“It’s time to reimagine creativity. The future belongs to those who can create.” These words spoken by Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen resonated with me deeply on the first day of the Adobe MAX 2018. As I looked over the sea of more than 14,000 attendees, Iasked myself, “How will the next generation of creatives reimagine creativity?” Sure, we will always have traditional creatives (graphics, video, 3D, etc.), but the future of design is so much more diverse than that.
Before I dive deeper about the new age of creatives, let me tell you about myself and what brought me to this year’s Adobe MAX conference. I am an assistant professor in the School of Visual Arts and Design (SVAD) at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida. My teaching spans across the multidisciplinary fields of experimental animation, graphic design, game design, and emerging media. I have taught large numbers of students (often in groups of 100+) in advanced level, highly technical processes. These technical visual art courses are always coupled with applied interdisciplinary theory. You can often find me discussing accessibility forward practice in a 3-D modeling course or psychology in a experimental animation course. As a creative, I feel these conversations are pivotal for creative growth. I also have the privilege of an Adobe Education Leader (AEL). This allows me to connect to so many other interdisciplinary thought leaders and AEL educators during the conference.
This year was my third consecutive Adobe MAX, and my first time as a MAX session speaker. My colleague Albert Manero (founder of Limbitless) and I were invited to speak at a breakout session at MAX focusing on our STEAM research work with Limbitless Solutions, where we create 3D-printed bionic arms for children with limb difference at no cost to the child. Most people have become familiar with Limbitless from a 2014 viral video by the Microsoft Collective featuring Robert Downey Jr. presenting our Iron Man-themed prosthesis to one of our bionic kids. Our mission is that creativity can open the doors for accessibility, empower, and influence others positively. At our Limbitless Learning Lab, I work side-by-side with various partners in the disciplines of engineering, health care, game design, traditional art, and beyond to create experiences that better serve humanitarian needs. We leave our individual egos at the door, break through traditional silos, and collaborate to help our bionic kids.
My tenure at Limbitless as art director has taught me that true innovation and creativity come from the melding of different backgrounds, degrees, and fields of thought. This melding of ideas was my biggest takeaway from MAX 2018. During my three days at MAX, I had the chance to speak with multiple STEAM educators from all levels, medical professionals from Johns Hopkins University, engineers, and even folks from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). How appropriate that all of these brilliantly diverse minds converge at an event coined “The Creativity Conference.” Why, you might ask, would this annual event attract such diverse, typically nontraditional creatives? I reflect on the words of Marshall McLuhan written in 1964, “The hybrid or the meeting of two media is a moment of truth and relevant from which new form is born. For the parallel between two media holds us on the frontiers between forms that snap us out of the Narcissus-narcosis. The moment of the meeting of media is a moment of freedom and release from the ordinary trance a numbness imposed by them on our senses” (“Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man”). The aforementioned, nontraditional thinkers have come to reimagine creativity, to rethink innovation.
Adobe’s stance on creativity in general transcends mediums. Their stance goes far beyond the conference’s technical tutorials (which were amazing, BTW) and the MAX Sneaks (which blew my mind once again). The conference is about utilizing design-forward thinking to approach the real-world issues, break through communicative hurdles, and, ultimately, to create positive social change. The conference is now a welcoming place where innovators of all practices and backgrounds can come together to discuss creative innovation.
Creativity can be used to empower, evoke, and influence social change. Adobe has always provided us tools to help communicate our vision, but Adobe MAX now provides the stage for this interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation to occur. As an educator I applaud Adobe for the event and, more importantly, I salute the nontraditional creatives that attended. I leave Adobe MAX 2018 inspired, creatively refueled, and energized to continue breaking down perceived limits of creativity. Adobe MAX has reaffirmed to me that the future is bright and belongs to those who create.
*References: McLuhan, H. Marshall. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. New York: Mentor