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Beating the Odds at Adobe Creative Jam

Adobe Creative Jam in Detroit.
Recently, Jenny Shaddach and I competed at the Adobe Creative Jam in Detroit and walked away victorious with the first place People’s Choice Award. First, I have to give to kudos to Adobe for a sweet event. Great venue—chic’ed up warehouse in the Eastern Market district of downtown Detroit—great speakers, portfolio review service, and they even wined and fancy food cart-ed all of us. If you have a chance to speak/attend/compete at one of the upcoming jams, I 100% recommend you do.

The Setup

The challenge was simple but intense. Two-person teams have three hours to come up with an app prototype using Adobe XD, based on a theme given at the beginning of the night. To see our winning idea for “Against the Odds” and the other design prototypes, check out the Adobe Creative Jam Behance page.

Pleasing the Crowd

Ready to take home your own sweet trophy? (Yeah, we got TROPHIES!) Here’s our advice for winning the day:

1. Keep it light

Design is also entertainment. That is always true, but especially at a competition—there’s literally an audience. Delight yourselves, have fun, and make sure that comes across. Use what comes naturally to you—don’t try too hard to read the audience or judges. Don’t try to fake what doesn’t fit; just own what you like and sell it.

2. Pick an approach quickly

Take a few minutes to ideate and then latch onto the thing that makes you both the most excited. Then, roughly flesh out the whole plan early, divide, and conquer. Side note: be sure to have a plan for collaborating. (We didn’t! There are so many options for file sharing, and we hadn’t really thought it through, so it was a minor time grab when every second counts.)

3. Compromise fast

Designing at lightning speed means everything has to happen quickly, including compromise. Work with someone you know you gel with and try to keep an improv mindset—encourage and add onto others ideas, don’t negate or fight the point.

4. Trim the weeds last

Make sure you don’t go down a rabbit hole before you have a rabbit. If you have time to add detail or extra features, great. But decide up front what is essential to conveying your idea and what is icing on the cake, like adding as many metaphors to one point as possible. Then, only add icing to the weeds on the rabbit hole if you have time.
Perficient’s Jenny Shaddach and Marti Gukeisen win first place at Adobe Creative Jam.

Is Jam Real Life?

In a design jam, you have so little time and information; you want to go with your gut and NOT worry about your audience. In real design life, who your audience is and what they want and need is of the utmost importance. Likewise, in a design jam, you want to grab onto an idea and run with it without worrying too much about optimizing. In real life, good design involves testing and iterating to try to find the best possible solution.
But there ARE aspects of a design jam that are great to remember when working with Adobe XD, even in the real world:

  1. Get a rough idea of the full scope early and prioritize the most important aspects.
  2. How you feel about something shows through, so be sure you feel good about your work.
  3. Presenting your work is key in the agency and design world; prepare and put on a show.

Real life or not, the Adobe Creative Jam was a whole lot of fun and a great opportunity to mingle with some badass design-minded folks. I highly recommend keeping this quick competition format in mind next time you are looking to show your creative chops or do some professional schmoozing.
Contestants at Adobe Creative Jam in Detroit.
Photos by Victoria Pavlov

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