This is part of a series featuring highlights from the 2018 Adobe MAX Conference. Mitchell Art Director, Nathan Burns attended multiple sessions.

An open mindset is crucial to getting the most out of a conference like Adobe MAX. But as a designer, I know I can easily get caught up in details. Fortunately, at agency day Adobe brought in two speakers to talk about creativity in the digital age. Together, they offered exactly the perspective shift I needed to launch my conference experience.

Speakers at Adobe Max

Tom Goodwin kicked off the session with a call to rethink our approach to digital marketing. Much of today’s content consists of repurposed formats and deliverables invented in the 1950s. Social video is simply adapted TV advertising. Web ads are just print ads delivered digitally in a different size…

Digitization vs. Digital Transformation

Tom defined digitization as taking the existing assets and reshaping them for digital delivery (such as the examples above). This is the easiest approach and may seem cost-effective. But does it really meet the goal of connecting with consumers and other users?

A more productive attitude to assume is digital transformation. To do this, we must take a step back, drop our preconceptions and see the digital technology landscape with new eyes. This is a new environment, with new interactions being defined and adopted with incredible frequency. Personalized screens are more common than toothbrushes, and we have the data to know a lot about who is looking at those screens.

As an example of digital transformation, Tom demonstrated the possibility of auto-generated advertising within messaging apps. Brands can choose to interface with an artificial intelligence engine that can see what a user is messaging about and provide relevant offers in real time – from coupons, to dinner reservations, to tickets for a show! With personalization, privacy will always be a concern. But this opportunity would not even be possible without a reevaluation of technology.

“Get your head out of ‘digital strategy’ and ‘e-commerce thought leadership’ – just think about how we live in modern society.”

—Tom Goodwin

But rethinking the technology is only part of the process to digital transformation. In the quote above, Tom makes the point that to really connect, to build a relationship, we must be able to think and reason from the consumer’s perspective. This is the entire premise behind the “human-centered” design approach. We’re not creating content for a mobile device. We are creating for a person with habits and emotions, responsibilities and relationships.

So we know our tech. And we know the people we want to reach. What’s next?

Create Value by Breaking Things

Bonin Bough brings home the point that while many clients may ask for innovation, their attitudes and feedback often demand incrementality. His solution, like that of Tom Goodwin, is to embrace change – forcefully. He calls creatives to join the hackonomy and “create value by breaking things.”

As a creative with deadlines and reviews, sometimes I want nothing more than to break a few things. But Bonin wasn’t calling for destruction. He was calling for reinvention. Fight for the new, and don’t settle for doing things the same old way just because it has always worked pretty well.

Coming up with new ideas is not easy, and convincing stakeholders that those are the right ideas might be even harder still, especially if they break new ground. Bonin knew this and shared a whole slew of campaigns that “broke things” for brands like Ritz, Stride, Wheat Thins, Oreo and more. He told us about crazy ideas like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. He also shared the process of starting with a simple social post to show the value of change, and then scaling up until the reinvention is complete.

A New Perspective

These two presentations worked in tandem to broaden my perspective. And rather than thinking about specific projects or use cases, my time at Adobe MAX was spent thinking about the possibilities across all aspects of my work. I got to step back and rethink my own system for design, and maybe – just maybe – how to “break” some of the assumptions and processes here at Mitchell.