5 Questions with Joshua Ulm of Adobe

5 Questions with Joshua Ulm of Adobe

Why should we get excited about Project Comet?

Design has changed a lot since Adobe first introduced Photoshop over twenty years ago. We continue to work hard to keep our design tools modern and they remain the industry standard, but we've also recognized that there is a new generation of opportunities for designers the can only be addressed by rethinking everything that is fundamental about the practice of design. Our design team used Fireworks religiously and the day we shut Fireworks down we began designing the tool we always wanted, but also the tool that would take our practice into the next decade. That meant getting the nuance of the experience right, so Comet is blazingly fast and modernizes the design UI in clever and powerful ways. But what is exciting about Comet is just how far beyond the tools that exist today it goes. Only by throwing everything out and starting from scratch were we able to reinvent not simply the designer's tool, but the what it means to practice design in the modern age.

What would be the next step for you? What would you like to see yourself doing creatively?

Although my background is in filmmaking, I'm a designer through and through. I adore the challenge of using design thinking to solve problems that good design has yet to be addressed. Making the next iPhone has no appeal to me – design has solved all the hard problems there. Design has the ability to impact the most important and difficult problems that effect our daily lives – education, health, and welfare, politics and justice. Even at Adobe, when we approach the experience of our tools, we aren't simply looking at icons and panel layouts, we fundamental approach the problem from the goal of enabling creativity. Artists, creatives are solving the world's hardest problems, and we are working to give them every mean necessary to accomplish their lofty goals.

What is the best environment for you when you are trying to come up with new, creative ideas?

Gosh. I've gotten very good at working in a wide variety of environments and finding the best solution given the resources you have available. So I believe adaptation to be a crucial skill for a successful design practice. You can spend a lot of time trying to force a process on to an organization, but scale, skill, and ultimately your goals all affect the success of one approach over another.

How do you stay on top of current design trends?

Following trends isn't part of my design practice. I've found only two things are important to design. The first is empathy. The second is attention to detail. In that order.

What are some of your biggest frustrations as a designer?

I adore everything about design so none of it frustrates me. I can say I would rather spend my time practicing design than justifying why the process is valuable, though. But the opportunity for design to impact not simply the experience, but the business, end-to-end, means that everyone in the business needs to come along for the ride. So it's not unsurprising that design has become as much about politics as it is about the craft.