One Year of the Adobe Fund for Design: Supporting, Uplifting and Empowering Innovators in the Creative Community

Illustration: Justin Cheong
One Year of the Adobe Fund for Design: Supporting, Uplifting and Empowering Innovators in the Creative Community
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The pace of innovation in creative technology is staggering. Between the increasing importance of creativity and design around the world (something we feel will always be uniquely human), the rapidly evolving needs of creatives everywhere, and the complexity and tediousness that often exists in creative workflows, designers and creators are constantly developing, testing, embracing, and adapting to new technologies and tools that serve their needs.

While the abundance of new tools brings tremendous power and options, it also causes constant context switching, cognitive overload, and friction for designers. To help break down this friction and elevate creativity, we’ve committed a massive investment in our developer platform to bring new, community-built tools to our customers within our apps and ensure our products are interoperable with all the other services that creatives and their teams use to get work done.

But that’s not enough. At Adobe, we feel it is our obligation to support the brightest minds in the creative space. Based on decades of expertise and some of the most powerful and widely-used tools in the world, we’ve developed a unique empathy for creative users, having been obsessed with their needs for more than 30 years.

Adobe XD Dev Days 2018, where invited plugin developers learned how they could apply for the Adobe Fund for Design.
Adobe XD Dev Days 2018, where invited plugin developers learned how they could apply for the Adobe Fund for Design and be part of the future of XD extensibility.

Launching the Adobe Fund for Design to encourage and support innovation in the global design community

With all of the above in mind – the support of innovation, the development of our ecosystem, and the unique perspective we bring – we launched the Adobe Fund for Design last year; a $10 million commitment to support teams building products and services that will help shape the future of creativity and design. We’ve been absolutely inspired by the level of creativity, ingenuity, and perseverance of hundreds of individuals, teams, and emerging companies that we’ve spoken to since launching the Fund.

We’re thrilled to continue to partner with our community and support their endeavors. Since announcing the Fund, we’ve launched the Adobe Plugin Accelerator, supported events like the Design Tools Hackathon, funded many of our early XD plugin partners, and issued more than 50 grants and investments.

Adobe community developers and Adobe staff come together on the last day of Adobe MAX 2018.
Adobe community developers and Adobe staff come together on the last day of Adobe MAX 2018.

Now, almost a year later, we’re excited to share some of the recent companies and trends we’re lucky to support, building on our first grants and investments we shared last year.

Some of the new design tools we’re supporting

Design systems and designer-to-developer workflows

Some of the most painful challenges for designers lie in maintaining fidelity and consistency throughout the design process and working with developers to bring creative visions to life.  We’ve met with lots of impressive teams working hard to address the problems that arise in these complicated interactions. Here are a few that we’re particularly impressed with:

  • Superposition
    • Use the design system you already have. Extract design tokens from your website, easily export them to code, and use them directly in your designs.
  • Toolabs
    • Toolabs is a design systems oriented and components based design, prototype, and development platform.
  • Web Export
    • Author responsive web pages from Adobe XD
  • zeroheight
    • zeroheight allows companies to create beautiful documentation sites for their design systems.

Design collaboration

With the increasing importance of creativity and design, there are more stakeholders in the design process than ever before. Beyond developers, design involves working with marketers, copywriters, localization experts, product managers and more. We’ve found a few companies that help streamline the collaboration between these teams so designers can focus on doing great work:

  • SketchDeck
    • SketchDeck solves everyday design problems for businesses. Access this tool to easily create projects, review work, ensure brand/design consistency, and access a roster of talented designers.
  • Cage
    • Cage is a media collaboration and project workflow built for designers, agencies, and in-house teams. Collaborate with your team directly on the work, plan, move projects forward, and deliver work on time, every time.
  • Niice
    • Niice is a creative review platform for dynamic design teams.
  • ContentSync
    • Version, translate, and iterate your design content using Google Spreadsheets, Microsoft 365 Excel, and more. ContentSync supports syncing content both directions, private spreadsheets and more.
  • Focus
    • Focus powers up your design workflow with in-context annotations directly inside your design files, be it notes, ideas, tasks or feedback.

Design velocity

We know we can’t build every feature for every designer on the planet, but we can certainly enable the teams that address the niche and rapidly-evolving needs of our users. Automation, resources to kickstart the design process, and open source design projects are among the categories we believe will help our products meet the needs of creatives everywhere. Here are a few of the teams we’re supporting in this area:

  • unDraw
    • A constantly updated collection of beautiful illustrations that you can use for free and without attribution, designed by Katerina Limpitsouni.
  • Colorful
    • Colorful is a color theme generator that closes the creative gap between designers and their clients. Give it a color palette and Colorful produces a range of creative visual directions instantly, saving designers energy and time.
  • XDHero
    • XDHero builds tools that save designers time with productivity plugins for layout automation, recoloring, wireframing, and style extraction from existing websites. The team is also working on advanced CSS and Scripting capabilities for XD that will be launched soon.
  • VizzyCharts
    • The VizzyCharts plugin lets you quickly generate data visualizations, creating fully-editable, pixel-perfect charts and graphs using native XD objects such as rectangles, text fields, and lines.
  • Arranger
    • Arrange multiple objects automatically as a circle, grid, or wave. Use it with components and Auto-Animate to create complex designs, menus, and transitions.
  • Open Design Ushahidi
    • A project to create accessible processes for designers to collaborate and contribute to open source software.

Emerging content types

People today consume more content — and more types of content — than ever before. From microapps to AR and VR to games and audio and much more, designers need to consider a new set of creative frontiers. While we continue to invest in the Creative Cloud product portfolio to give people the tools to create for all of these emerging mediums, the nascency of these industries yields too many unknowns. We’re excited to support companies that are pushing the boundaries of experiences and democratizing the creation of content that was once impossible — or incredibly difficult, at best — to create:

  • Quest AI
    • Convert XD designs into live, responsive web pages instantly. Using Quest AI’s no-code editor, you can add timeline-based actions, videos, music and animations to build rich and interactive experiences without writing any code.
  • Tiled
    • Tiled enables designers and businesses to create and ship interactive content experiences without any coding skills. Design your content in your tool of choice, sync to Tiled to add interaction and rich media, and ship to your audience to gain insight from activity.
  • DraftXR
    • Prototype for VR without the pain of writing code or running complex VR apps. Test instantly with zero-code WebVR and share with developers and stakeholders for handoff and feedback.

This is just a snapshot of the areas we’re evaluating — and just a small sample of interesting companies we’re working with in those spaces. That said, these companies have profiles that fit the Fund’s mandate and represent some of the trends we’re obsessing over. They are some of the most impressive teams shaping the direction of design trends, and we’re thrilled to play our part in helping them improve the lives of designers and creatives everywhere.

To learn more about the Adobe Fund for Design and apply for a grant or investment, please visit the Adobe Fund for Design website.

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