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Adobe MAX 2020: Creativity Through Adversity

Design & Branding

Isadora Teich wrote this article


Adobe’s annual creative conference was an amazing few days spent celebrating, inspiring, and exploring creativity in the chaos. In 2020, for the first time ever, it was completely free to attend.

As well as sneak peaks of new tech from the Adobe labs, including new texture generation tools and mind-blowing advances in AR tech, they showed us Illustrator for the iPad, Adobe Fresco for iPhone, and new photoshop filters.

All of this excitement was complete with inspiring sessions led by industry creatives from around the globe.

Here are two sessions that we found particularly inspiring and important for industry creatives in these difficult times.

Branding Identity and Visual Storytelling for Startups

This session explored the creative process of Radim Malinic, who runs the small and award-winning London-based digital branding studio, Brand Nu. He spoke on his multi-faceted approach and philosophy to creating modern brands that truly connect with an audience.

For me, one of the biggest and most interesting takeaways of the session was how important it is to have a flexible and multi-disciplinary approach.

In order to create a digital presence, you have to consider many ideas at once. It’s not about just being a designer or just being a copywriter or just being a strategist. All of these things must be cohesive to create a compelling story.

At the beginning of his career, Malinic said that he was reluctant to consider himself a storyteller, or even really speak about his work at all.

However, ultimately, people respond to stories, crave stories, and appreciate them. We use narratives to structure our lives and connect with ideas and each other. A key to the success of Brand New has been embracing storytelling whole-heartedly.

Malinic’s Ingredients For Success

In his talk, he cites 10 main ingredients to create a successful brand identity. Some of them are powerful common-sense ideas such as:

– Listen to your client

– Collaborate with talented creatives

– Understand what competitors are doing

All of these things are critical to the success of a brand. However, one of his ideas that I found particularly compelling is the 99%+1 rule.

There is an old conversation on what makes art relevant, successful, or have resonance. One theory is that effective art is not complete unto itself, but is good because it starts a conversation which viewers can complete on their own. This is what Malinic’s 99%+1 rule boils down to.

Leave room for interpretation. Create something compelling that leaves room for viewers to interact with and think about. Consider how literal or abstract you want your approach to be. You want to start a conversation that engages consumers with your brand.

Creativity in the Chaos

It is incredibly important to speak about real-world implications, constraints, and opportunities when talking about engaging and harnessing the power of creativity. Currently, in the midst of the pandemic, many people are likely having a hard time finding inspiration, drive, and that creative spark.

So, how exactly are the world’s most creative people continuing to forge ahead in the midst of this crisis? How are they continuing to tell their stories? And what can we learn from them?

Adobe addresses this in a powerful talk from Bruno Sellés, the typeface designer for Barcelona-based graphic design studio, Vasava Studio.

Thriving as Creatives in an Uncertain World

Vasava is a unique example of continuing to thrive in difficult conditions. Sellés says that this comes down to their big decisions of how exactly to handle the crisis.

As a business based in Barcelona, Sellés and his colleagues faced one of the harshest and most complete covid lockdowns on earth.

For almost the entire spring of 2020 in Spain, it was illegal to even take a walk unless you were walking a dog. As one of the worst-hit countries in the world, there is added stress and pressure on Spanish businesses.

His insight into continuing to thrive creatively under such conditions is incredibly interesting and inspiring.

The Vasava Approach

As you can imagine, this pandemic has been an incredibly chaotic time. Clients were canceling, dragging out, and abandoning projects left and right due to the virus. Vasava looked around and saw what many other companies, entrepreneurs, and creatives were doing. Sellés said that many others were simply deciding to close up shop and give up under the strenuous circumstances.

According to Sellés, instead of focusing on what they couldn’t do anymore, they decided to focus on what they could do as a company.

Due to the strict lockdowns and limitations of the virus, as well as client cancellations, they had a lot of time on their hands. They decided to use this time to start their own projects and improve their business.

Vasava created branded icons to raise visibility for their business that can be found in Giphy. They also revamped their website and portfolio and engaged in social media projects to lift people’s spirits and inspire user-generated content. Currently, people are isolating and using social media more than ever.

While attention is high and people are searching for entertainment to help them cope, is an amazing time to launch social media projects.

Turning Challenges Into Opportunities

Vasava was supposed to take part in a number of events and trade shows, all of which were canceled due to the pandemic. While this was definitely a blow to them, they chose to look at it differently.

Events and trade shows are great for visibility, but they also come with limitations. As a physical event, only the other people who are physically there are exposed to you.

By moving their events and exhibitions into digital formats, they actually extended their visibility, regardless of the pandemic. After all, anyone anywhere on earth can click onto a web page.

This pandemic has also created an economic crisis, leaving millions of people around the world adrift. Vasava felt a responsibility to do their best to stick it out, in order to try and create something positive even in the midst of a bad situation. They chose to keep their team employed and engaged.

This has created an environment of trust and mutual respect which has deepened their creativity and resolve.

Ultimately, Sellés’ approach to staying creative in crisis boils down to 3 steps:

– Don’t Panic

– Be Resilient

– Get Moving

Final Thoughts

Adobe MAX did a wonderful job of exploring the technical, creative, and practical strategies of diverse global creatives. It was a jam-packed conference full of both inspirational stories and priceless practical advice from some of the world’s most talented people.

Did you attend this year? What were some of your favorite sessions?

Talk to me.

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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