What can you say about an event that brings together thousands of talented people from multiple disciplines and astounds them with feats of digital Wizardry? How do you begin to describe the creative synergies that occur between people who just met, as they talk over coffee or in the breaks between truly remarkable sessions? Who are these people, gathered together, thinking up, designing and building amazing things in 2 and 3 dimensions, out of nothing but the spark in their minds, in their hearts?
In their souls?
You may be thinking it's impossible to put these scenes and the beauty and fun resulting from them into words . . . But it's not that hard, really. All this can be summed up in two words.
In the past, I've attended and presented at MAX and loved it. But since joining Adobe, I've not had the opportunity to return.
Until now. And I was stoked. I still am.
My boss said, "I want you to go, but you know, it's not like going as an attendee. The experience will be very different." He earnestly wanted to manage my expectations, so I that I wasn't grumpy and took him off my Christmas Card list. (BTW, I happen to have a great manager. And if you know me, you also know I don't give that kind of praise lightly.)
And he was right. It wasn't the same. Employees don't get the cool swag, and we're last pick when it comes to sitting in on sessions (and I get this - we're being paid to be there, not paying to be there). And I worked. I worked hard. Almost lost my voice, spending three days in the incredible MakeIt booth.
It was exhausting.
And I loved every minute.
I was surrounded by nearly 7,000 of the most talented, creative people, young and old, all excited to be there and to make things, to learn, to share their thoughts, their pains their wonderment in ways that is frankly, often hard to do with others. At this event, we get each other. We don't have to explain ourselves or our work or what drives us. Because we all know. The vibe at MAX was the strongest I'd ever felt. Everyone I spoke to from veteran MAXers to the neophytes (so many people I spoke to were attending their very first MAX), we're so impressed and so happy to be spending three or more days at this conference.
Maybe you're thinking "Yeah sure, dude you WORK for Adobe, now. Of course you're gonna pimp this show." Well here's a tip; if I hadn't been moved by the conversations and amazing things I'd seen this year, I would not be writing this at 35,000 feet on the way home. Or ever. I'd just nod and a smile and a let it slide into oblivion.
The magic for me extended beyond what the magicians at Adobe have cooked up, as amazing as that was (and is). The sense of community is what gave me energy every day to get up and show up early to my spot in the Commmunity Pavilion and stay longer than I was asked or expected to stay. My sense of belonging was never stronger, not just to a cool company but also to the communities of creatives and educators that flew from far and wide for this event. Some heartwarming things were said to me this week, reminding me that I was still considered a valuable part of those critical guilds of humankind. (Hey, it's my post; I can use any words I want).
And that, my friends, is some awesome validation.
But I did have responsibilities there, while I basked in the glow of creativity. I manned one of the imaging stations in the MakeIt booth, showing people how easy it was to work with our some of our Touch apps. And I know it was easy, because I wasn't even demoing the workflow; I was putting people to work, guiding them as they created their very own social silhouettes.
And I would be remiss if I only included the "usual suspects" when I speak of creativity. For far too long, so many people have gone through their adult lives thinking they're not "creative". I would argue that we all are, or that we all at least have the spark of creativity in us. Just because one may not draw, or make videos, or photograph or paint, doesn’t mean that one isn't creative.
This MAX was also the most interactive I've ever been to. And this isn't just my opinion; everyone I talked to on the pavilion floor said the same thing. There was just so much to do, from creating tintype photos, to making Social Silhouettes, to creating animated photos, designing logos for wood-cut stamps, light painting, doodling all over the furniture in the Create It Lounge, to getting your portfolio reviewed by industry pros.
I had also been selected to be a Social Media Ambassador to Adobe Employees, sharing my thoughts, and images, via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. From the moment I landed in LA, I was sharing my perspective with not only my regular followers, but also any employee that happened to be following the #adobemax hashtag. Many of the images you see here are from my personal train of thought during MAX. And As you can see, I wasn't always focussed on the conference itself. But that's what I wanted and was encouraged to do. "Just be yourself," I was told. OK,cool, I could do that; I went to college.
I got caught up in the fun and wonder myself, by making my own silhouette, but also by creating my very own laser cut wood block stamp. Heck I even "bought the t-shirt," literally, from the MAX Store. On my dime.
So, my impressions leaving upon MAX this year remain strong and positive. I continue to be part of some of the most important communities on the planet - creatives and educators. I've reinforced my own perspective of me as a creator of imagery, and occasionally wit. I am energized by what I've seen and experienced and learned.
"It won't be the same," he said.
And he was right. It wasn't the same.
And it was exhausting.
And I loved every minute.
And I'd go back in a heartbeat.
See you in San Diego in 2016!