Adobe MAX 2020 wrapped up at the end of October, and it was quite the experience! Traditionally, MAX is a multi-day live conference with an absurd number of classes, labs, lectures, workshops, and amazing events. Nearly every Adobe retail product is covered, with heavy emphasis on creative applications. It’s completely mind-blowing and rather expensive, and in any other year there are some 15,000 attendees all roaming the convention area in swarms. This year, however, MAX was entirely online, but it was also completely free to attend. I’d like to share with you my impression of this format, and what I hope for the future.
Wanna get to the good stuff?
Navigating the sessions is pretty straightforward. Hit the link and use the filters. The Track filters are especially helpful if you don’t know where to start, or try the Product filter if you want to keep focused. Know there was a speaker you want to watch? At the top of the Filters section you can choose Speakers!
While I miss the in-person conference feel, it was nice to leisurely choose classes without worrying about getting to a room on time, getting distracted by conversations, or simply being worn out. Even better is the ability to bookmark the various sessions so you can sample several without feeling pressure to stay, or stress out over missing important information. And let us not underestimate the importance of bathroom and snack breaks whenever you need them.
Many classes offered downloadable content, such as presentation slides or workbooks. This is much easier and more environmentally friendly than paper, and I feel enables you to manage a lot more material with no real burden. Most of the content is really well organized, and while there aren’t a ton of example files, it’s easy enough to create your own.
Very quickly into the first presentation, I realized the content was all pre-recorded. Questions could not be answered in real time – at least not with any consistency – and instructors have no way of getting feedback from the audience. So I started logging the session URLs and making notes about the class for later use (Thanks, Evernote!). I’ve included a list of my favorites at the bottom, along with a general catalog so you can browse on your own.
And of course, this is another benefit to the online format – persistence of media. You can easily go back and re-watch sessions or pick up new stuff, and scuttle-butt has it that this content will be available for up to a year. That’s an incredible value, considering not only the volume of content, but the quality of presenters available. Some of these folks don’t ever teach or present in other formats, and others typically charge premium fees.
But, like I said, I do miss the people.
The people you encounter at MAX are just incredible. The best of the creative industry shows up for this shin-dig, and you could find yourself sitting next to management from Netflix, chatting with Pixar illustrators, playing video games with interns who just landed their first gig at some startup, and of course a dizzying array of instructors and educators. Artists are all over the place, and each one is worth meeting. The energy just from wandering through this swirling mass of creativity is truly unique and inspiring.
Some of my favorite people I didn’t get to see this year…
MAX is one of the few events where I get to talk with people I’ve known for years but are flung across the globe. I feel a little deflated that we couldn’t even set up chat rooms or inside tracks to have conversations with beautiful strangers. There were daily ‘open’ sessions, but these were not really successful, and conversation took quite a bit of effort.
Another element that really needs live attendance is the vendor floor. This is where lots of networking happens, and where the best, newest stuff makes its way to your eyeballs, hands, and ears. There is a lot to be said for wandering through the exhibit hall and letting curiousity, inspiration, and serendipity just happen. I’ve spent plenty of money at such venues, and most of it has paid off. Advanced looks at hardware and software, new ideas about distribution for your art and creative skills, and sometimes just fun ‘crap’ that you can’t live without. I can’t tell you how many socks, t-shirts, desk toys, and other impetuous purchases I’ve got scattered through my office – and I love all of it.
Overall, I think this was an important effort. Adobe showed that a large conference can be held online with great success. I bet Adobe management learned quite a bit, as well, and I hope that next year’s MAX event combines the best of both worlds (assuming we’re back to whatever we perceive as normal). I love to have the option to catch up with videos if I miss something in person, along with the ability to see some of my favorite presenters and heroes and ask questions.
Here are some things that I hope make it to future events:
- Live, updated session information
- Downloadable, printable complete agenda
- Downloadable content for labs and other classes
- On-demand sessions videos
- Online schwag store!
Of course, I have some ideas about what I’d like to see added:
- Online social events with more promotion and incentive to participate
- Insider events with Adobe and their key partners
- Live Q&A with the presenter, even if it’s after the session
- Vendor and exhibitor page, with robust, interactive content and show deals
One of the unexpected elements was the Fun Stuff page that offers some crafty ideas about rejuvenating your mind after all the sessions. It’s a nod to the activity tables and booths you usually find on the MAX conference floor, where you can get hands-on with all kinds of really awesome ideas taught by some of the best creative minds out there. I helped run and later designed a demo table for exploring Photoshop on iPad – you got to take home a large print of your work on gorgeous Epson paper!
As promised, here are some of my favorite sessions:
Frequency Separation 2.0 – Earth Oliver
Personal Photo Projects that Boost Your Creativity – Julieanne Kost
Essential Photoshop Tricks for Designers – Mark Heaps
A Type Safari Through East London – Sara Hyndman
I really liked the inspirational series, especially because it gets me out of my Photoshop rut and looking at other applications. If you’re a Photoshop junkie, make an effort to check out some of the other tool videos, even if you have no experience with them at all. I enjoyed seeing possibilities, like 3D and augmented reality, which gave me some ideas for virtual gallery showings.
So did you attend? If not, you have a rare opportunity to take MAX for a test drive, and you can do it during down time or when you need a boost. Just make sure to do it! Set reminders to go pick something, or build a playlist to work through. These videos will only be up for a year, so get what you can out of the talent available to you.
Bonus tip: I used Evernote to keep session notes and a link to the page. This way I can go back and watch again if I want to. As you browse what’s available, copy the URL for anything that interests you and paste into a note-keeping app. When you watch the video later, write down anything you want to try out. You’ll find a journal will help all this content make sense, make new connections in your brain, and ensure you squeeze all the value you can out of this creative juggernaut!