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Creativity

A Year with the ADAA, Part 1: Judging the Adobe Design Achievement Awards

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 24, 2017

Over the past year, Guild member and designer Theresa Whitehill of Colored Horse Studio has had a unusual relationship with software giant Adobe: that of both judge and mentor in their 2016 student Adobe Design Achievement Awards. As judge, Whitehill had the opportunity to review work by design, illustration, and film production students from around the world, working last August in tandem with a team of peers.

Q: How did you decide to take on the judging gig?

I looked into the ADAA program, and was really flattered to be asked. The commitment didn’t seem to be too much— only one weekend. Also I’ve been immersed in Adobe products since Photoshop 2.5, but never had the opportunity to interact with the company on a personal level, so I was thrilled to do so and see Adobe campus.

But although the commitment is for one weekend at the Adobe campus, it’s a long schedule – 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a couple breaks, lunch, and dinner. It meant traveling for two hours from my rural studio and overnighting with family. So it wasn’t a light commitment; I had to really want to do it.

Q: What was it like arriving for the first day of judging?

I had to leave my studio in St. Helena at 4:30 a.m. to get to the Adobe campus on time, and was greeted with coffee and pastry in the kitchen. I was overawed to meet the other judges. These were people like art directors with major companies, video producers who worked with MTV in its inception, people who worked in conceptual development. But I realized coming from a book design and book arts background that I brought a unique perspective. Additionally everyone was really generous—that healthy ego you find with creative, talented people. 


Once the judging got started, it was like jumping off a ski jump. But there was so much great discussion during the judging process... Anytime you’re put into an environment with like minded people, you get to bond and know each other’s mind.


Q: Was there good communication between the judges while reviewing the student work?

When you combine the breadth of experience of all the judges, the judging becomes very comprehensive. Judging makes you articulate things you may not have realized you know. But at the same time, having other judges with different experience helped me check my reactions. For example, sometimes I’d be blown away by a student’s work, and another judge would point out that it’s actually quite derivative.

Q: What was the judging process like?

On the first day, the 14 judges were split into groups to judge in our own areas of expertise. In my group, we evaluated submissions in photography, illustration, and graphic design (fine art and commercial) I initially picked my top three candidates for each area, and later in the day, met with the other judges in my group. At that point, we started comparing each others’ choices, and selecting the group’s top three choices. 

On the second day, we continued evaluating the submissions to select the winners and honorable mentions. We also had discretion to address submissions which didn’t seem to fit a particular category, and could make recommendations to Adobe to add categories of work. The award process is very much a living being; as technology and schools develop and abandon disciplines, the categories of work can change. The result is the ico-D and Adobe are learning as much from the judges as the judges are about the work. (Note: ico-D, the International Council of Design, co-produces the ADAA with Adobe.)

By Sunday afternoon, we had made our final choices, and the groups met to review the winners of each category. That meant groups which were still questioning a choice could ask the entire body of judges to weigh in on the selection. Ico-D was great to work with; they were present to ensure that the judging adhered to standards for best practices, followed guidelines, and was fair.


I said to another judge that sometimes I felt professional jealousy because the presentation quality was so high.  I was also amazed at the extraordinary illustration talent—it felt like a privilege to view it.


Q: Were you impressed by the student work? What surprised you the most?

Overall the work was really impressive. Some projects were clearly underdeveloped but others were so professional. In fact, I said to another judge that sometimes I felt professional jealousy because the presentation quality was so high.  I was also amazed at the extraordinary illustration talent—it felt like a privilege to view it.

I was struck by how about 85% of the projects seemed to assume a limitless budget for printing, etc. I ended up gravitating to the projects that assumed that a client (fictional or otherwise) might also have a budget, so that the project was developed with limits in mind.

Q: What do you think was the best takeaway for the student winners?

The students who put together almost seamless projects may not have the ability to show their work to someone who can help them. This awards process can give recognition to students who may not have the time, opportunity, connections, or resources to promote themselves. On top of that, there are the tangible benefits, such as the trip to the AdobeMax conference, or the mentoring opportunities.

Q: And what did you get out of the process?

Once the judging got started, it was like jumping off a ski jump. But there was so much great discussion during the judging process. Even judges who didn't talk much would speak up and pull us back to the core mission. Anytime you’re put into an environment with like minded people, you get to bond and know each other’s mind. I also learned a lot about myself. It gave me the opportunity to step outside of my environment and look back at my career. And I’m so grateful I got the opportunity to contribute.

Below: Teresa Whitehill in her studio.

photo © Adrienne Simpson. Used with permission.

Teresa Whitehill in her studio

NEA Granted a Reprieve; Arts Advocates Gear Up for the Longer Fight

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 12, 2017

NEA logoArts advocates were appalled when the budget proposed by the Trump transition team called for eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts, along with steep cuts to other cultural and social programs. On April 30th, Congressional leaders came to a bipartisan agreement to fund the government through September. The House Appropriations Committee FY 2017 Omnibus Summary lists a full $150 million each to the NEA and to the National Endowment for the Humanities, an increase of $2 million. In an email to the Los Angeles Times, an NEA spokesperson wrote that the funding increase matched a request made by the agency in February 2016.

Americans for the ArtsWhile the news is a welcome reprieve, arts advocates are not breathing easy – the administration has proposed defunding the NEA entirely in 2018Americans for the Arts has orchestrated a comprehensive campaign: they've been conducting an online petition through their Action Center, their Arts Mobilization Center publishes updates on federal funding for the arts, and they’ve conducted a print ad campaign, “The Arts Put America to Work,” which highlights the 4.8 million Americans employed in the arts.

That last statistic that is supported by data. In April, the NEA released the results of a study conducted with the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The study showed that total arts and cultural industries in the United States employ 4,802,813 individuals at a compensation of $355 billion. Of that amount, core arts and cultural industries (“originators of ideas and content associated with the creation of arts and culture”) employ 950,997, at a compensation of $68 billion. The study results are posted online with an interactive map which permits viewers to see the economic contribution of the arts state-by-state.

Below: Clicking onto each state on the interactive map on the NASAA website pulls up data for that state.

NEA BEA map

Adobe Design Achievement Awards Student Competition is Open

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 15, 2017

The annual Adobe Design Achievement Awards global student competition is again open. Students 18 years and older, and registered (or recent graduates from) accredited institutions of higher education, are encouraged to submit their existing student work. Students can enter up to three unique projects in the broad categories of Fine Arts, Commercial, and Social Impact. The breadth of subcategories covers the range of disciplines studied by visual arts students, from photography, illustration, and package and graphic design, to animation/motion design and video editing and production, to web, app, and game design. This year, students working in virtual or augmented reality, 360-degree technology, and other new media will be considered for an “Excellence in New Media” Special Designation.

As in previous years, all entrants will receive a subscription to 99U career tips, will have their entries reviewed by the international panel of judges, and can choose to be considered for a mentorship with a creative professional, coordinated through ADAA partner ico-D. The full complement of prizes supports the ADAA’s mission of  “Launching Student Careers,” and includes participation in Adobe Bootcamps, meetings with industry leaders, creative residencies, and subscriptions to Creative Cloud.

There is no charge for entering the competition, and submissions are accepted through June 12th. Students who submit work by May 2nd will have their work considered for early bird semifinalist. Entries can be viewed in real time on the ADAA website as they are uploaded. Students who want to see what their peers are entering can visit the “Entries” page and filter by category, region, country, school, and (once judging begins) status.

 

How to Enter the ADAA from Adobe Design Achievement Awards on Vimeo.

International Women’s Day Yields Treasure Troves of Work by Women

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 13, 2017

Perhaps because of the increased coverage of women’s issues (and the political movements spearheaded by women), International Women’s Day was marked by a number of blogs and websites with comprehensive reviews of work by women  visual artists: designers, illustrators, cartoonists, and others. Three in particular stood out: the UK media platform It’s Nice That, the publication Creative Review (also out of the UK), and the Cartoonist Alliance.

It’s Nice That introduced their offering with a splash. An exuberant illustration by artist Kate Prior (upraised fists hoisting an IWD banner) festoons the top of the page. The illustration celebrates the act of protest, and references the suffragette movement. Below, It’s Nice That showcases 18 articles they solicited from women contributors: illustrators, photographers, designers, and artists. There is even an article on Deep Throat Choir, a group of 35 all-female singers that transforms the work of well-known artists such as Bjork into multi-layered, intricate interpretations. The collection of articles doesn’t shy away from controversial topics. For example, in response to the fetishization of her compatriots, Brazilian photographer June Canedo asserts, “Women of colour need to be the ones photographing other women of colour.” In another article, Muslim American artist Amna Asghar asks “What if Warhol were Pakastani?,” exploring her own identity through a series of montages of popular culture images and brightly painted panels.

Rather than soliciting articles specifically for IWD 2017, Creative Review chose to curate a collection of articles that have appeared in the publication throughout the years. Dedicated readers will recognize some past gems, such as  “Women + Laughing + Alone + With Salad,” a delicious take-down of cheesy microstock photography from 2011. The curated articles cover a range of topics, from typography (sexist emoji), to fashion (older women appearing in fashion ads) to workplace and leadership (retaining working mothers in the creative industries).  Creative Review has also curated a selection of Works, projects submitted to the publication for review. One favorite is Woman Interrupted, an app created by Brazilian firm BETC, which monitors the user’s conversation and calculates how often the she is interrupted by a man’s voice.

The Cartoonist Alliance article was originally published in 2015 and promoted for IWD2018. “What’s The Best Comic About Women By Women?” is less comprehensive than the previous posts, and covers only seven women graphic novelists selected by CA staff as their favorites. Having said that, the collection is interesting and somewhat surprising. While Marjane Sartrapi’s Persepolis has a well-deserved place on the list, Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi was unexpected. The article makes a good case for the addition though: “Sailor Moon was the game changer, the comic that effectively launched the magical girl genre. Sailor Moon isn’t just the reason why I’m here; it’s the reason why you’re here.” The only quibble with CA’s article is that it predates Errin Ferris’ tour-de-force, My Favorite Thing is Monsters (an aching story beautifully illustrated in ball-point-pen) wasn’t included.

But there’s always next year. We’ll be stalking these three websites to see what they conjure up for IWD 2018.

International Woman's Day screenshots

“Women Who Draw” Directory Showcases Diversity in Women Illustrators

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 19, 2017

An online directory of women illustrators is attracting a lot attention, and redressing a wrong. At first glance, “Women Who Draw” simply features work by women artists. But look a little closer: through dynamic filters, visitors to the site can cross-select women illustrators by ethnicity, sexual orientation, location (every continent is represented), and faith. Registered illustrators can select as many categories as they choose, and identifiers appear underneath the thumbnails of each artist. The result is a website which celebrates diversity in all its complexity.

According to its About page, the website was founded to increase the visibility of women illustrators, particularly members of under-represented groups, such as LGTBQ and women of color. In fact, the indentifying categories do not include “white” and “straight” as selection choices, in part to encourage visitors to seek out illustrators in less visible categories. (Although the website permits users to select from a global list of locations, the ethnicities are for the most part limited to categories common to the United States.) While the site calls itself “Women Who Draw,” trans and gender-nonconforming illustrators are welcome, and the liberal use of an asterisk appearing after the words “women” and “female” reinforces the site’s inclusiveness on gender identity.

As revealed in interviews in Slate, BBC, and Huffington Post (among others), Women Who Draw was founded by Julia Rothman and Wendy McNaughton. In an interview in Vogue Magazine, Rothman related that the impetus for the site came from the realization that her favorite “prominent” magazine carried almost no illustration work by women illustrators. In an interview on the SVA blog Features (Rothman teaches at SVA), the founders elaborated:

“We noticed that a prominent U.S. magazine only hired four female illustrators out of the 55 illustrated covers they commissioned in 2015. So we created the directory to provide an easy way to find talented professional female* illustrators and promote the work of women, women of color, LBTQ+ women and other minority groups of women illustrators. This way there would be no way any publication could ever say they’d hire more artists in these groups ‘if only they could find them.’”

The website has been wildly popular; there have been very few accusations of sexism or playing gender identity politics. In fact, within the first 24 hours since it was launched, the site crashed from the overwhelming interest — over 1,200 illustrators submitted applications to be listed. To meet the demand, the site has posted a “Support” page. Donations help defray the cost of reviewing and posting applications. To join the website, illustrators must submit an illustration of a woman and provide a link to their professional website – social media sites and shopping sites such as Etsy do not qualify.

The website also builds community through public collaborations. Illustrators are invited to post work created around a common theme, and post it to social media with the tag #WWDTogether. A curated selection appears on the Women Who Draw website.

Below: The #WWDTogether Twitter feed displays the current topic.

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