And so another year passes by and Adobe Max came into our lives. Once again it was held in the Los Angeles Convention Center in Downtown LA, the second time in recent years but this has been its home in previous years. Astute Graphics first attended Adobe Max in 2014, then again in 2016 with a full class on ‘The Power of Plugins in Adobe Illustrator”. Myself and and our founder, Nick, have been every year since 2016, visiting San Diego, Las Vegas and Los Angeles in that order. Max is not only the annual design conference for Adobe, it’s also a creative hub for designers from around the world to meet up and talk about all things design, video, UX/UI, audio and mobile, with a little photography thrown in for good measure.
Back in 2016 the attendance was around 8-10k, this year we heard numbers of around 16k. Personally, I wouldn’t want to see that increase. The conference was set out over three separate buildings and a huge outdoor marquee. This made it difficult to get from session to session when they were spread across the Marriott Hotel, the Microsoft Theatre and the LACC which is vast in itself. But the number of sessions available meant you’d never be short of sitting in something creative or inspiring.
I get to be a Teaching Assistant at Max so my first event of the trip was a cool pre conference with Orlando based print company called Mama’s Sauce. It was held at The National Print Museum in South LA. What a fine establishment it was too for antique print machines and equipment, creating effects we now try to replicate today in illustrator and Photoshop.
That evening was an annual meet up organised by Kevin Stohlmeyer, it is a chance to catch up with old friends before the madness begins.
Max started in earnest on Monday 4th November, kicking off with the big keynote.
This is where Adobe give an overview of the past year, how the industry and creatives have used Adobe tools in their creation. This year was no different, three huge screens across the room, and I mean HUGE! Backed by the Foo Fighter’s track Times Like These it really was a very powerful video highlighting some amazing creative projects. Then we have the various Adobe execs up on stage such as Adobe CEO, Shantanu Narayen, to talk about various new updates and new apps, the big reveal being the arrival of Photoshop on the iPad, with a version of illustrator to follow in 2020 - more about that shortly.
Nick shared a funny story where he was talking to an Adobe manager and was introduced to “my boss’s boss” at an event the night before, he told me he thinks the guy’s name was Steve or Scott something. As he was telling me this during the Keynote, Scott Belsky, Adobe’s Chief Product Officer and Executive Vice President, walks on stage and Nick goes “oh yeah, it was him”.
The updates to Illustrator where somewhat underwhelming, great for Astute Graphics, but in a year where the Illustrator engineering team said they would focus on bugs for a “happy customer experience” they certainly didn’t spend any time on brand new features in the desktop version aside from an auto spell check function, background save and a slightly improved Simplify tool. They saved new stuff for their iPad version which is touted for release in 2020. it had bells and whistles, some “borrowed” features from a certain plugin supplier ;) and a new interface. How this will fit into the app workflow remains to be seen as the features shown are unlikely to be mirrored onto the desktop version (speaking of “mirrored” ahem). Time will tell.
The rest of the day was filled with sessions from a vast range of international speakers and instructors across all the apps and disciplines in the Creative Cloud suite. I sat in on Dan Stiles’ class (his opening slide was an image he’d created for our Phantasm v4 launch in 2018 - AG Bonus #1! Dan is a fantastic and well respected designer and has a great body of work.
Then it was onto Mister Aaron James Draplin in the big Microsoft Theatre, preempted by a cheeky pint with Extensis CEO, Toby Martin. Aaron always gives one of the best talks at any event, packed full of imagery, stories, laughs and inspiration, all in good measure to a captivated audience of about 1000 people. AG Bonus #2 was in this session when Aaron went through some tips and tricks he uses in illustrator, including a 5 minutes of how he uses Astute Graphics plugins. We did not know anything about this. We could see our tools in his illustrator set up but didn’t expect that. So thank you Aaron, as always! I was sat next to our good friend, Mike Jones, founder of the amazing Creative South Conference, and he was full of oohs and aahs during the talk, showing even the best still have something to learn from Illustrator!
The Community Pavilion opens on Day One. We immediately went to visit our friends at Fontself. We had done a collaboration with them and lettering artist and logo designer, Will Paterson. It was great to see the Fontself team, they had produced a really cool book which you can download for free here >>> https://fs.tl/WelcomeToTypocracyPDF
The day finished off with a reception in the Community Pavilion where attendees could mingle, supplied with free food and drink, and chat to each other and the vendors. It is always a good time to meet up with friends, old and new. Networking is such a critical part of the Max experience, especially for us. Many current collaborations between us and major companies began with introductions at Adobe Max.
Day two began with a session for me, this time about InDesign, but hosted by the very talented Hood sisters, Amy and Jen, from Hoodzpah Designs studio. Amy and Jen are both avid users of Astute Graphics and we love them for it. A very creative session it was too, I learnt a few new tricks and I literally wrote a book on InDesign! Next was the second keynote of Adobe Max.
This time is was the creative speakers. It began with my favourite of all the talks, creative illustrator Shantell Martin.
Shantell is a New York based Londoner who has worked on some amazing projects around the world. She spoke about creativity and positive attitudes in a very eloquent and poetic way, seriously impressed with her presentation.
Next up was photographer David LaChapelle who talked about his career and how creativity influenced much of his life.
Then we had M Night Shaymalan, hosted by interviewer Jason Levine who is equally entertaining and a great interviewer.
Following on from that was an interesting interview with young singer, songwriter Billie Eilish and Takashi Murakami who collaborated on a video for Billie. There is a 40 year gap between the two but they worked perfectly on the project and it was interesting to hear some of that process.
Finally we had the legend, Dave Grohl, talking about his career. The last two interviews were hosted by Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes, not the greatest interviewer but the guests managed to get past that.
The remainder of the day was filled with more sessions, both nick and myself attending more Illustrator and creative talks. I was able to see the design legend Paula Scher of Pentagram followed by Tad Carpenter, everybody’s favourite guy in the industry, everyone loves Tad and we do too, an avid Astute Graphics MirrorMe user. Nick was able to attend some ‘What’s New in Illustrator’ sessions, they managed to stretch these out to an hour, that must have been some padding ;)
The content part of the day was finished with Sneaks, Adobe’s show and tell of new ideas they are working on. Some will see the light of day, some may not. There were a couple of interesting ones that could find themselves in the apps in the future, the Illustrator one was underwhelming but at least someone was working on a new feature.
The evening events were the traditional Adobe Max Bash, this year was better organised as it was held in the nearby Staples Center, right next to the LACC. The band were Vampire Weekend and they have a new fan in me, absolutely loved their set and music.
Finally, day three was upon us. Day three has one of my favourite things, the Marketplace in the Community Pavilion. This is where design companies have a small booth to sell their merchandise, it is also a great way to chat to designers and see their work, Nick and myself came away with some useful contacts to follow up on. My day started with assisting our good friend and content creator, the Design ninja himself, Tony Harmer. Tony did a very cool class on creating infographics which began with a really fun intro video. Tony is value for money!
I spent most of my day three in the pavilion catching up with vendors, getting contact details and introductions from various creatives and vendors. Day three goes quick so its important to see as many people as you can before everyone heads in multiple directions for another year.
In a nutshell, Max is value for money in terms of connections and getting insider info on what’s going on in the creative world. It helps us find out what creatives want and need so that we can stay ahead of the curve and continue to give additional value to our service plan. Meeting up with old friends such as Aaron Draplin, Fontself, the Illustrator engineers and the many designers who use our tools is always invaluable.
If you are a creative, try and visit Adobe Max at some point, you’ll get value from the experience. As for us, watch this space for what’ coming in 2020!