Da Vinci (circa 2014)

Note: This blog is cross-posted from Mike Dillon’s personal blog.

There is nothing like attending the MAX Conference in Los Angeles to cause my feelings of artistic inadequacy to bolt to the surface. You see, I’m one of those people who lacks any artistic talent. In fact, I’m quite certain that I failed paint-by-numbers in the first grade. So, being immersed in the excitement of the conference left me feeling in awe – and very much out of my element.

If you are one of the world’s millions of creative professionals then you are likely familiar with MAX. It’s an annual event sponsored by Adobe that brings together illustrators, web designers, production professionals, photographers, movie makers and other “Creatives” to learn about new releases from Adobe and, more importantly, to share and celebrate all forms of creative expression.

Much of the excitement this year was generated by Adobe’s announcement of a feature of the Creative Cloud called the “Creative Profile”. This allows anyone, but especially creative professionals, to store their illustrations, videos, photographs, fonts and other artistic assets in a virtual repository that can be accessed from any platform. To comprehend what this means, consider if Da Vinci was alive today.

As a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, cartographer and writer, Da Vinci would doubtlessly have used his Creative Profile to increase his already prolific output and enhance his impressive creative abilities. One can imagine him walking through Rome creating a color palette on his mobile device with Adobe Color to be used in one of his paintings, or taking a photograph of the checkerboard pattern of il Duomo di Firenze and using it as “ink” for an illustration using Adobe Brush. It’s not a stretch to see him using Adobe Shape to capture the shapes and vectors surrounding him in Florence and incorporating them in his architectural renderings. Or, perhaps, he would use Photoshop Mix to take and edit photographs of the Tuscan hillside on his mobile phone to serve as a model for the background of the Mona Lisa.

All of these creative outputs and any others he produced whether through digital illustrations, videos or photographs, would be part of his Creative Profile. Best of all, they could be accessed from any device, whether desktop computer, tablet or mobile phone, allowing Da Vinci to focus on what he did best – creating.

One of the biggest challenges for Da Vinci and other Renaissance artists was finding patrons. For Da Vinci this meant a dependency on just a few wealthy families, namely the Borgias and Medicis. As a result, for much of his life, he toiled in poverty. Today, Leonardo would use the Behance platform to showcase his portfolio and receive feedback about it from the global creative community. More importantly, his Behance portfolio would allow him to be discovered by agencies seeking artistic talent leading to greater employment opportunities. A marketing department, for example, seeking to create a new corporate logo with the feel of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, would be able to quickly identify that work on Behance and contact Da Vinci to commission a project.

On the second day of MAX, we listened to a number of artistic professionals discuss how they use their art to inspire, like the moving photographs of Ami Vitale; push boundaries in conventional thinking, as with the provocative illustrations from Jason Seiler; or launch a global movement, as what documentary film maker, Lee Hirsch, has done in the fight against bullying. There wasn’t a dry eye in the convention center during that presentation.

And, all I can draw are stick figures.

The day was capped off by what we at Adobe like to call “Sneaks.” You can think of these sessions as innovation speed dating. Select members of the Adobe engineering community are given five minutes in front of a live audience to showcase a feature or product they are working on. The crowd gets a preview of possible things to come and the innovator gets immediate feedback in the form of live audience reactions. It’s always my favorite event of the conference and, judging by the crowd reaction, others felt the same. Have you ever taken a photograph on a hazy day and wished you could click a button and make it clear? Look for the “defog” capability coming to Photoshop CC. Or, check out Shape Shade to see the mind-boggling ways that shapes can be manipulated on a table with just your fingers. How about taking a photograph of a skyline during the day and wanting to see how it would look if it was taken at sunset? Or editing seamless transitions in videos of people who speak with lengthy “uhms”, “ahs” and other pauses. These are just a few of the previews we saw at this year’s Sneaks.

In the end, no one knows what Da Vinci would do if he were alive today. But, I’m quite certain he would be a member of the Creative Cloud.

And, also, an employee of Adobe.