Adobe MAX Recap

Ngaio here - I just got back from an amazing time in the States, part of which included attending Adobe MAX in sunny San Diego.


Adobe MAX lives true to it's name, especially the MAX part - it is maximum people, maximum sessions, maximum ideas, and maximum fun. Over three days I listened to some fabulous people discuss their careers and their tools - including Quentin Tarantino, Lynsey Addario, Zac Posen, Dan Stiles, Jesse Arrington, Debbie Millman and Carpenter Collective. I've got four main tips I pulled from all of the speakers and presentations, as well as an urgent request for you to all look at Lynsey Addario's work - I mean, I was a sobbing mess in the middle of 10,000 people listening to her talk about her experiences.

Personal projects are key

This was echoed by every single speaker. Whether it is a project that helps you learn a new skill, pump up your current skill set, push you into a new direction, or showcase your work to a new crowd. The work you make is the work you get asked to make, so it couldn't be more important if you are feeling stuck to a step back, figure out your goals, and make work that excites you and illustrates what you are capable of.

Keep going, keep making, keep doing

It's true, even your idols have failed - probably as much as you have. What makes the difference is they take a moment, reset, and keep going. Whenever you haven't quite reached your goal, small or big, the only way forward it dusting yourself off, and keeping on. The universality that everyone gets knocked down can sometimes be comforting - knowing that what makes your idols your idols isn't just their talent, but also their tenacity. Debbie Millman mentioned a favourite quote of hers that definitely rang true for me - 'The longest way round is the shortest way home. Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.' It is the art of making and doing that leads to innovation.

Reach out, meet people

It seems awkward (and sometimes it is), but the simple truth is that most people like to know that someone else digs their work. Meeting, sharing, and learning with others is how the world works - it is how to get work, it is how to find collaborators, and it is the easiest way to grow as a human, and a creative. Each and every speaker, attendee, and organiser I spoke with mentioned how nice it is to speak to people in their community face-to-face - a powerful force that should not be forgotten.



Possibly the most important (and for me, really life changing) bit of advice from Adobe MAX came from Debbie Millman who, in her infinite wisdom, asked us to figure out our non-negotiables. Now at first thought most people tend to answer with things like 'great design work' or 'buy a house' or similar big ticket occurrences in life. What Debbie realised (30 years later) was that her non-negotiable was never working as a designer, or being a successful professional - but to live in New York. And, unbeknownst to her at the time, with that as her non-negotiable she made decisions that shaped her life to her her non-negotiable possible.

A non-negotiable could be a challenging career in design, a fast-paced working environment, or having children. It could also be something slightly less tangible like being able to travel, living in a welcoming home environment, being able to have a yard, or to have time to spend on your garden. You can have more than one, and they can be the big assess-able markers in your life (job, marriage, kids, house) - but they don't have to be and possibly won’t be. Spend some time thinking about what things you never want to give in your life, or something you want to achieve that you can't picture your future without - and plan your life accordingly. What is the thing that you want more than anything? See if you can put that into place before anything else.