Two weeks ago, Adobe put on their annual conference Adobe Max. This is generally the (very expensive) must-attend conference of the year. It’s part Adobe infomercial, part networking party, part workshop, part whos who design talk, part celebrity sighting, part three days off from work extravaganza. In May, Adobe decided to move the conference online. Adobe promised Max’s digital version would be “one of the most immersive, imaginative, and innovative digital events of the year” and would be “open to everyone at no cost.” There was a lot of excitement among the creative team at Swarm and within the industry at large because Adobe took an event that often felt elite and expensive and made it inclusive and available for all. The Swarm team combed through the extensive catalog of offerings, from inspirational talks by Oliver Jeffers (a stand out of the conference) to workshops on advanced prototyping in XD and planned out our three days of the conference.

The first day started with the Adobe Max Keynote, and almost immediately, I realized that what usually made a conference feel special didn’t translate to this digital version. It was missing the sense of community—that electric feeling of being in a room with your design peers and heroes. And watching a celebrity on-screen, in this case, Conan O’Brien trying to tell design jokes, didn’t feel exciting or special. It just felt like more screen time. More isolated. And with my Slack still going a mile a minute in the background it was hard to disconnect and immerse in the Max experience. Overall it felt like a missed opportunity to be innovative. I wish Adobe took a risk and tried to do something different, to find a way to break through the zoom; even if it didn’t work, it would have been great to see a brand of their size really go for it. And it would have been memorable regardless if it was successful. Broadcasting a talk live, even if it’s free, isn’t enough to make an impact. Even though we found the event format lacking, there were some great nuggets worth watching. Adobe has most of the content on-demand for free (if you have a subscription). Here’s what the Swarm creative team thinks is worth watching:

  • Acrobatic, Sentient, Shape-Shifting Typography with Variable Fonts

    Charles Nix, Creative Type Director at Monotype, leads this discussion on Variable Fonts. These OpenType Font Variations are revolutionizing the way we see and use type. They are a single font file containing all font styles (weight, width, slant) and provide the ability to fine-tune variations to the point. More type in a much smaller package! This single file font is a web workhorse – offering rich typographic experiences without the previous bandwidth and latency costs. Nix also shares examples of animation possibilities and graphic styles that push the boundaries and make us rethink the traditional typographic form. With the robust options to control optical sizing and so many other variables – these fonts can make any designer feel like they have superpowers!

  • XD Demo Deep Dive

    The new 3D transform feature was a highlight shared by Howard Pinsky, Senior Evangelist, XD. This new feature lets you add design components in 3D spaces and adds a new dimension to your design. 3D transform pairs nicely with the auto animate feature allowing you to mimic 3D animations, card flip interactions, and much more. Other cool new XD features include stacks and smart padding.

  • What’s New in Photoshop? Features, Time-Saving Tools, and More

    The most notable new photoshop feature is a set of image editing tools that Adobe calls “neural filters.” These AI-powered features use machine learning algorithms that are trained on a plethora of images. Some of the new tools include: skin smoothing, style transfer (transfer a look and feel of one image to another), colorize (trained on thousands of images to generate color to black and white images), artifact removal (easily remove gradient artifacts visible from image compression), and smart portrait (adjust a subjects age or facial expression with simple sliders). Most of these features are still in beta and are far from perfect, but are still an exciting advancement towards integrating artificial intelligence within Adobe products.

  • Quick Tips for Creating the Most Engaging Social Media Videos

    In today’s online world there is a lot of buzz surrounding social media content creation and how to take your brand to the next level. Filmmaker and world champion skimboarder, Amber Torrealba, introduces Adobe Rush, the first all-in-one, multi-device app for creating and sharing social videos. In 30 min, she walks users through how she makes attention-grabbing video content from the palm of her hand. Using the Adobe Rush mobile app the audience is given some “tips and tricks” on how to take their content on social media to the next level. Swarm social media team took this lesson into practice and found ourselves having a lot of fun exploring Adobe Rush’s easy-to-use tools. We will for sure be using this tool moving forward, so give us a follow and keep an eye out for upcoming videos across our social media channels!

Our biggest takeaway from Max is that content is king. Adobe said they had “hundreds of thousands of creatives from over 200 countries” participate in the conference. If the content is of high quality then folks will tune in. Where we see a lot of opportunity is the intersection of content and user experience. Merging the two is a challenge designers face every day and in this new normal will have to be increasingly creative in how they tackle it. Overall 7/10 would attend again.