An Immersive Dialogue Between Creativity and Technology

Takeaways from MAX 2018.

Featured in Creativity
An Immersive Dialogue Between Creativity and Technology

Creativity for all.

That’s how Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen kicked off Abobe MAX 2018 — The Creativity Conference in Los Angeles (kindly known as MAX). Shantanu shared his vision for what might be one of the best times for creativity to have great impact and cause transformative, meaningful change. In his inspiring remarks during the opening of general session, he also emphasized this is the time for what will become the golden age of creativity. As an educator who uses, deals, and daily encourages creativity in my classes, at first Adobe’s vision seems like quite a challenging, tall order. However, Shantanu believes that coming together as community inspires creativity, and the moment for creative thinking being combined with critical thinking in education and various collaborative engagements is happening now.

I too subscribe to his thoughts. In addition to my teaching duties, I have been serving as director of a makerspace in our campus for over four years now. My role, centered on growing what’s become the Maker Lab in the ACU Brown Library in Abilene, Texas, has created a wealth of opportunities to expand cross-disciplinary conversations on our campus around design, creativity, and innovation. One of the assertions I can share is that it’s not about the tools or just the physical space — they certainly matter, but creating a welcoming environment where people feel comfortable to collaborate has been a fundamental aspect of the Maker Lab. Yes, one could argue those spaces already exist within other departments or academic units, but having a makerspace has proven to be an efficient and immersive learning experience for its users simply because it has created a shared sense of community between tinkerers and makers.

This is only my third MAX attendance, and, I admit, MAX has delivered every single time. I am continually impressed by its force and synergy. MAX conglomerates creatives of all kinds and practices. Attendees are always treated with thoughtful content, great networking opportunities, unveiling of new products and services, and, of course, inspiring keynotes and celebrity appearances. After day two of MAX, here are a few more personal observations takeaways.

On the first day of the conference, Adobe announced they officially rolled out a private beta version of Project Aero. In short, Aero is an augmented reality tool that is easy to use, empowering individuals to create democratized digital immersive experiences. But it was quickly evident to me during the live demonstration (and I am sure most people in the audience would agree) that Aero will also be used for a new approach on immersive design, combining physical and digital worlds, inviting people to interact and engage with objects, products, brands, etc. And although augmented reality has been around for a while, Aero as both a production and delivery platform will truly allow for a more immersive media as an output for creative storytelling.

While visiting the Adidas booth in the pavilion, I was able to experience Aero with an iPad and explore many ways the technology works — used for product visualization, displaying additional product information, color options, and material combinations, to list just a few. That was my first experience with Aero in such a context — a creative platform that challenges what people typically expect, forming memories and emotional markers that will influence the decision-making process. And that is just the beginning. I am confident that once the creative community begins using Aero in diversified ways, we will continue to also see growth of its applications.

On Day 2 of MAX, after inspiring accounts of creativity and professional practices in many areas that were showcased during the general session, I attended a couple of Adobe XD sessions and quickly observed how the application has improved since its official release almost two years ago. Adobe’s application for designing and testing websites and mobile apps, XD is growing up. The application has evolved and is more robust, yet retaining its easy-to-use interface. The integration with other Adobe products is greater, making it easier for user experience designers to share and collaborate. XD is a great prototyping application with an incredible time-saving functionality.

In conclusion, attending MAX showed me one more time that a focus on the transformational, immersive dialogue between creativity and technology leads naturally into a process of discovery that crosses boundaries between disciplines, professional practices, and areas of expertise. Thus, I still consider interdisciplinary collaboration as an essential element of what I do. I believe that this approach encourages me, first of all, and then my students to make connections among different domains of creativity that enhance and enrich their grasp of both content and production. When a problem or project can be approached by a team with different yet complementary methodologies and theoretical frameworks, resulting discoveries pay multiplied dividends as the team members contextualize what has been learned in their own perspective — and then share that perspective with those peers who possess a different “toolbox.” Resonating Shantanu’s words, creativity MUST be for all.

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