Innovation unwrapped: Joy Kim

We chatted with Joy about her research at Adobe and how she brings creativity to her personal and professional life.

By Adobe Life Team

Posted on 08-12-2020

Joy Kim is always thinking outside the box, from her research insights to her online Etsy store. As a Research Scientist/Engineer, Joy studies how people can accomplish creative things while linked together in online communities. We spoke with Joy to learn more about how she sparks innovation inside and outside of Adobe.

What are you currently focused on in Adobe Research and what excites you about your work?

My broad expertise is in social systems and creativity support tools (like Photoshop), which help people with their creative workflows. I examine how people want to work together and prototype new systems for creating things and collaborating with others.

HCI examines how people use computers and its effects on their daily lives. Technically speaking, it’s about evaluating new systems and understanding whether they’re better than older systems people are accustomed to using. From a sociological perspective, HCI is about studying why people do things a certain way, looking at the advantages and challenges.

Can you tell us about your Mechanical Novel project and how you got involved with it?

I’ve always been interested in creativity and storytelling. The Mechanical Novel storytelling project was the focus of my doctoral research at Stanford. In fact, part of the research impetus came from my experience playing “Dungeons and Dragons” online with friends. My goal was to determine whether you can effectively collaborate on a story virtually via crowdsourcing — with hundreds of strangers on the internet. I was fascinated by remote collaboration — which we’re all getting accustomed to nowadays — and seeing if a cohesive story could be written with crowdworkers.

I discovered that a typical crowdsourcing approach could catch details like grammar and spelling errors, but the Mechanical Novel workflow was better at creating a coherent plot and writing character descriptions. This project spurred my continued interest in crowdsourcing and creativity that feeds into my current research. I’m fortunate that Adobe Research gives me the freedom to explore new ideas with autonomy to build my own hypotheses to prove.

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation is about finding the right balance between creating something new and creating something useful. You can create all the new things you want, but if it’s not useful, what’s the point? Innovation solves problems and I want to make something new that improves a process or makes somebody’s life easier. It’s exciting for me to innovate and find a way to tackle new creative challenges.

How are you channeling your creativity and innovation from home?

I like being creative, problem solving and exploring more effective collaboration methods. For example, a major HCI conference was recently cancelled due to the pandemic and I was disappointed that Adobe researchers and former interns wouldn’t get to present their work. I reached out to some contacts about hosting a mini virtual summit in lieu of the physical event so some people could still present their research and get feedback. I figure just because we were remote didn’t mean we couldn’t collaborate and share our work.

With AI become more pervasive across work and home, what’s your perspective on the role of humans and machines in today’s age of creativity?

I consider AI an assistant or collaborator when it comes to creativity — it can complement a human’s abilities. For example, a human can strategize about a creative idea and how to bring something like a digital painting to life, but AI can provide inspiration or a recommendation for a type of style or workflow. Ultimately, the human still decides how the painting turns out as the art director and AI, within given parameters designated by the human, can help.

You’re not just creative in research, but also in your personal life. What motivated you to open your own Etsy store?

I’ve loved comics, video games, and animation since I was a kid, and these inspired me to start drawing from a young age. As I started attending fan conventions, I saw people selling art they had made inspired by the same things that I loved, and decided I wanted to give it a try too!

I began researching how people sell artistic creations and started doing that at live events. Starting my Etsy store, JojostoryArt, was a natural progression from my in-person booths and a way to extend the visibility of my brand online, which was especially important since I’m not a full-time artist. The art I make for my Etsy store allows me to share my love for video games and animation with likeminded people.

I’ve run my Etsy store since 2015 and it’s fed into my research work. Some of the artists and customers I’ve met have offered feedback on my research prototypes and shared how they do their artwork and businesses. It’s exciting for me to understand what motivates people to do things and how they create. For research studies, it’s essential to get project feedback from non-technical people to broaden my perspective.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Approachable, creative, and excited.

What advice can you offer to those who want to be more creative in their daily lives?

There’s an expansive definition of creativity — it’s not just about painting or drawing. If you solve problems, you are inherently a creative person.

Consider how all of us at Adobe have pivoted to working from home and are balancing the “new normal” by creatively tackling challenges such as managing schedules, balancing work and family, and more.

Nobody was born knowing how to do new things and being creative means trying new things. With creativity, you need to push from beginning to end, even if it’s difficult, to see what you can accomplish.

Topics: Adobe Life, Adobe Culture, Career Advice, Employee Impact