This article is part of our October 2018 series about the state of design and creativity. Click here for more.
This morning, Adobe MAX—The Creativity Conference, in Los Angeles, was full of inspiration for the creative community.
From comic book legend Nicola Scott, to worldwide renowned photographer Albert Watson, to newer creatives Questlove and Lilly Singh, to a grand finale with actor and director Ron Howard, attendees walked away with practical tips and tricks to the art of creative thinking.
Scott detailed her journey to becoming the illustrator for comic book characters such as Wonder Woman and Batman. Throughout her presentation, she made it clear that following your dreams means having a plan of action—a strategy—for how you will achieve them.
It takes hard work, dedication, and “making people trust that you are in this for real,” she said.
Watson, who began his professional journey as a mathematician, moved to the United States to pursue his love of photography and has had the privilege to work with big names including Mick Jagger and Alfred Hitchcock. Those who are truly creative, he said, aren’t afraid to push the boundaries.
Case in point: When photographing Hitchcock for the 1973 Harper’s Bazaar Christmas issue, he was asked to shoot the English film director and producer in a black tuxedo, holding a silver platter with a Christmas goose on it. Worried that he’d look like a waiter, Watson pushed back and suggested that Hitchcock hold the plucked goose by the neck instead. The editor of Harper’s Bazaar loved the idea, and the rest is history.
According to Watson, his job as the creative was to “improve the artistic intent of shots.” Often photographers don’t plan enough in terms of what they are going to shoot, he remarked. “The soul of the picture has to be in [the shot],” he said.
Watson advised the audience to embrace technology. Technologies such as Adobe’s Photoshop have allowed him to be more creative, he said. However, “You have to be careful to stay on top of the computer and that the computer doesn’t stay on top of you,” he added, alluding to the need to keep the human touch in creative work.
Next up, American producer, author, musician, DJ and designer Questlove came on stage to discuss the role of modern-day creatives, who have to juggle multiple projects across various channels and platforms. For him, that means focus and discipline.
His advice? Work on the things you are most passionate about. “If you are willing to wake up at 4 a.m. for it and go to sleep at 3:59 a.m.,” he said, that’s how you know you are truly passionate.
Meanwhile, actress, producer, and writer Singh, who has amassed over 14 million fans since making her YouTube debut in 2010, encouraged attendees to break barriers and not follow the path laid out for them. “You have to buck tradition,” she said. “Create your own path.”
When looking for inspiration, Singh said she proactively consumes a lot of creative content. Going to the movies, the theater, and other places helps get her creative juices flowing, she said. For Questlove, the “most important part of creativity is boredom” because that’s when people are forced to think out of the box.
For Howard, inspiration comes when he has an emotional reaction to something. Early on in his career, Howard developed his voice and capacity as an actor to work across genres, which is what he believes has made him successful. And while he didn’t actually say it, the takeaway for the creative community was apparent: The world is becoming more and more multichannel by the minute, so be fluent across all channels and platforms.
The rise of technology and visual effects has had a huge impact on Howard’s career and how his work has come to life, he said. “It’s been incredibly liberating,” he said. “[It used to be that you were able to dream something [but you] knew you would never quite realize it. Now with digital technology and new gear, you really can get your ideas out there on the screen. ... I am less tired at the end of making a movie now than I was 30 years. There’s not quite as much weight on every decision.”
Watch the replay of today's MAX keynote below (starts at about the 7-minute mark)