For Dasha Wagner, experimentation is the driving force of creativity

Image of a flower created by Dasha Wagner. Image source: Dasha Wagner.

Dasha Wagner has seen a great deal in her more than 15 years as a digital designer and illustrator. She has worked with several global brands like Aveda and Southeastern Grocers, non-profit organizations like AIGA, and small publishing houses like Paradigm Education Solution. Dasha has won multiple prestigious awards for her design and art projects and exhibited her works around the world — from Basel to Beijing. Dasha's artworks have also been featured in several books and magazines. She was also an early adopter of augmented reality (AR) and NFT art, pioneering new forms of digital expression.

Despite the depth and breadth of her experience, Dasha is also the first to say she hasn’t seen it all. “If I want to stay on track, I have to keep learning, whether it’s exploring new mediums or being the first to try the latest design technologies,” she says.

Adobe’s design technologies have been a driving force in Dasha’s artistic journey, helping her to master new creative approaches and mediums. She points to Adobe’s family of generative AI models, Adobe Firefly, as an example.

“When Firefly first launched, I started playing around with the new capabilities in Adobe Creative Cloud right away and got hooked,” she says. “Adobe did the right thing by making Firefly accessible to creators and designers from day one. Once you experience the power of generative AI, it immediately becomes less intimidating.”

Futuristic creations inspired by the past

Dasha is particularly interested in making design technology accessible to aspiring creators. Born in Russia, she left the country in 2004 to study graphic design and art education at the University of Northern Iowa before becoming an art teacher. But it was Adobe’s creative software that empowered Dasha to finally pursue her own art and eventually become a full-time graphic designer.

“Adobe’s new technologies allowed me to complement my day job with passion projects that helped me find my artistic voice. When my work started to gain traction and bring in commissions, a new world of possibilities opened up and I haven’t looked back since,” she says.

Dasha’s aesthetic is rooted in the Japanese art of ikebana, which is grounded in simplicity and the symbolic arrangement of shapes and textures. But while her creations are inspired by the past, she uses tools like Adobe Substance 3D, Adobe Aero, and Adobe Firefly to channel this centuries-old philosophy into futuristic designs that are as unique as they are beautiful.

“I love experimenting with light and textures. Adobe Substance allows me to do that while forcing me to work outside traditional graphic design paradigms like posters or calendars. It keeps things interesting and helps to set my work apart,” says Dasha.

Gaining speed and peace of mind with generative AI

When it comes to generative AI, Dasha is overwhelmingly positive about the technology’s power to accelerate the creative process and improve the quality of her work. For instance, the Text Effects capability in Firefly allows her to create advertising posters in seconds, and then add her unique touch to the final designs.

Similarly, the generative AI features in Adobe Photoshop have sped up Dasha’s image editing process by orders of magnitude. She also uses Firefly to create decorative patterns in her unique modern style, which she can later apply to packaging and product design projects.

Like many designers, Dasha Wagner uses stock imagery in many of her creations. Thanks to Firefly capabilities in Adobe Stock, she can find and transform the assets she needs faster than ever. “Designers used to spend hours searching for the right images through Stock. With the Adobe Firefly text-to-image tool, I can generate any assets I need in seconds.” says Dasha.

“One of people's main concerns about generative AI is around intellectual property rights. The transparency I get with Adobe Content Credentials only sweetens the deal. On top of finding better images than I would using manual search, I don’t have to worry about where they come from because information from the creator is attached to each image,” she adds.

Part of the Adobe Content Authenticity Initiative, Content Credentials is a solution built in an open way so that it can be incorporated into other products and platforms. It allows creators to attach information to a piece of content — like their names, dates, and the tools used to create it. Those credentials travel with the content, so that people know exactly where the content came from and what happened to it along the way.

Dasha’s 3D creations, inspired by the Japanese art of ikebana.
Dasha’s 3D creations, inspired by the Japanese art of ikebana.

Dasha’s 3D creations, inspired by the Japanese art of ikebana; images source: Dasha Wagner.

This combination of speed and peace of mind lends itself well to the world of NFTs where artists can only list each of their creations on a single marketplace. Using Adobe Firefly, Dasha Wagner can source and transform her images at speed, which helps to ensure every NFT she releases is completely original.

Dasha also appreciates the way Firefly has improved communications between her and her clients. Designers often use a different vocabulary than marketers to discuss their work, which can make it difficult to align on creative approaches. The fact that Dasha and her marketing clients can generate images together in Firefly by using simple verbal prompts has helped to eliminate that communication barrier, opening up new avenues of collaboration instead.

Chasing the sweet spot between digital and human creativity

With the time she saves using generative AI, Dasha is now broadening her creative palette, experimenting with hyper-realistic art, and incorporating color and styles like pastel and watercolor into her work.

At the same time, Dasha stresses the importance of maintaining human touch in her art to keep it compelling and unique. “AI is an incredibly powerful tool, but it’s not a human,” she says. “It’s our job as designers to create art that connects at the human level, whether it’s a simple 2D poster or a fully interactive NFT composition.”

Image of Dasha Wagner.

Dasha Wagner — image source: Dasha Wagner.

Dasha’s advice to young creatives born in today’s digital-first world? Go to museums and learn to appreciate the importance of craftsmanship and patience. See how people used to create in the past, sometimes taking years to complete a single piece of art.

“Nobody is saying you need to spend your life on a single creative pursuit, but it’s crucial to think about what you want to create before thinking about how you’re going to create it,” she says. “That’s the best way to develop your professional judgment and use powerful technologies like Adobe Firefly in a healthy and constructive way.”

Learn more about Dasha and her award-winning work on Instagram.

Ready to unlock your new levels of creativity in your own work? Get started with Adobe Firefly and Adobe Substance 3D today.