5 Key Takeaways from Adobe MAX 2021

Paul Kelley, Associate Creative Director
Posted on Nov 30, 2021

Adobe MAX is always an informative and inspirational few days. Imarc’s creative department attended again this year – and I’d like to share what we learned.

1. Automate your way back to creative thinking

A lot of people underestimate how much of the creative process is just thinking about how to tackle a problem. Repetitive, menial tasks can steal that critical thinking time away from you. To make sure you keep as much of that time as possible, you need to automate easy tasks.

Communicate design changes

You could send a message to your team every time you make a design change, or they could be informed automatically. For example, when you publish design revisions to an organized workspace like Zeplin, changes are automatically posted to a Slack channel.

Utilize Photoshop/Illustrator actions

Actions in Photoshop and Illustrator can be extremely helpful. They can automate simple things like changing the resolution for every image in a folder, or set up complicated design files for print production.

Create reusable design components

Design programs like XD, Figma, and Sketch allow you to create reusable items that are easy to update. The old days of copying the same button, changing the text, and tweaking the container are over. Now all you have to do is create a component/symbol that will automatically resize depending on the text – not to mention, you can edit every instance by updating the original.

Put your design tools to work so you can use the most important tool in your arsenal: your creative mind.

2. Inclusion doesn’t have to mean restriction

Design solves problems, so it’s expected that you will find yourself designing for audiences with different needs. This doesn’t mean you have to simplify everything down into a singular experience. The challenge is to create something that people can access in ways that are best for them. We can give users the ability to toggle with the design or set preferences.

Thinking about creating a website that uses a lot of motion on scroll? That can make some people feel sick to their stomach, so give users a way to reduce motion. Want to utilize a lot of bandwidth-heavy videos? That sounds fun, but some people don’t have high-speed internet while others may only access the internet via their mobile device. You should be able to serve up static images instead for users who prefer to use less data. You can also provide light/dark themes to give users a visual choice.

3. Position your non-designer colleagues for success

As designers, we are responsible for how everything looks – whether we were the ones who made it or not. That means it’s our job to position non-designers for success and there are three major ways you can make that happen.

Provide easy-to-find brand assets

Does everyone know where to find your brand colors and logo? It is your responsibility to make sure everything is documented and easy to find. Consistency is a key to success. When you have a single location for your visual assets, you reduce the risk of old assets and off-brand colors being used. Make sure to document or provide the following:

  • Hex and RGB values for all your brand colors

  • Your logo in multiple colors and formats

  • Other graphics and/or photography used by your brand

Provide easy-to-use templates

Marketing materials can sometimes be created by someone other than a designer. To ensure those materials accurately reflect your brand, you should create templates that can be used by non-designers to streamline the process and maintain consistency. There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Create reusable symbols/components in apps like Figma or Sketch.

  • Provide a creative-approved photography repository for non-designers to pull from.

  • Leverage Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Spark to create a brand ecosystem that is easy to maintain and even easier to use regardless of experience and knowledge. These should define typography and layout for multiple aspect ratios to ensure design consistency regardless of the marketing channel.

Shrink the creative handoff gap

When you design for the web or native apps, you’ll likely be handing off your creative work to someone else for implementation. Communication is critical for success, especially in our growing WFH reality. Whether you choose to use in-app features from XD or Figma, or utilize a separate app like Avocode or Zeplin, the process should remain the same:

  • Think beyond your comps and define as much of the design system as possible so when it comes time to extrapolate your creative work most of the tools are already available.

  • Properly name your layers/groups for clean, streamlined asset export.

  • Anticipate questions as much as you can, and leave answers as notes throughout your work.

  • Define hover/active variants for things like buttons, navigation, cards, links, etc.

4. Define more with advanced prototypes

This one piggybacks the last item we talked about. Static comps do a great job of defining how things should look and feel – but how should things work? Advanced prototypes help you document your creative vision. With the newly added feature of video in XD, you have new and exciting ways to document your expectations.

Documenting motion design before implementation means more comprehensive handoffs and therefore a smoother build. Here are some key things you should define before you hand off your creative work:

  • How a video plays based on component interaction

  • How a gallery component transitions from slide to slide

  • How a loading animation loops

  • How icons/emoji animate and what happens when that animation ends

5. Get out of your comfort zone

This one is a key component for anyone’s professional growth. Push your creative boundaries. Try different techniques and styles so you can learn and grow as a designer. Push yourself to be more vocal in meetings. Trust your experience and speak up! Put yourself out there and help define a new process or advocate for a new tool. Do not be afraid to fail because you learn more from failures than successes. Take some calculated risks and push through the uncertainty because that is how you discover opportunities for growth and improvement.

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