The following is an article I wrote for the Adobe Life blog, an interview-style piece about the inventor of Adobe Ink & Slide. The technology is impressive; I hope you enjoy my behind-the-scenes look at the process of this invention!
Flash back to MAX, when David Wadhwani revealed Mighty (cloud pen) and Napoleon (digital ruler) to the creative community, effectively wowing the crowd and creating large amounts of speculation—now, the buzz is more palpable than ever, with the recent announcement these concepts are now being built, set to be released in early 2014. Amid all of the hubbub, we got a behind-the-scenes look into the talented people who helped bring Mighty and Napoleon to life.
Enter Geoff Dowd, XD Design Lead, who joined Adobe four years ago. Geoff was formally trained in graphic design and received his B.S. in Applied Art and Design from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. His past career includes working with various companies in industrial design (frog design), digital marketing (Odopod/Nurun) and software design. In the end, Geoff found his niche in user experience design with Adobe XD, led by Michael Gough – father of Mighty, if you will.
“The reason why I joined Adobe is that I had been designing products exclusively for clients; essentially other peoples’ dreams. With Adobe XD I knew that I had an opportunity to design something meaningful for the new creatives and take that something from conception to production and into the hands of the users – the full cycle.” shared Geoff.
VP of Experience Design Michael Gough (and inventor of Napoleon) supports his organization to freely create and think beyond software. During the span of six months, Phil Clevenger, director of Experience Design, gave Geoff and team the opportunity to prototype and brainstorm various product ideas every Friday morning. These were design-led products. They looked at the competitive landscape and Adobe’s needs, and sought to fill in market gaps. They came up with six ideas in total. Project Mighty was the sixth one.
At the first annual XD All Hands Design Week, Geoff presented Project Mighty to the entire organization. “Humans evolved to use tools,” said Geoff. “The finger is simply not good enough for tablet drawing. It’s time to evolve again. What if Adobe made a pen?” As Geoff waved the magical pen in front of his audience and went through a demo, he explained that it would be connected to your identity and be designed as a “cloud pen” that held all your preferences in Creative Cloud. It was sleek. It was aesthetically pleasing. Above all, it inspired people to get involved with the project to make it come to life.
Naturally, what Geoff had pulled out of his pocket wasn’t the final product—far from it. In fact, it was a prototype that simply played the part. By building software that copied and pasted from his phone to tablet, Geoff claimed it was all “smoke and mirrors” at first. Even so, his vision of Project Mighty’s power was all he needed to gain traction.
“The timing was right—customers needed a new tool. Tablets aren’t just for consumption anymore, they’re also for creation,” revealed Geoff. “There’s a lot of supporters. We sort of tapped into the zeitgeist and lots of serendipitous moments happened to get Mighty where it is today.”
For Geoff, Michael, and Phil, it’s been a whirlwind of traveling and constant collaboration with software, design, and even manufacturing teams. In a partnership with hardware manufacturer Adonit, Geoff has bridged the gap between ideation and production. Along with key team members David Macy and Jen Davi – the keepers of the narrative and the program – he has visited Adonit’s factory in Taipei to monitor how Mighty will be produced and to ensure its high-quality design would translate into the finished product.
“Being hands-on throughout the process has been tremendous. It’s a big deal for a software guy like me working with hardware. We believe that hardware can inspire software—and vice versa.”
In conjunction with Mighty and Napolean, the XD team has created Project Parallel—exclusive showcase software for the hardware. Including the ability for straight-line sketching, Project Parallel is a true ideation touch app that’s simple and easy-to-use. Geoff has taken this software and the new tools on the road, recently stopping by the 99U Pop-up event in New York to share with creative professionals and the reception has been outstanding.
This is just the beginning. With 2014 just a few months away, the team will be busy perfecting these new tools. The process has been amazing, to say the least. Geoff offers these words of wisdom to employees: “You have to make believe. Constantly design what you want and make it real every step of the way until it is real. Do it with a lot of heart and soul. Be authentic. If it’s an authentic story, people will get it. Being authentic is important.”
Get an in-depth look at how Mighty and Napolean were created on Behance, complete with photos to document every step of the process.