Font finding, robot paintings and – surprise, surprise – AI, at Adobe MAX
From generative AI to tools streamlining the design process, we take stock of what’s new at this year’s Adobe MAX, and hear from leading voices about how they’re elevating their work.
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- 23 October 2023
AI is at the forefront of many creative minds today. And while none of us can predict the future, we do know that AI is here to stay – and so is the growing demand for content, streamlined processes, alongside ethical and copyright-protected content. “People are creating more than ever before,” said Shantanu Narayen, chair and chief executive officer at Adobe, who kicked off this year’s EMEA keynote at the Adobe MAX 2023 event. “Our lives are becoming almost entirely digital, and we’re turning to creative differentiation to help us stand out as well as make choices.”
To keep pace, Adobe has announced the launch of its Firefly Image 2 Model, the next generation for creating imagery using AI. One of the most significant tools under this release is Generative Match, which allows users to apply the style of a specific image to their content, or alter a pre-existing image they’ve created using Generative Fill, a tool that enables users to generate imagery or extend backgrounds with a text prompt. In a click or two – and after confirming that you have the permission to use your reference imagery – creatives can effortlessly maintain a consistent look across multiple assets or replicate the style of existing images, saving copious amounts of time in the process without relying on text or word prompts. It’s also designed to create content that’s safe for commercial use, meaning that imagery can be made for promotional or advertising purposes too.
Another addition that piqued our interest during the event – and one that would be most handy to graphic designers – is the Retype feature in Adobe Illustrator. The beta tool allows you to import static images and identify the font, matching it with one from the Adobe Font suite. If the library doesn’t have it, then it will recommend something similar. Next, it will convert it back to editable text (which is useful if you’ve not touched a piece of work in ages – we’ve all been there). “It makes it really easy when it comes to identifying and converting fonts,” said Danielle Morimoto, senior design manager at Adobe, who talked us through this new tool at the event.
Besides these exciting updates, we also heard from a handful of headline speakers about how they’re harnessing creativity in their practices. One of which is Sougwen Chung, a Toronto-born artist and researcher based in New York, and former research fellow at MIT’s Media Lab. Exploring the relationship between human and machine, Sougwen utilises technology to transform their practice across performance, drawing, still image, sculpture and installation. This can be seen in one of their projects entitled Omnia, where they orchestrate a swarm of custom-built robots to create a mesmerising painting performance in real time. Through the use of colour tracking and machine learning, Sougwen achieved a harmonious co-creation process with the robots – ultimately, their friends.
Despite the help of their robotic accomplices, Sougwen believes that the value of a creative’s voice is immeasurable and distinct, even in the era of generative AI. Instead, creatives should use these tools – just like those we’re seeing at Adobe MAX – to their advantage. “When I first started trying to find my own creative voice, I was so intimidated by the tools out there,” Sougwen explains. “I don’t think it’s about making a masterpiece. It’s about enjoying what you're doing, and allowing yourself to make ugly work that makes you laugh, and that challenges you emotionally.”
Yinka Ilori, an artist and designer based in London, delivered an insightful talk about how he masterfully incorporates the art of storytelling into his creative practice. Born to Nigerian parents who moved to London in the 1980s, Yinka’s upbringing and cultural background have significantly shaped his artistic journey. His visually striking practice incorporates a fusion of British and Nigerian influences and encompasses projects across architecture, interior design, graphics, textiles, sculpture and furniture.
Central to Yinka’s work is the practice of layering stories – a technique he described as being “like an onion”. This process can be seen in the transforming of everyday objects, like chairs sourced from charity shops in Islington, as they’re layered into dynamic pieces that tell powerful stories about identity or emotion. His advice for fellow creatives is to embrace your unique story and communicate it with colour and boldness. He believes that creatives should embrace their narratives, experiment and create work that is both deeply personal and universally resonant. “Everything that we create is a book that you can read,” he said.
Above all, the key learning from this year’s Adobe MAX event is that the world is becoming evermore intertwined with AI, processes are becoming easier and generative tools will be taking on the burden of more tedious tasks. Adobe has put new processes in place to ensure an ethical use of AI – including copyright protection, training, testing and a review process by the AI Ethics Review Board. And, as Shantanu puts it, it’s all about putting your own stamp on your work – which is something that AI will never be able to replace. “Our mission is to change the world through personalised digital experiences,” he said. “We want to empower everyone everywhere, to imagine, create and deliver the best digital experiences. And while there is apprehension about the impact of AI, I firmly believe that it will never replace human ingenuity. It's an incredibly exciting time to tell your story.”
Retype font matching feature in Illustrator (Copyright © Adobe MAX 2023)