A few days ago I finished a tour poster for Dead & Company that will be released on November 14. I worked on it throughout the month of October, just after I had the pleasure of attending AdobeMax, Adobe’s “Creativity Conference” where they bring the design community together annually to awe and inform us with new products.

On top of deeply inspiring keynotes and Sneeks – their much anticipated annual event wherein they tell you the most exciting new products on the horizon – I also partook in four instructional sessions a day for three days. I learned more in those few days than I have anywhere else in a long time, and I absolutely loved it.

Inevitably, some of the skills I learned at AdobeMax influenced the poster I was working on, and you when you see that poster, you might notice some new elements to my style. As I was finishing the illustration, it occurred to me I should pass on some of this new knowledge, so here’s a list of my favorite things I learned at my first AdobeMax, and while I’m at it, a couple sneak peeks of my poster:

The five best things I learned at Adobe Max

    1. Adobe sees that the demand for creative work is increasingly incredibly fast (they call it “content velocity”) and they have made major investments in developing tools for optimizing creative workflow, which they have linked together through their Creative Cloud platform. If you use Adobe products and you aren’t already using creative synch and libraries, start using them right now! Through creative synch and shared libraries, collaborators can move from mobile to desktop to tablet and back again without missing a beat.  The distinction between platforms will no doubt become increasingly blurry, as creative professionals grow accustomed to working in synchronicity across all platforms.


    1. AdobeCapturePalette_SaveAdobe has created an awesome suite of mobile apps to give creatives the ability to create seamlessly whenever, wherever. My favorite of these apps are Capture and Comp.  Capture allows you to create palettes, shapes, brushes & looks from anything your camera can see. For example, here I was able to create a palette by taking a picture of a close up of my new poster on my laptop screen.  When I save it in Capture it is automatically loaded in to my libraries and synced to the desktop copy of Photoshop I’m running, and I could use this palette to create more imagery to go with this poster if I needed to.Or, another example – let’s say I was working on an illustration where I was struggling to get the colors in a landscape right, and then I went for a walk to clear my head and I saw a really awesome sunset, I could take a picture of that sunset to create a palette in Capture and by the time I was home, the palette would be loaded in Photoshop ready for me to work with. Or I could send that library to a collaborator and they could update the colors from that palette while I finished my walk.  Same goes for the ability to create brushes, shapes, and looks within the app. Pretty cool!


    1. Adobe recognized the many frustrations involved in the responsive design process and responded to it (haha) by adding artboards to Photoshop and upgrading AdobeMuse with the ability to create all your screen views in one document. Designers who don’t want to learn any coding will find AdobeMuse particularly useful. For someone like me, who can write some code but isn’t a coder per se, the thought of designing for web with AdobeMuse sounds downright relaxing.


    1. Adobe has taken the snooze out of Desktop publishing and turned it in to a dynamic process with InDesign animations, integration with Muse (seamless desktop to web publishing), and Comp, their mobile app for designing layouts on the go. Files created in Comp come into InDesign or Illustrator as one layer but if you look at the sub layers you’ll find every asset you created in Comp so it remains fully editable. Not only that, but InDesign now publishes to web, and with the expanded abilities of Muse, the opportunities to integrate marketing materials across platforms has never been greater.  I’m excited to start incorporating some of these techniques in to the design of LittleHippie.com and our brand new digital catalog.


  1. Adobe has a strong network of highly skilled creatives who have created an abundance of material to learn from. blurred distanceWhether at the conference itself, on Lynda.com, or on sites personal to each professional, these creatives are highly valuable instructors. My favorite part of the conference was the chance to watch some of these creators work, and to pick up some little tricks in the process. I took a couple of sessions with creature artist Aaron Blaise who is probably best known for his work on Disney’s the Lion King. Sometimes the simplest of ideas lead to the biggest of breakthroughs, and from Blaise I learned to use the blur tool to create depth of field in Photoshop. Normally committed to an exhausting level of detail, this suggestion allowed me to loosen up my style and it created my favorite part of this new poster – the far distance. Blaise also discussed using layer blending techniques to create different kinds of shadows, and from those suggestions I was able to create a type of light in the far distance that I hadn’t ever drawn before.

What’s really amazing about Adobe is that they aren’t just creating digital tools for creatives, they are also creating a creator community. One of the core tenants of the Little Hippie philosophy is that companies should create community, so I was thrilled to discover the way Adobe treated attendees of their annual conference like they were the most valuable people on earth. The truth is, to Adobe, they are. Without creatives, there’s no reason for them to develop creative tools. Lucky for me, opportunities for creative professional have continued to emerge, and Adobe products have been right there alongside me, evolving every day.

I have been working with Adobe products since 1999 when I first started exploring Photoshop. In January of 2000 I took a four week intensive class in Illustrator at Parsons School of Design. This was my first winter as a freelancer, when I was attempting to be a photographer, and I wanted to learn how to design things like letterhead and business cards for myself.

At the same time I registered taylorswope.com and my friend Ben built me a very basic 20 page portfolio site. He set it up in Dreamweaver (which wasn’t yet Adobe) for me and taught me how to make changes to it. For the next few years I’d call Ben whenever I had a question, and from that site (and that software) I learned how to write HTML and CSS.

The next winter I started experimenting with Illustrator as a creative tool, and I learned how to draw with a Wacom stylus with very little experience having ever drawn with anything else. Those early illustrations were fueled by that old mother of invention, necessity. I didn’t have a job, and both the economy and the city I lived in were in ruins. I needed something to sell, something I could create myself, and t shirts with art on them proved a good place to start. Read the full story here.

TraintracksAfter a couple of years drawing in Illustrator, I began using to understand Photoshop as more than just a tool for developing and retouching photos, and it was in the full spectrum of digital illustration that Photoshop facilitates that I eventually found my niche.  I still use Illustrator almost every day, and I find it particularly useful as a compliment to my work in Photoshop.  When drawing elements in perspective with tight line work, Illustrator is the best way to create those objects.  Then you bring the object in to Photoshop and paint on, over and around it, such as I did with these train tracks.

My evolution as both an artist and a business owner have been parallel tracks, both very much guided by technology.  As a Ruby on Rail site, LittleHippie.com is dependent on an entirely different set of tools for development, but if I hadn’t learned HTML and CSS from Dreamweaver, I would be completely lost in it. Although I do not write the code that powers the site, I can navigate it enough to oversee development and determine what to include in the architecture. I can also make it look like I want it to by combining my Photoshop & Illustrator skills with CSS.

And that is the beauty of Adobe software. They offer an ever growing suite of services to make it possible for you to create anything you can envision, throughout your career.

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