (22:59)
Kelli Anderson, Designer
If you only watch one of these sessions, watch this one from designer Kelli Anderson. She is an incredibly smart and creative person who asks good questions and uses her curiosity to explore the world with wonder. She shows how the unconscious biases in our brains can prevent us from seeing the potential hiding in plain sight in a world of limitless possibility. She loves to return to low-tech materials, like paper and cardboard, to reveal new, amazing facets of our reality. She plays with both art and science to create things that are novel, useful and beautiful.
Some cool quotes from Kelli:
“Analog tech performs this secret, secondary function of tethering us. When you provides a connection point between your body your mind and the larger physical world around you. And I think it something that we miss.”
Creativity is… “making things that no one else has made with materials that everyone else has.”
I found Kelli’s philosophy to be insightful and profound; something that we could all be leaning towards:
“In 2020 many of us feel like we are in exile in our own lives. The plan we had laid out for ourselves, disrupted by the disorder of the pandemic. But we are also inhabiting a place of newfound clarity, as seen for example in the largest most contentious protest movement in US history, Black Lives Matter. I’ve been feeling that maybe the old order (in which we sought to win all of those old prizes and accolades, and climbed the ladder of ‘success’ that we didn’t define ourselves) is perhaps not the world we want after all. We need to reorient our creativity and work in service of wonder, equality and care. To close our eyes and dream of a much weirder more tailored path for ourselves.”
I hope that you enjoy this session as much as I did.
Take a Type Safari Through East London with Sarah Hyndman (21:35)
Sarah Hyndman, Founder, Type Tasting
When we lived in London and our little girl was a toddler, I felt bad that I couldn’t take her on safaris to see the beautiful African animals in our homeland. As a consolation, I would take her on ‘kitty safaris’ around our neighbourhood in Shaftesbury Estate to spot (and sometimes try to catch) unlucky local cats. It was a favourite outing. I was tickled to see another kind of safari in this conference – a TYPE safari!
In this delightful short video, font-fanatic Sarah Hyndman takes you on a virtual expedition through north London, spotting signs, analysing fonts and, so, learning many new things. She says: ‘You can tell a lot about a neighbourhood through its typography.’ She shows how letterforms create a unique typographic DNA that tells the story of a location.
This session taught me to open my eyes to the detail around me. There is a lot to learn about design history by looking at the different signs in a city. I learned that typography is alive and interesting.
These days most of us are more occupied with getting attention than with paying attention. The irony is that attention just makes us crave more, so as with any addiction, we are never satisfied with it (a case in point – are you satisfied with your number of followers on social media.) Paying attention connects us to the world around us and feeds our minds and our emotions with the vast richness that exists in the details of everyday life that we often miss. The world’s creative luminaries and great minds all learned the mindful practice of quiet observation to inform and inspire their thinking.
Natura Insects (2:31)
Raku Inuoe, Artist
I was spellbound by the simple but stunning Natura Insects project of Montreal artist, Raku Inuoe. Raku’s portraits of insects began as a morning creative exercise. Every day, he goes into his back garden to forage and create. He collects natural materials such as leaves, petals, twigs, seed pods and bark. Inspired by classical Japanese ikebana floral arrangements, he only uses what is in season and readily available, respecting the fleetingness of natural life. Then he arranges it carefully on a piece of card into portraits of insects and animals using a pair of tweezers. Finally, he photographs the finished work. His typical daily exercise takes around 10 minutes.
Why not try this yourself? You will need:
We’d love to see what you create! Share it on social and tag #AdobeMAX #creativitywakeup
A Joyful Life: Illustrating Your Way to Contentment and Success (20:06)
Octavia Bromell, Illustrator, Tink Illustration
Let’s not kid, it’s been a tough year. It’s so helpful to share whatever tools we have, to overcome anxiety or depression in our own lives or the lives of those we care about. In this session, Octavia shares how her struggle with depression left her empty and dead inside. It was starting a daily drawing practice that brought her back to life. Now she says: “Creating work that makes your soul sing is the single best thing you can do for your career and your happiness, and yet it’s so rarely prioritised.”
I loved her honesty in telling her story and the simple, practical exercises she recommends such as, at the end of the day, taking a few minutes to draw the things that you are grateful for or that made you happy in the day.
From this session you’ll learn how to:
Once again, if you are thinking, ‘but I can’t draw a stick figure’ or ‘drawing has never been my thing’, then this kind of exercise is exactly what you may need to push you out of your comfort zone.
It is when we learn to take small risks and push our boundaries that we begin to develop creative confidence in all areas of our lives, such as in our careers, our business and our communities.
(And if drawing is already your thing, then why not try something new or unfamiliar to you, such as writing, filming with your phone or creating something physical – see previous session by Raku!)
An Exclusive View into the World of Calligraffiti (9:50)
Pokras Lampas, Russian painter
This session surprised me because of the juxtaposition of the apparent youth of this artist and the ancient technique he uses to create Calligraffiti (calligraphy - graffiti.)
Although Pokras Lampas does digitise his art to place it on photographs of the buildings and roofs he paint in order to plan his sizing, he mostly works with lo-tech materials - enormous calligraphy pens, brushes and sponges. I love how he uses simple string tied to a post to create the perfect circles he needs.
Pokras Lampas is unique young Russian artist who already has a large body of work and has created a name for himself as a leader in this field.
Similar to French Tunisian artist, eL Seed, who we have featured before, Lampas delivers important messages around society and culture, celebrating the similarities and differences between alphabets, designs and meaning.
In our family we often watch TED talks on a Tuesday evening (we call it “TED Talk Tuesday” – sounds more intellectual than it is, in essence we are allowing TV time, whilst trying to curb junk TV time!) We are now going to be watching some of these videos together as a family. We want to expose our kids to the variety of thinking and expression that is available here.
So perhaps you may decide to watch these with your family. Whether with others or curled up solo on your couch, we’d love you to try them out and let us know what you think.
Which ones move you?
What did you learn?
What do they make you want to do differently?
We’d love to get your feedback. Post it on LinkedIn or Facebook and tag #AdobeMAX #creativitywakeup.
And look out for Part 2 with more treats in store.
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