Thursday, October 09, 2014

Reflecting on Adobe MAX

I’m flying back from the Adobe MAX conference, and trying to process all that I heard and saw. Here are my conference take-aways:

1. This was billed as the “Creativity Conference”. For many years, MAX was a developer conference. Then in recent years it morphed into a designer/developer conference. This year MAX was almost entirely a designer conference, with far fewer breakout sessions for developers, and very little developer-oriented content during the keynotes.

2. Adobe believes that mobile devices can help designers capture inspiration wherever they find themselves. See Adobe Shape CC, Adobe Color CC, and Adobe Brush CC. If these kinds  of apps can be made easy enough to use quickly and fluidly, without getting in the way, I think this is really smart.

3. Adobe thinks that designers want to sketch ideas on tablets, and that illustrators want to begin, and perhaps even finish, projects on tablets. See Adobe Illustrator DrawAdobe Illustrator Line, and Adobe Photoshop Sketch. While some illustrators are treating the tablet as a new medium, fully embracing it for content creation, and creating amazing work, other designers find it a poor substitute for physical pencil and paper for sketching. In my experience, tablet use in general by designers is not as high as some might think, so that may be a barrier in the short-term.

4. Adobe believes that photographers want to do some degree of Photoshop-style editing on tablets. See Adobe Photoshop Mix, and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

5. Adobe is in love with Microsoft. I overheard an attendee say that, “Adobe and Microsoft are getting married…or at least starting a relationship”. Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella appeared on-stage together at the end of the day 1 keynote session. They briefly mentioned some technologies that Adobe and Microsoft are working together to develop. In fact, each attendee at MAX left the conference with a free Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet and a 1-year subscription to Office 365.

6. Adobe is rethinking creative interfaces, as we know them, both for mobile and desktop use. I’m glad to see Adobe thinking about how we might use creative applications now and into the future. The versions of Illustrator CC and Photoshop CC that were released on 10/6/2014 each contain alternate interfaces for using these programs on touch-enabled Windows devices, such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. At the “Adobe Sneaks” event on Tuesday night, Adobe showed several intriguing examples of work they are doing to try to simplify drawing curves in Illustrator, creating complex patterns, and performing difficult Photoshop tasks. 

7. Adobe is continuing to think about how they can leverage cloud services for the creative user. See the new CC libraries feature in Photoshop and Illustrator.

8. From my perspective, there was a great deal of interest in Adobe DPS. I taught 3 jam-packed “Introduction to Adobe DPS" labs of 70 people each, and there were many, many other DPS labs and sessions offered throughout. All appeared to be well attended.

I’d encourage you to spend some time watching the keynote sessions here. Many of the non-lab breakout sessions were also recorded and viewed here. Some really good stuff to view!

Next year’s conference is already scheduled for October 3-7, 2015 in Los Angeles. I’d encourage you to attend.


Inkling said...

Thanks for a great report. Wish I could have been there.

I was surprised by the visibility of Microsoft. From my POV it's a bit like finding out the homecoming queen is dating the class nerd. Microsoft definitely lacks the cool it had during the mid-1990s when Windows was king. I do hope Adobe doesn't do an NFL on us and make deals with Microsoft that mean Surface devices gain an advantage over Android and iOS devices.

I hope those UI changes you mention bear fruit. I do think that Adobe needs to create:

1. An optional UI that's like the existing one but perhaps 50% larger. The mouse targets of the current on are so small they slow users down. I suspect the current panels were developed when a single 19" monitor was high end. I have a 23" and 24" one and that's not unusual. We have the space for larger panels and tool bars. It wouldn't hurt to use it.

2. You suggest that Adobe is beginning to use tablets as part of a desktop-based UI. I like that trend and hope to see it include new features:

a. Don't just replicate desktop menus and panels. Make what's happening on an attached tablet more task-oriented. The desktop UI must offer every option. Create tablet screens that do one thing and do it well. I'll give InDesign as an example, since it remains without a tablet tool. Laying out magazines and books mean a lot of tedious grunt work that could be made easier.

* Include a screen designed to make index entry assignment far easer than it is with that tiny panel. Have a scrolling list of all the entries and make a simple tap apply one to a place in the document.

* For extensive search and replace actions, it'd be great to have a panel designed just for that. Since the desktop screen doesn't always show the context of a change well, have it mirrored on the tablet. Even more important, don't just have one replace option, allow two or more, all implemented by a simple tap.

* Something desperately needs to be done about proofing markup and documents. The old paper mark up code was far better than all these PDF, note-taking tools. I've been wrestling with them for three books. It'd be great to have something that uses PDF displayed on a tablet when changes are entered.

It wouldn't need to automate replacement. That is complex. But it would save a lot of time if the PDF-displaying app were smart enough to communicate to ID and go to the passage in that PDF that needs correcting. It'd also be great if it'd be smart enough to go backwards or forwards to the next correction. In correcting documents, it usually makes sense to go back to front to avoid the confusion of text moving around. Hunting for them manually opens up a potential for missing one.

Finally, Adobe should keep in mind, that, in comparison to the other Adobe apps, laying out magazines, catalogs and books with ID involves far more grunt work than creativity. The creativity comes mostly from the author. The person doing layout and correcting the text, needs tools that add efficiency more than creativity.

I've already conferenced with Adobe about some of these ideas. If they'd like to talk again, I'd be happy to assist.

--Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

Pete Owen said...

Thanks for your conference take-aways - very useful for those of us who couldn’t make it.

I would like to pick up on a point that Michael W. Perry made regarding the ‘grunt work’. I think this ‘grunt work’ spreads far wider than magazines, catalogs etc. with ID and especially into the areas of people who use Adobe software on a limited basis for very specific tasks. One of the comments I increasingly hear when I am training and I am enthusiastically promoting all of the latest Adobe updates, software and gadgets is: “ Given what I have to create and produce in my normal day job, and I do understand some of these new things will make me more efficient, when will I ever get time to look at all these updates, software and gadgets, let alone use them! I am still trying to take in the last lot, I feel there are too many, too fast and I am getting very frustrated simply trying to keep up with it all”.

Simple message to Adobe - keep creating, keep innovating, it’s brilliant, but don’t take your eye off the front-line guys that are using your software everyday and keeping you in business.