Winning an Adobe Creative Residency is no small feat. This year, Adobe increased the program to six residents, including two from Germany, but it is still highly competitive. Because the perks are pretty incredible: The software company provides a salary with health benefits, full access to its Creative Suite, relevant hardware, travel to Adobe MAX and other conferences and mentorship from established creatives in your field. You get to stay where you already live, you get creative freedom … it’s kind of like having a Medici on your side for a year.
So what does it take to earn one of these coveted spots? As the 2017 group of residents have settled into their year, I asked three of them, Aundre Larrow, Jessica Bellamy and Natalie Lew, to describe their work, how the residency has enabled them to lengthen their creative reach and what advice they have for future residency applicants.
Jessica Bellamy, Graphic Designer
Adobe’s Description: Graphic designer Jessica Bellamy, of Louisville, Kentucky, is a translator of ideas. Her work tackles the challenge of communicating complex service and policy information from non-profits, to the general public. During her residency, Bellamy plans to work towards design-focused social change. Her plan is to create a toolkit for non-profits to tell their stories and help designers learn how to work with the non-profits in new ways.
1) What was the first thing you did when you heard you got the residency?
I was with my friend Angela when it happened. We were on our way to Zanzibar to play pinball to peel some of the stress off of the day. My phone rang. I was very professionally excited on the phone and then promptly screamed once the call was over. I felt like I was in a movie. The sun was setting, the air was warm, and a playful 90s hip-hop song was in the background. We weren’t allowed to talk publicly about being selected for the residency until the official announcement, so this instantly became the most thrilling secret I’ve ever had.
2) Tell me about some projects that you plan to work on this year?
One of my focuses is hackathons, and I’ve been leading Graphic Ally Hackathons across the country this year. The hackathons are a collaboration among creatives, a nonprofit/community group that needs an infographic, and myself. As a professional infographic designer for social change initiatives, I’ve been teaching designers how to make hand-drawn infographics, as well as how to embed principles of conscious and responsible design and data equity into design work.
Already, I’ve completed three Graphic Ally Hackathons. I’ve done one in Detroit, MI, at the Allied Media Conference; one in Louisville, KY, for AIGA Louisville’s Design Week; and one in San Francisco, CA, at Chronicle Books. I’ll be facilitating more sessions in St. Louis, Cincinnati and Los Angeles before the end of my residency, and I may schedule two more in 2018.
In regards to motion graphics, I’m also making a shareable social media video series that teaches people how to replicate successful social change projects. These videos feature “Bubble,” a living and breathing infographic that morphs into maps, icons, charts and more. I’ve worked within communities for years now as a community organizer and as an equity-focused designer. It has been my dream to consolidate suggestions for policy change and addressing local problems into short, digestible tutorials. This Creative Residency is me living my dream.
3) How much of that plan was made possible (or at least a lot easier) because of this residency?
All of it. If it wasn’t for this residency, I would never have had the opportunity to create the motion graphics series nor share my skills on such a national level. Adobe gives me a generous amount of financial support as I work on my project, and connects me to software experts and esteemed designers when I have questions, need feedback or if there is an opportunity for collaboration. I also have an array of advisors and mentors with a variety of different skill sets that check in with me regularly. This has been an amazing experience and a huge opportunity for creative growth and development.
4) Thinking from the perspective of your own work, or any other inspiration, what does being “creative” mean to you?
Being creative means being ingenuitive and brave. Creatives are resourceful and inventive people who see possibilities in their failures.
5) Why do you think Adobe does this program? What’s in it for them?
Adobe created this program because it fosters informal feedback cycles and shares skills between creatives internationally. The Creative Residency also creates a personalized method of showcasing new ways to use their design software.
6) If you were to give advice to creators who are going to apply for next year’s residency, what would you say?
Your proposal should be and do four things. It should 1) be ambitious but realistic, 2) build off of your unique skills and point of view, 3) challenge your creative process, and 4) be about something that you’re passionate. If you get the outstanding opportunity to be a Creative Resident, be excited to work your butt off.