26 November, 2020
Welcome to How to Web Live! The show you need to watch to discover the stars of the technology world sharing insights and lessons of their journeys so far. Every other Thursday, log in on YouTube and get inspired!
This Focus episode, find out from Paul Chirita (Digital Media Director at Adobe) and Carmen Ruse (Design Manager at Adobe), about the process and the learnings behind building Adobe XD, and also about how UX designers will collaborate in the future with their teams, in a conversation with Paolo Ertreo (Product Design and Strategy at Dropbox).
Adobe has historically focused upon the creation of multimedia and creativity software products, with a more recent foray into digital marketing software. Adobe is best known for its Adobe Flash web software ecosystem, Photoshop image editing software, Adobe Illustrator vector graphics editor, Acrobat Reader, the Portable Document Format (PDF), and Adobe Creative Suite, as well as its successor Adobe Creative Cloud.
Carmen and Paul went behind the scenes and shared invaluable insights into the advance of design processes and the future of collaborative design. Here is a sneak peek into their discussion:
Listen to the full discussion on Spotify and Apple Podcasts too.
3 takeaways from Paul, Carmen and Paolo’s discussion:
►”Never waste a crisis. And this kind of forced us to just become better storytellers, because it’s a lot harder to tell your story through a screen to everybody. So I think that’s like the bigger force that pushes us to explain better and understand and ask the right questions, regardless of tools, and all those kinds of things. And of course, the obvious one is just collaboration. In the past it used to be a differentiator for different tools, but now it’s just the baseline expectation for any type of team.” – Carmen, on the several ways in which the pandemic has influenced designer’s workflows.
►”But then I think one of the crucial aspects is to be able to break it down into more incremental, measurable milestones. And then, like you said, sometimes things don’t perform the way you expected, and that’s okay. And I agree having like a growth mindset and thinking of experimentation, slowly rolling out things, reeling them back at fixing things, I think that’s crucial to a healthy and successful product development.” – Paolo, on the importance of measuring results throughout various iterations.
►”And yeah, 3D, for example, one engineer just put that together. He thought about why couldn’t we take the 2D designs that we have and convert them, or transform them into 3D? And he just found some time after MAX, in between things, and yeah, found a few days to put together a prototype. And then when everybody saw what one can do, it was ‘Whoa, let’s, let’s do this!’ And then a lot of execs support came, time, funding, other engineers were helping and so on.” – Paul, on the importance of hackathons and individual initiative in product development.
Are you more into Reading? The Full Transcript is below!
Paolo: Hi, everybody! Welcome to a new episode of How to Web live! My name is Paolo, I’m a product designer at Dropbox and I’ll be your host. I’m joined today by Paul-Alexandru Chirița, Director of Digital Media Romania, at Adobe and Carmen Ruse, also senior UX designer at Adobe, and I hope I said those correctly. I wanted to start out with a personal question. As a designer, I often get asked, how did I get into design? Does someone have to go to a design school to be a designer? So the question I would have for the both of you this morning would be ‘Can you tell us a little more of how you got to where you are now? And how you kind of entered into this field?’
Carmen: Okay, I’ll start. Well, I entered the sort of this area through architecture. So I studied architecture, and then slowly, I realised that a lot of the things that I’ve learned during school could apply in software as much as in architecture. And actually I joined Adobe as an intern and they just stayed, 9 years later, I’m still here.
Paul: Yeah, my background is on engineering, on computer science and I have actually started as a scientist, working in search engines, and then I moved to Adobe. And over time, I broadened my role to also do product work. The connection to design happened maybe 7-8 years ago, when we started bringing in design projects in Adobe Romania. And 5 years ago, actually took helm of the DMV, the digital media organisation, and now we have five streams. In Bucharest, probably the most important one is Adobe XD not just for this event, but for us as an organisation. We actually have the core product in Bucharest and we also do a few other design related things, like contributions to Photoshop, for example, we did neural filters, which was shipped at Adobe Max, this year and a few other things. So we’ve been very close to design over the past years.
Paolo: Okay, so it seems like we were all going to be speaking common language today. Shifting gears a little bit, I was thinking back on the past seven, eight months and it’s been a hard time for everybody in the world, and for those of us fortunate enough to be able to work from home and kind of adopted distributed working model. I, as a designer, I’ve seen that I’ve had to kind of reinvent myself and find new tools to do my day to day job, whether that’s, you know, finding ways to have digital sticky notes, to run a brainstorm in a distributed way with people around the world. Or just ways to whiteboard when you’re in a meeting, because we don’t have that physical contact anymore. So I’m kind of thinking, well, if the two of you can tell me a little more about how do you see a designer’s workflow changing, given the state of the world right now with COVID? And it’s likely to change for the long term, even after COVID is out of our lives? So maybe Carmen, you can start off and then Paul you can share your perspective on this.
Carmen: Yeah, sure. I guess I can start with just the structure of our team, we are spread across three, or even four times zones. So having everybody remote kind of put us on equal ground, or all equally a square somewhere on BlueJeans, or Zoom. And that also kind of forced us to experiment all sorts of ways to remain connected, remain engaged, be there and listen and can replace that, you know, hallway conversations, and we try different things. We tried Discord, we tried online games, we tried virtual coffees. So that’s kind of just on the dynamics of our team to remain connected. But I guess the bigger thing or the bigger impact is, like, you know: ‘Never waste a crisis.’ And this kind of forced us to just become better storytellers, because it’s a lot harder to tell your story through a screen to everybody. So I think that’s like the bigger force that pushes us to explain better and understand and ask the right questions, regardless of tools, and all those kinds of things. And of course, the obvious one is just collaboration. In the past it used to be a differentiator for different tools, but now it’s just the baseline expectation for any type of team. And it needs to support all sorts of ways of organising and collaborating. So we’re actively looking of using all those tools that help us collaborate with that in design, or brainstorms and all those kinds of media.
Paul: Cool. Yeah, I was thinking to take it even to a broader level. So I would say, especially for us, in the Eastern Europe, this has been net positive, the COVID. In terms of work, of course, not in terms of other things. There are many pluses, first, for instance, in bigger companies, not just Adobe, we can now find the executives and meet with them easier, because they don’t need to travel all the way, get a lot of time allocated, you can just find 30 minutes with them. So it’s much easier. And I would guess, obviously, I haven’t been close to startups lately, but I would guess it’s similar with a VC to get his or her time easier. So that’s definitely a benefit, then along these lines. You can also attend conferences easier, we made Adobe MAX free and we’ve seen a tremendous increase. And I’ve seen other conferences like the Microsoft Build, and so on, I think Microsoft Build was free. So we’ve seen a few such events that became free and got a lot more traction, and easier. Again, you don’t need to travel all the way there, you can access content, and so on. Off sides can happen easier, you don’t need to go there. And we have seen generally, that remote works. So I’m actually thinking remote is here to stay, even past the pandemic, we will benefit from it. And it will be in terms of work again, it will be positive for our region. Of course, there are a few downsides, because people need to stay late in the evening, for instance, because especially for us, but I will assume for many companies, the execs and venture capitalists are in the West or in the US. So you have to shift your schedule a bit, so you may actually get more tired. And then also for some people in multiple companies, I’ve seen friends that their line between work and non-work was blurring a bit and they had worked a bit too hard. So there are some downsides. But I think this is an advantage or region, and I hope, as I said, it’s here to stay.
Paolo: Yeah, that’s interesting, because I see a lot of companies here, and I’m based in San Francisco, so here in Silicon Valley, and we’ve seen more and more companies announced that they’re moving towards a distributed model. So I think you’re right, it’s here to stay. And we’ll definitely see, I think like, more collaborative tools flourish, and that’s going to be just the new norm. And even to think about, we’re at a nine hour timezone difference. And we’re speaking right now. So this is the future. Before COVID hit, we were seeing kind of a boom or a renaissance of design tools, becoming more collaborative and living away from saving locally on your computer and having, you know, kind of a silo of your design file and having to ask someone for it and sending it over. Versus the future which is kind of a centralised place, where everybody can come together, cross functional partners, not only designers and I think about it almost as a sorts of virtual town square, where people can get together. Collaborate designers can do their work, but they can also showcase it, advocate for it, all within one space. And I think of Adobe XD, which is obviously one of the key players in this field. So speaking to the two of you, and especially starting out with Carmen, if you can answer this question, having worked on Adobe XD, can you tell us a little more about what it is? Some of the listeners might not be familiar with it or might not have used it yet.
Carmen: Sure. So Adobe XD is the user experience design platform where teams come in and build the best experience at scale. And we cater to designers of any kind, of any flavour, working either in bigger companies or smaller teams, and also of different experiences, from students to any type of senior designer. And what we’re aiming at is to help the entire team to communicate, to design prototype, share, and expand their results and gather feedback. And basically, as a platform, we also want to bridge the gap between all those feedback loops. So instead of you designing and then waiting for an answer, we want to be the place where the entire team gathers and looks at the same thing, at the same source of truth, and they all understand the same story and the same design intent, and get their feedback as fast as possible. Because that’s kind of the simplistic way.
Paolo: Thanks for that. I agree. Speaking as a designer, so obviously, I have my own bias perspective, I think, in the best cases, we are connective tissue on cross functional teams. And successful designers, in my opinion, are highly collaborative. So having these tools available to us can only make us more successful, in my opinion. Question for Paul around Adobe XD actually, for Carmen and Paul, can you say more about the process that went into building the product? So obviously, we know the product is more recent compared to others. I’m curious to know how you chose what functionality to develop. First, how you prioritise what a design sprint, or development sprint looks like, experimentation? Just tell us a little more about how you guys built this. And we can start with Carmen, I think.
Carmen: Yeah, sure. Well, I guess the obvious one is, we’re super lucky to have users, like designers like us. So we’re both building it for us. But also, as you probably know, designers aren’t shy of letting their opinions be known. From my experience, we’ve had so many interactions with the design community to understand better and for them to kind of come to us, to tell us what they need for us to solve. So that’s kind of a huge advantage, to have this type of design community to be very open to improving and understanding the product. And also, we have different ways of gathering this type of feedback, we have user voice where our entire team, both PMs engineers and designers look at all the requests and users and a vote on them. And we also obviously have a wide range of different types of research that we do. And they’re usually just adapted to the type of problem we’re trying to solve. Being Adobe, we have a huge history of building design tools and a huge breadth of knowledge that we can tap into. But also there are some, you know, new and interesting problems that we’re looking at, where we work together with the research team, and help us build larger studies. But also, we do a lot of guerrilla research, depending on how fast we need to deliver a product or a feature or, you know, understand the different problem. We either reach our personal networks, or you know, back in the days, we used to go to a colleague that wasn’t a designer just to validate that what we’re doing is easy to understand, easy to grasp. And also just, you know, working and asking the design community, that’s the biggest process. And the other aspect is that we work really closely with our engineers and PMs. And we’re always trying to build as much as possible proofs of concept. So we can easily test them out. That’s kind of the baseline, we try always to test out, to first understand the problem and define it, and then to build something that we can use to test quickly and get feedback and iterate on that. And going to the engineers, we have a very talented team of engineers, is just the best thing I’ve ever worked with. And they’re so detail oriented, and they understand so well, the fact that they’re actually developing for designers, and they understand the importance of all those tiny little details that really make a difference and that are important for us. So they stress all those kinds of things and also come with a lot of suggestions and technical solutions that we have no way to, you know, to understand or think of, because we were not in that side of the product. It’s a very good mix in the team of passionate and smart people that kind of go the extra mile all the time to understand and refine things.
Paul: Yeah, Carmen did a good job discussing the pre-ship measurements, so I should actually cover the other side, the post-ship. And there are many things we can do, some of the things that we did were, for example, to ship features incrementally, so we don’t ship it to everybody at once. And of course, with pretty much all features, we also measure them actively, not just whatever, how many clicks, how many users employed. But things like the pieces of it, the workflow, does everybody discover the feature? So we measure all of those things, and we actually improve features post-ship. I’m actually a big advocate of this. So most of the times you cannot get it right from the get go. It’s mostly right, but not perfect. And, generally, you shouldn’t just throw it out there and forget. You should take a look for the next few weeks or months and iterate a few times until it’s actually right. Yeah, there are a few others, I think these are the big ones.
Paolo: Yeah, thanks for answering that. Because I’m also a big fan of measuring things, I often speak a lot about experimentation, and I should say I work on a growth team at Dropbox. And I’ve been working in growth for a few years now and I like having, kind of as a designer, designing a concept car, I call it, so a vision of what things could be. But then I think one of the crucial aspects is to be able to break it down into more incremental, measurable milestones. And then, like you said, sometimes things don’t perform the way you expected, and that’s okay. And I agree having like a growth mindset and thinking of experimentation, slowly rolling out things, reeling them back at fixing things, I think that’s crucial to a healthy and successful product development. So I am really happy to hear you guys are also doing that. Shifting gears a little bit. And I think back to my own personal experience using Adobe, I didn’t say this earlier, but I actually have a degree in illustration animation. So I think back to my days and in art school. Those were the first tools I actually use, like when I started using computers and getting familiar with them. So Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, After Effects, Flash. My first job, I was working at a mobile video game company, we would design interfaces with Photoshop, and then compose them in Flash, which right now to think of that is quite interesting, because things have changed so fast. So just coming from my perspective, as a creative, I was using these tools as a creative and highly creative tools on highly creative projects. And I think the traditional user base of Adobe was probably a set of individuals like me, video makers, graphic designers, photographers. And I think back to the recent shift into designing software for product designers, for UX designers. So I guess my question for you, Paul would be, how do you think that decade long experience that Adobe had designing for a more creative audience, a different group of folks, how do you think that helped with creating Adobe XD instead?
Paul: While it definitely contributed a lot. So as you well pointed out, we have a ton of expertise. I think creativity is not necessarily our number one, but a key market for us and this is what Adobe used to do for most of its existence, right? So we have expertise, not only in product, but also in engineering, in algorithms, for example, on graphic processing and things like that. Across many creative verticals, if I am to saying like Photoshop would be for imaging, but also sometimes for design and others, Illustrator for vector art, and maybe also others as well, then on video as well with Premiere and After Effects, so there are many creative verticals, and generally, these guys work closely together. So Carmen mentioned earlier, we already had access to these guys, when we created the XD. And, yeah, this was a big plus for us and also, we want to give our users the ability to make use of all these features in these other products in Creative Cloud, so not just XD as in itself. And that’s why, in fact, we built in XD integrations, right, we build edit in Photoshop. So if you if you have an image, and you want to get that image, I know better process, do some advanced things like filters or whatnot on it, you can use edit in Photoshop, or we have a deep integration with Illustrator as well, for deeper vector graphics. If you want to do video, you can actually do some light animations in XD already, we have a very strong prototyping area. But if you want to do it more advanced, we have an integration with After Effects and you can send the prototype to After Effects. So yeah, we definitely use all of these areas, you can use Adobe fonts, in XD as well. So there are dozens of integrations. And it’s actually one of the more important areas for our team in Bucharest, all of these integrations.
Carmen: And to add to that, there’s a lot of knowledge and lessons learned, let’s say, from all the ways our UI changed in over time. If you look at Photoshop and Illustrator, it was basically do it yourself and kind of customise everything. And now, because it’s a lot harder, and the cognitive load becomes a lot bigger, we’re kind of drawing Adobe towards this new way of lighter tools and more contextual tools. And that’s also kind of based on the foundation that Fireworks built, if you remember it, it was actually the the UX design tool back in 1990, something. And we still that foundation of being contextual, being for the web being, you know, integrated with all the tools, and more.
Paolo: It seems like the whole ecosystem is just very beneficial to XD plugging into the existing Adobe ecosystem. So shifting gears a little bit towards the future. One thing I wanted to ask you, Carmen, is how do you see future design trends? Coming kind of on the horizon? But most of all, how did you weave them into Adobe XD?
Carmen: Okay, so well, I guess I can start with the invisible one, the one that is very subtle, and it’s related to speed and performance, and this is something that we had from the beginning. And I see, we want it to be the fastest design tool, so we could help you design at the speed of thought, and we’re just designing and looking at our users and every human being on Earth right now. We’re all kind of bombarded with a lot of information in order to get results faster in seconds, not in hours. And we’re trying to be as fast and as responsive and as contextual as possible, so we help the user wherever they need to be. That’s one of the trends. And the other one is, again, the obvious one, design is a team sport, is not something that you do on your own in your perfect little bubble. It has to involve all sorts of roles, all sorts of types and flavours of people. So we’re trying to breach that feedback loop. We’re trying to bring developers into the process and help them understand what designers want to build, and how and all those kinds of details. And also, we bring all the stakeholders, PMs, clients, to just easily check up on the process and on the progress of your design. Just all of them in the same place. And one of the things that I’m really passionate about is just the fact that we’re not designing only for pixels anymore. So there’s so many other of surfaces that we need to design, and it’s a lot. There’s the rise of all these kinds of, you know, smart technology and assistance like Alexa theory, which are basically opening up the door for a lot more types of interactions and products in itself. And we added voice and audio as well. So you essentially can build in XD, just a prototype that doesn’t have any kind of interface and you just test it on a Google Assistant, or, you know, on Alexa. We also build gamepad support, so we’re helping the game design industry to bring their prototypes faster to users to test out their games, which was before a lot harder to do, you had to kind of fake it out to actually get real feedback and useful feedback. And I guess the kind of connected to this is just motion design in general, because it’s a lot easier with all the design tools today to build those kind of delightful micro interactions. This is also kind of a trend that we’re seeing. And we want, as Paul said, we want to build in XD the best prototyping part. So you’d be able to build anything you can imagine, and not only build it, you can test it really easy. And you can also communicate it to your developers rather than kind of showing a pretty animation and they have to guess it out. We help them understand what we’re doing there, and all the details. I hope I answered.
Paolo: Yeah, that was really interesting, thanks! And, Paul, I’ll ask you a similar question. Any forward looking trends, not necessarily related to Adobe XD. You’re seeing or are any stories you can tell us around those forward looking trends?
Paul: Yeah, so I would start with those related to XD in a way. I think, well, not only in XD, but one of the trends that we are seeing is designing for multiple surfaces. Right now, web and mobile are still kind of centrepiece in a way. But we are seeing more and more additional surfaces that actually grow in popularity. This is why in XD, we started adding things like gaming support, and voice that Carmen mentioned. With gaming, we can now support pretty much, well not any, but many consoles with relatively little customization, so that we can actually reach out to a large number of people. And I think these features have actually been used by one of our customers Land Rover, for instance. They designed one of their infotainment systems in XD, so they were able to actually show that prototype a lot faster, because we have all these functionalities built in. And at the end of the day, what mattered with all the surfaces, and I let Carmen expand a bit on the surfaces, but at the end of the day, what mattered with all the surfaces was that we are reducing significantly the time from design to approval, because you can design faster, you can prototype a lot faster, and then you can show it to stakeholders. And yeah, we are saving designers a lot of time with all these features. Also on inclusive design and multiple surfaces, I will ask Carmen to explore and then I’ll come back, and in the meantime I can think of about a few other trends besides the multiple service.
Carmen: Yeah, sure. Okay, so I mentioned that voice and this kind of area is something that’s really close to me. And it’s because it enables us to design for a larger audience, and when I say larger, I mean all types of people, not just your regular able bodied user or designer. So it helps designers of all types of impairments or limitations to use their voice, for example, to design, to use XD. And also, it helps the normal designers to build those products and test them out for any kind of user, which could have different impairments, visual or whatnot. And I strongly believe that to build a design that actually solves the problem, you need to test it out a lot, and if you don’t have the tools that help you test as close as possible to the real thing, you won’t get the actual feedback that you need. So by building these types of design tools that help you fake those products before they are built, and actually incrementally improve them, we won’t be able to push these types of new technologies. And it’s the same with a new feature that we just launched called 3D Transforms, which actually helps you build designs or tweak designs as if they were in perspective, let’s say, so you’d be able to build AR or VR technologies. And up until recently, these were buzzwords that were being used by a lot of people, but it’s really hard to push this industry forward without the tools to test them out and put them in the hands of users and see where they struggle, if they understand well all the nuances. By adding these types of functionalities, not only just the flat design, just the pixels on your screen, it helps designers kind of validate their ideas and push their industries in a sense forward and improve and adjust. I think that’s kind of the gist of it.
Paolo: One thing I wanted to add real quick to that, before you go, Paul, would be, I like how you both mentioned speed and these tools are enabling designers to move at speed and companies to move at speed because that’s crucial. But also being able to validate ideas, whether it’s with users, with test participants internally, with stakeholders, before even writing a line of code. I think that’s something that wasn’t possible as easily as now years ago, and it really empowers designers. So I’m very, very big fan of that. Sorry, Paul, do you want to go ahead?
Paul: No, before I go ahead, actually, I should invite you to try out 3D Transforms, the last one that Carmen mentioned. It’s really cool for AR and VR and things like that. And I’ve seen some really cool things there. And it’s built in Bucharest, so that makes me proud.
Paolo: Big fan of Bucharest.
Paul: Thank you.
Paolo: I was there last year.
Paul: I wanted to add another trend, which I have seen lately developing, is designer to developer collaboration. This has actually been there forever, in a way. But as the industry evolved, it’s one of those areas where I am seeing now more and more, I don’t know, fruition, if you want. More apps, more startups, trying to solve that problem, improve the workflow fast and the cooperation between the two very important pillars. And yeah, definitely we try to address that in XD as well, we have just shipped an integration with Visual Studio code to address it. But yeah, it’s not about XD, it’s about the trend in general. I’m seeing a lot of people trying to fix this problem or to improve it.
Paolo: I agree. Before we part ways, a question, perhaps that Paul, you can answer: what’s coming up on the roadmap, anything interesting, we might be able to share? I don’t know if you can share anything with us.
Paul: I cannot share much, and by the way, perhaps I should use this opportunity to mention that whatever we say here is our own point of view if you want, it’s not like an official Adobe point of view. And in general, we are not execs, so even I share my thoughts, but we are no decision makers on the roadmap on XD. But my thoughts and I would assume Carmen’s are as well that everything is around the all in one. And if I look at our main competitors, if you want, like Figma, Sketch, InVision, in principle, they all started with maybe one area on the focus, Sketch was on design, Figma on collaboration, InVision on the review part, at least this is how I perceived all of these, right? And I have seen these over time, evolved to a more all in one. And in general, from the roadmap, what I can share is that we have generally looked at being an all in one tool from the beginning, probably because we are a larger company, and we will continue to cater for the all in one-ness. So this is one area, and the other area is that we will continue to keep closely the other creative cloud app, so we will work on integrations, maintain them and actually improve them, because we believe there is even more value we can bring. So I guess you will see cross creative cloud apps in the future as well. We have just shipped something around the Creative Cloud libraries, which is something that allows you to share assets across products. Obviously, that can be a lot more done in moving assets across all these apps and making, as mentioned, some minutes ago, making use of their strengths, because each one has a strength. Yeah, I hope I was not going too broad, but basically the gist of is all in one and Creative Cloud.
Paolo: Yeah, that’s a good segue into another unscripted thing that that I wanted to ask. It seems like, I think back to my experience when I was in design school, and I had Photoshop on a CD ROM, and, you know, it was quite expensive, if I remember correctly, and instead, we’re moving towards a world where these tools become more available. All these design tools, like all tools, essentially are becoming more available to everyone. Even the physical barriers of having the CD ROM, you just can try it free. Some of them are in the cloud, you instal them, price points might be more gentle. I’m wondering, do you see or do you think that’ll change the landscape of people getting into the world of design? So have we lowered the barrier to entry for folks that enter design? Can both of you share your thoughts there? If you have any?
Paul: Yeah, if you want Carmen, I can go first. I mean, I think the answer is ‘absolutely’. You know, XD has a free tier, which covers the vast majority of the functionality. And that has definitely lower the bar and has definitely enabled a lot of people to try it out, and many of them stick with it, of course. And I have seen that in the market as well, so yes. Even, you know, Adobe was one of the pioneers in moving subscriptions from that CD ROM area times that you mentioned, I think it was like $1800, the Creative Cloud and maybe around $1000 just Photoshop. And then we moved to $50 per month for everything, which is like more than a dozen apps. Which, if you count, it actually gets cheaper. But of course it enabled us to reach a lot more people, to have a lot more people use our apps, and yeah, it was definitely a fantastic thing, and I can thank whoever thought this, because Adobe has been doing great with this move. And it’s not just about Adobe, I mean, it’s the whole market, I’m seeing it’s moving downstream, because there are many ways that both the companies can make money and the designers can actually use the tool. So it’s definitely a win-win thing.
Carmen: And it’s not only that if you look at just how many creative apps there are on iPads, or even on phone. So it just bringing these types of tools of any, from any kind of company, to people who maybe don’t really think of them as designers or creatives, but they have those accessible tools and easy to understand, tools that they can use and they can, you know, start the wheels turning, in a way. So bringing this type tools to as many people as possible, it potentially can create so many new products, so many new ideas, and all sorts of things. And is the same thing that we’re doing in Adobe, where we already launched Illustrator and Photoshop for iPad, we have Fresco. So we have so many other smaller tools or tools that have the same power. But you know, the facade is a little bit more approachable and a little bit easier to understand, so you don’t have that impression that you need a diploma or you need to study for four years to actually use Photoshop. So by lowering this barrier, we’re just helping as many people as possible to use their creativity in all sorts of ways. And kind of going back to the fact that I said, we have a very talented team of developers. There are so many really interesting and creative things that they do with our tools, even if they are kind of, ‘I’m not a designer, I can’t design’, but if you look at the things that they actually play with, they can do all sorts of amazing things.
Paolo: That’s interesting. You mentioned, like, very talented developers, which I’ve had similar experience with and coming up with ideas. And, you know, I’m thinking, the companies I’ve been in, and it’s kind of a thing we do here in Silicon Valley, we carve out, depending on the company, maybe one week per year, some companies it’s twice a year, for a hackathon. So everybody in the company has a kind of a green light, to hack on something, to build their own product, build their own feature. It doesn’t have to be work related. The calendar is free from meetings, and that helps you obviously focus a lot. So when you were mentioning talking about like, developers and ideas and all that, I’m thinking, what is your experience, either at Adobe or previous companies with hackathons? Or is there anything you’ve seen really interesting come out of hackathons? I can share one story about that. Previous company, I was at Strava, one of the functionalities that was really successful, which was routes on mobile, being able to discover routes where you could go run and ride was actually a hackathon project. So it’s interesting to see how some really great ideas that are really valuable for customers and users can come out of those dedicated focus weeks. So my question to both of you would be what is your experience with that? Is it something you guys have participated in? That maybe Carmen, you can go first?
Camen: Yeah, sure. So, at least for the design team, this year was the first year we actually gathered all virtually, obviously, to have this sort of hackathon, and it was really amazing, because we forced ourselves to work on very different problems. And it was extremely fun to also work with teammates that are not that close to us in the real, you know, day to day work. And all the the solutions and the proposals that we ended up with, were actually things that we’re going to implement eventually in the product. So we started as things that don’t need to be connected to the product, but naturally, we kind of went towards things that we were passionate about solving in XD, or in Adobe in general, and some of them will be implemented eventually in the product as well.
Paul: Yeah, on the product team, I’m sorry for jumping it, I was having it in my head. On the product team, we actually have two avenues for this. We’ve been doing hackathons or garage weeks, actually, once per year for the past many years. And there have been quite a number of features that matured out of those, some of them immediately, but many of them, I don’t know, within months, nevertheless, they reached light. So this is one area, and another area which wasn’t mentioned and I think it’s important, is that some engineers are even more more passionate about these design space than others, and they are willing to start, jot down some workflows or do a very quick prototype, first maybe their own time, sometimes during our time. And when we see that, we definitely help them, give them time to build on their idea. And, in fact, because you asked for some examples, this is how the GamePad started, and also the 3D. So both of them are really important features for us now. And yeah, 3D, for example, one engineer just put that together. He thought about why couldn’t we take the 2D designs that we have and convert them, or transform them into 3D? And he just found some time in between After MAX, in between things, and yeah, found a few days to put together a prototype. And then when everybody saw what one can do, it was ‘Whoa, let’s, let’s do this!’ And then a lot of execs support came, time, funding, other engineers were helping and so on. Yeah, so there are definitely a ton of avenues to use the engineers ideas.
Paolo: It’s fascinating to think when, we’re free of day to day constraints, like meetings and, you know, messages and emails and all that, we can come up with some really cool ideas. So I think that’s one of the key ingredients of innovation, essentially, so it’s great to see companies doing this. And for any of those listening, if you have a startup, or if you’re a smaller company, I think it’s something definitely worth trying to pilot. Because people have fun doing it and it’s an opportunity for people to also collaborate, again, and we talked about collaboration and how there’s a need for collaboration even more with COVID and the current state of things, I find this is like a great way. Even to meet people outside of your team. Thinking, obviously, when we were in the office, you would all kind of huddle together in a room and come up with something and work together for a week. Now, whether we’re not physically in person anymore, some companies might shift towards distributed work, it’s also a great opportunity to meet people outside of your normal team that you can’t bump into in the hallway anymore, or you might never meet in person because they’re in another time zone. So that’s, that’s definitely interesting. I wanted to shift gears really quickly. I was thinking, you talked a lot about collaboration and the designers role. I’m wondering, I really don’t know the answer to this, what is your take on mobile? And what I mean by mobile is I know a lot of the work we do as designers or even as creatives, editing, designing, putting things together happens on more powerful machines on bigger screens, but I’m curious to know what is usage on mobile? Carmen, you were mentioning tablet apps, I think iPhone and iPad apps where you can design, and I have seen them flourish a little bit even from Adobe, there are Illustrator on tablet or on iPhone. I’m curious to see if you guys can share anything around. Do you see there’s interest for mobile? How does one’s workflow change when they’re on the go versus when they’re sitting at their desk actually creating? And maybe I’ll open it up to both of you, whoever wants to take that one?
Paul: So you’re saying design on mobile, not for mobile?
Paolo: Exactly. Well, rather, how does usage change? Because we know a lot of the creation happens when you’re at your desk, because just inherently we need a little more space to see things we need to be able to zoom in and have control, sometimes even having a mouse or a trackpad versus using your fingers. But I’m curious, as even Adobe has released apps on tablet or iPhone. How do your customers use these compared to the desktop version of them?
Carmen: Yeah, I guess it’s a chicken and egg problem kind of thing. It’s basically if the tools aren’t fit for the job, designers won’t use, you know, those tools on tablets and on the phone, because they’re not as proficient and not as accurate and not as, you know, pixel perfect as we need them to be. So it’s kind of a journey that we also started at Adobe, to bring those tools to tablets and to phones and be more and basically expand their functionality. It’s also part of the design process, if you think about it, because you don’t necessarily do all those steps on the same computer. So if you think about the initial steps of exploring and brainstorming, those could be better suited for something like a tablet app, where you draw something, similarly to what you do on a paper, but you do it on the app, and then the app, you know, saves that in the cloud and you can open that same sketch in whatever tool you need, in Photoshop or XD or you name it. So it’s kind of, instead of replacing your desktop apps is more of complementing your workflow and meeting you where you need to be. So it doesn’t have to be everything on all platforms, is just the right tool at the right time. I think that’s kind of my perspective, and sort of how I see Adobe going forward. And we’ll see, as tablets evolve, and are, you know, more and more powerful and bigger, and stronger and whatnot. All those kind of precision actions could move, as users also get used to sketching on an iPad or are already used to all those kinds of things. So it’s a process that we’re together kind of going into.
Paul: Yeah, I’ll add two more, but before that, I should say that, I think the whole mobile thing, if you want, the whole interest in mobile has grown over the years and will continue to grow. It’s not super high now, but we will continue to grow at a relatively smooth pace. And Carmen already mentioned the first steps of the design process. So you start on the go, usually out of COVID, you would be in a park or in a bus, wherever, and you would just catch things. But even now on the sofa, it’s much easier to do it on the tablet. And then you would use the desktop app or desktop/web for finishing touches, for doing like the whole thing. But there are, I would say, at least one or two more, so one would be review. So if you have a couple of designers working together, reviewing what your colleague did, that can easily be done on the tablet. And we have actually seen that. And then the other one is doing some small retouching, so you have done most of the work and you want to relax, just play with the colours or whatnot. Again, it’s something you can do on the tablet as well. So these are just some workflows that I will say not necessarily are more suitable, but are somewhat equally suitable for the mobile. And as the devices become more accurate, as you can have a stylus, actually, the styluses are pretty good already. So as the industry evolves, in a way, I think this will continue to grow, not ever become mainstream in my mind, but continue to grow.
Paolo: It’s interesting, you both mentioned sketching out on the tablet, I find myself before jumping into drawing rectangles lines and writing things out, so wireframing, high fidelity, low fidelity wireframes, I feel blocked when I do that. If I get into software and I need to map out an idea really quickly, the rectangles just don’t work for me, then I feel that the mouse or the trackpad is a bit of a barrier in some way. So I agree 100%, having a tablet, sketching something out, even on paper, but most recently moving into digital for me has been just the way, like, I’m on the sofa, I’ll sketch something out. I have an idea late at night, I’ll do it and then maybe the day after I translated it into rectangles and colours and shapes. But I found that not even having to think about which tool I’ll pick. Is that a rectangle? Is it grey? Is it black? Just removing all that level of cognitive load and just having free flowing hand, enables me to just move a lot quicker, knowing that then I can translate it into the computer really quickly. So, I don’t know, it’s fascinating to me, I think back, when I had started out, I had a drawing tablet. So I was on the computer, but I was using a drawing tablet, or I had a dry tablet with a screen on it, which was a little more clunky than just having a tablet, like an iPad or others. So it just seems that I think overall, we’re seeing technology just as playing in our favour as designers, I mean, probably in everybody’s favour as the world. But it just seems like it’s a really good time to be a designer, to become a designer, to access this world. We have YouTube, a tone of tutorial videos on YouTube, we have software that’s cost effective, that sometimes it’s even free that you can try out. So I don’t know, I just feel really good about getting into this field now and learning because it’s on our side, right? I just feel that it’s just very conducive to learning and to be able to do stuff. I think even for startups that are launching new products and people that are starting companies. It’s just become a lot easier to start a company or to set up a company, you know, launch a product, validate. Paul, you were saying like tightening the whole loop. I would say, if we’re almost at time, do you folks have any closing remarks you want to share with us, either related to what we talked about the whole time, or what I just said before we part ways?
Carmen: I guess that, because it’s very related to what you just said, I think that right now, all these tools, design tools, or any kind of tool, exactly as you said, work in our favour, and they save us a lot of time, in those kind of details that usually took a lot of time to fiddle with all those things. And it frees up that time to just focus on building something that’s actually useful, that brings value and helping us, you know, use that time to build empathy and understand our users and understand their problems and how to solve them in their best interest. That’s all.
Paul: Yeah, I should add that the designer role has grown a lot over the years. If I think like some dozen years ago, you would design for print, and that’s it, and now you have to design for so many things. So it will continue to grow if I think about AR and so on. So you definitely did a good choice, Paolo, to choose this space. And yeah, I’m happy, we work for Adobe because Adobe is the centre of creativity, at least how I see. So there will be a lot of work for us and a lot of cool work in enabling designer to do cool stuff on all these surfaces.
Paolo: Yeah, the future seems bright for folks getting into the creative world. Well, I wanted to thank both of you for taking the time to speak to me. I know it’s evening time there, so kicking off the weekend now, I guess for you guys. And I also wanted to thank How to Web for for setting this up and hosting us today. So thank you for everybody that spent the time viewing us and I hope you enjoyed what we talked about. Thank you. Bye!
Carmen: Thank you!
Paul: Thank you, guys!6
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Welcome to How to Web Live! The show you need to watch to discover the stars of the technology world sharing insights and lessons of their journeys so far. Every other Thursday, log in on YouTube and get inspired! This Focus episode, find out from Paul Chirita (Digital Media Director at Adobe) and Carmen Ruse… Read more »6
Welcome to How to Web Live! The show you need to watch to discover the stars of the technology world sharing insights and lessons of their journeys so far. Every other Thursday, log in on YouTube and get inspired! This Focus episode, find out from Paul Chirita (Digital Media Director at Adobe) and Carmen Ruse… Read more »6