Great Design is on the Move

Life is always in motion, and a core part of the human experience. If you think about it, our very biology has evolved and been shaped by the advantages and adaptations around motion. From the shape and function of the bones in our feet to the way our eyes and brain respond to movement, motion is a core part of the way we experience life, reality and time.

OK, that sounds a bit lofty. But as designers, it’s something we should consider as we engage our audience. Just like a living thing, design must evolve to reach increasingly sophisticated audiences, and motion is a great way to do that. Whether capturing audience attention, explaining complex concepts or evoking emotional attachment — motion and animation adds a special spark of life to your creative communication.

It’s why I’m working on Project Maestro — a new, touch-mobile application that allows creative people to create beautiful, lightweight motion content, without requiring professional animation skills.

Adobe demonstrated Project Maestro as part of the Sneaks presentations at Adobe MAX 2015. But for me the presentation was about much more than making a useful app and showcasing our latest technology. It was part of a personal journey.

You see, I grew up in Sydney, Australia with English as my second language and there were times growing up that I found it difficult to explain my thoughts well.

But when I discovered animation, something clicked. Animation provided me with a powerful way to communicate ideas and articulate my perspective with a precision and emotional nuance that wasn’t always possible through words or still images alone. And as I experimented with animation and began to master it, I felt as if I could truly create and express anything I wanted.

That’s a powerful feeling — something I want everyone to be able to experience. So it makes me sad, sometimes, that animation remains a specified skill, and that people feel apprehensive about learning animation techniques.

Part of the problem is that animation can be a very time-consuming medium, even for professionals. Another difficulty is the complexity and clumsiness of the tools themselves. Although humans intrinsically understand a lot about motion, recreating it with a keyboard and mouse feels inaccessible and unnatural — key frames, timings, paths, behavior, friction, interpolation and more must all be applied to create organic, realistic motion.

My goal is to change that with Project Maestro. By utilizing the capability of touch devices alongside Adobe technology we can make animation much more intuitive and user-friendly.

For example, with Project Maestro, you can create basic vector shapes inside the app, but we also have Creative Sync so we can easily pull in the assets you’ve created in other Adobe mobile applications like Draw or Sketch. All the layers will be maintained, and you can animate individual layers.

With the capability of a touch device we can more easily map the movement of our fingers 1:1 with the motion of an animation of design. So, you can simply select elements of an animation and move them across the screen with your finger, capturing position and timing real-time; then blend these organic motions together to make something complex.

We also make it easy to attach different sorts of movement behaviors to objects, such as wiggle, bounce or spin, as well as control the intensity of the motion.

Maestro captures it all in real-time as key frames. This allows the work to be exported into a professional animation tool like Adobe After Effects, where you can make more technical adjustments to behaviors and timings.

Although Project Maestro is still a concept technology, showcasing it at MAX allowed us to get feedback from real designers that will help us take the app to the next level.

For example, we’re looking at ways to make the UI discoverable and powerful while still respecting the medium of the mobile device. How can we allow users to feel like they have power and control over each of the individual objects in an animation without making the UI unnecessarily complex?

We’re also interested in adding new capabilities to Maestro like dynamic masking and new object behaviors.

If we get it right, we’ll make it possible for anybody to put their creativity in motion — a world where animation is not the final step or a bottleneck in the creative process, but where it is a pervasive and natural part of the collaborative, iterative work that goes into creating great design and creative expression.