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Design Matters: Five Things We Learned at Adobe MAX 2022

Adobe MAX is an annual Adobe event that brings together thousands of designers, marketers, artists and more from more than 160 countries. Creative professionals flocked to Los Angeles to immerse themselves for three full days in Adobe’s latest tools and innovations, learn new skills, get inspired and unlock their creative superpowers.

Open Flow’s design team saw and heard so much during the MAX experience—but here are the five main takeaways that stood out for us.

Open Flow Team at Adobe MAX

1. Process, process, process. 

Whether it is within an agency or an in-house creative team, friction surrounding creative departments and projects is something everyone in our space has experienced. The endless feedback loops, unclear project descriptions, timeline expectations, and overall lack of understanding when it comes to the purpose of the processes required to deliver a high quality creative project that all stakeholders are proud of (even that one client who tells you to “make the logo bigger” every chance they get).

If you’re one of those thick-skinned creatives who have endured the frustration that comes with these recurring issues, we have one thing to tell you: you are not alone.

At Adobe MAX, leaders from enterprise companies like Prudential, UpWork, and Chipotle and agencies like Pink Pony Creative all addressed the importance of “creative operations.” They shared their project intake processes, operational diagrams, and the internal company values that their department leads live by, to ensure their teams can operate at their highest potential.

Key process takeaways: 

  • Formalize the creative brief. 
    At Adobe MAX, nearly every speaker stressed the importance of using a formal Creative Brief as the primary source of truth needed before any project is allowed to begin. Whether you’re working with external clients or an internal department, it’s important to create a workflow that forces detail, clarity, and stakeholder awareness before fulfillment begins. (Here at Open Flow, we use a Project Intake Form that has worked wonders for our clients and internal team.)

  • Communicate with honesty and clarity. 
    Patrick Holland, UpWork’s Executive Creative Director, spoke about the importance of clear and honest communication. Similar to a Creative Brief, it’s important to hold meetings that include every stakeholder for a formal project “kick off” that allows everyone to be heard while making them aware of the high-level implications of their work. Recurring all-hands meetings will keep everyone on the same page during the course of the process.

  • Be the champion.
    For those who may not understand how valuable a formal process is to creative departments or agencies, it’s key to have one member of the team who is willing to clarify this day-in and day-out.
    Whether you’re a manager, graphic designer, UI/UX specialist, marketer, or developer, someone needs to remind all project stakeholders to stick to the playbook. Stand your ground and demand clarity. Doing so early and consistently throughout the project’s lifecycle will reduce friction among all contributors, and give creative specialists the breathing room to do what they do best.

2. UX/UI prototyping in Adobe is great, but has an even greater future. 

Telling the story of your new concept or customer experience is highly significant when working with your in-house team and your stakeholders. Getting the business to fully understand not just the design but the user flow is key to getting buy-in.

(Image credit: Adobe)

Adobe Xd is the design and prototyping tool from Adobe that our team exclusively uses. Adobe Xd has come a long way in recent years but with the very recent acquisition of Xd competitor, Figma, a lot could change very quickly with how we may as designers transition to Figma. 

What could this mean for Xd? Will they merge into one application or will they stay separate? Time will tell exactly how Figma will change under new ownership of Adobe. 

3. Remote work is here to stay.

In response to the remote work shift, sharing within Adobe has never been easier. Creative collaboration is at the forefront of design. Sharing for review is available across Photoshop, InDesign, Xd, Illustrator and more making collaboration with clients and teammates easier than ever.

With remote work becoming the norm across industries, it is truly invaluable to be able to receive feedback without even leaving the application. With Adobe’s “share for review,” we can improve our workflows and speed of feedback loops immensely.

Freelancers who are proficient with Adobe products have been on the cutting edge of remote work for years, and prove that successful outcomes aren’t about the amount of time logged at a desk, but the quality of work produced.

“If I do a job in 30 minutes, it’s because I spent 10 years learning to do it in that amount of time. I’m paid for the years, not the minutes.”

Share for Review is available now in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign and is coming soon to the rest of Creative Cloud.

According to UpWork’s Executive Creative Director, Patrick Holly, the pandemic stress-tested remote work in the corporate world. It has exposed companies to a global talent pool and forced everyone to increase their awareness of operational procedures. Remote has made work less about “adult babysitting” and more about completing high-quality work. 

4. Adobe Express offers an on-ramp from non-designer to designer.

Adobe Express has everything you need when it comes to letting your ideas come to life. From templates, to logos, to unique social media posts, anyone and everyone can create amazing designs using Adobe Express. Whether you’re a creative pr, or a non-designer, Adobe Express gives you the ability to create many different designs within a small amount of time. With AI, Adobe Express helps you find fonts, images and graphics based on your specific design, which makes it the perfect program for those who don’t have extensive design experience. 

Being able to witness these time-saving tactics in Adobe Express at the conference was incredible. Creatives are able to produce impressive designs based on their brand by themselves or with team members! By suggesting a specific theme, just using any Adobe font, Express will give you unique, custom fonts with a touch of a button. 

Guest speaker Scott Belsky described Adobe Express as “becoming an essential companion for modern day creativity.” And he’s right! On top of being able to produce astounding graphics quickly, you can also schedule your social media posts. Just when this seems like the perfect program to use for your upcoming designs, did we mention it’s free? Check out Adobe Express now!

5. Bananas.

Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are advancing at an extremely rapid rate. 

(Image credit: Adobe)

Intertwine in Illustrator may be a small update but it clearly stole the show. With Adobe Illustrator’s new Intertwine tool, a.k.a every graphic designer’s dream, it allows you to intertwine a font and an object in a non-destructive way with just a quick click. Amazing, right? 

During the Sneaks session with Kevin Hart, we learned about many exciting new features coming to the Adobe product suite. One helpful feature coming to Adobe Illustrator is the Magnetic type tool, which allows you to add shapes to your Adobe font. Just drag and drop and it will automatically bind shapes with your text.

Kevin Hart at Adobe MAX Sneaks

Photoshop on the web allows you to open documents and work anywhere. With Photoshop (Beta) you’ll be able to remove a background from an image instantly, choose your next steps from the contextual task bar, and even replace the sky in your photos. 

Now don’t fret, we saved the best for last. Ever wanted to add a banana to your toolbar? Control-click the 3 dots on your toolbar and click edit toolbar, then hold down the command shift buttons and choose done. Just a cool little easter egg for Photoshop users.

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