Great Design Leads to Great Jobs
Universities Jam with Adobe.
Every university student should know that employers are looking for more than a degree — it takes knowledge, skill, networking, and a little bit of serendipity just to get your foot in the door. That’s why internships, portfolios, summer jobs, and extracurricular activities all become critical factors in landing that first great opportunity.
Adobe is creating a new way for students across a variety of majors to develop their design skills, gain practical experience, and get connected with a broad community of designers, engineers, and marketers — the Creative Jam.
A new way to engage creative teams
Creative Jams started as a way for professional designers and creative workers to get hands-on experience with new tools and workflows, using applications like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe XD. Most participants were creative professionals or designers who had related jobs in those fields.
The day-long sessions are designed to inspire, educate, and provide an opportunity for creatives to stretch their skills by competing in short, focused design challenges outside the confines of their typical client work. Local thought leaders share a behind-the-scenes peek into their processes and projects, Adobe experts provide training on the latest software, and creative teams compete in a tournament that puts their skills to the test. The results can be incredible, and most participants emerge more excited about design and the possibilities for their day-to-day work.
A new opportunity for students
Now, Adobe is taking the Creative Jam to campuses across the country. The format is similar, but the goals are slightly different. “One of our goals for university Creative Jams is to help close the digital divide by exposing students to the creative skills companies are looking for. It’s about enabling new tools and encouraging great design, but it’s also about creating a space where students from different programs can come together and get real-world, cross-disciplinary collaborative experience,” says Ben Slutter, sr. manager for Creative Cloud business strategy at Adobe.
University jams can be in person or virtual. Like traditional jams, they typically start with inspiration from a design visionary and professional training. Students are split into teams, then given a theme and two hours to create a prototype together.
They return and share their work with each other and a panel of external judges who evaluate work based on quality of design, overall design idea, clarity of presentation, and emotional resonance with the audience.
Ana Beltran, a senior at the University of South Florida, says the virtual jam she attended allowed her to advance her interest in game design. “My career goal is to be an art director in the video game industry, and the majority of my team were game designers, so it was a great opportunity for us to think about how we could make a game-relevant app. One of the featured speakers was even a game designer, so it was very much aligned with what we were working on. We were able to interact with them, ask questions, and get more detail on how they were using Adobe tools in their design work,” she says.
Ultimately, Ana’s team emerged the winner, with a clever idea for an app to help address the issue of cyberbullying in video games.
“Being presented with a theme and only having a couple of hours to apply it really forces you to think quickly. But the time pressure also inspired some really good, focused thinking. My team had people from different degree programs with different perspective, but at the Creative Jam we could all be designers, creating something fun in a short time without a fear of failure,” she says.
From jams to jobs
Alex Hoffmann, a product designer at Ford, credits the Creative Jam he participated in as the key to landing his first design job.
While he was working towards a master of science degree at the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering at Indiana University Bloomington, he participated in a Creative Jam and designed a mobile app prototype with Adobe XD.
Alex’s team, working with the theme of “tradition,” created a winning app idea that helped show how the university had changed over time. The goal was to engage current students and alumni with the university’s history and tradition in a creative way. He credits the experience with sharpening his skills, expanding his career network, and honing his personal brand as a designer.
“During my interview with Ford, I spoke not only about my academic skills, but also about the Adobe Creative Jam where I had put my UI design skills to the test. The Jam event gave
me a personal boost in my design confidence and a professional boost through the connections, both of which really helped me ‘wow’ the managers at Ford and, in turn, led me to joining the Ford Smart Mobility organization,” he says.
Inspiring the next generation of creatives
So far, Adobe has sponsored almost 50 university Creative Jams across the country, and, with the success and positive feedback from the virtual jams, hopes to accelerate and roll out even more.
“There are a lot of companies doing different trainings, contests, and hack-a-thons as part of their university outreach and recruitment, but what we’re building with the Creative Jam is pretty unique because it’s not about recruiting for Adobe. Our goal is to help students develop and apply design skills to whatever their chosen field is,” says Ben. “We want to help them use the Adobe platform to go from jams to jobs — not just in the design community, but also engineers who need to prototype, or business majors and marketers who use design to communicate ideas.”
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