I’m headed to Adobe MAX 2016

Hit me up on twitter, @benarson, if you’re at MAX.

Adobe MAX 2016This is my second time to the larger-than-life digital creative conference. I’m stoked to get inspired, humbled, energized, and enlightened. As a web professional, my first MAX in 2014 was heavily focused on web tech. While I’m still looking forward to getting exposure to that (I hope the Adobe XD team has a presence on the pavilion floor), I’ve shaped my itinerary to have a creative bent. I’m overwhelmed by the talent available to see and meet at MAX this year. You can and should check out the live streams available on max.adobe.com. Maybe you’ll see me waving at the cameras. Here’s where you’ll find me:


9:30 AM – The Big Keynote

Probably some product reveals presented by Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen. If Adobe is going to have a big giveaway, this is where it happens. My prediction? Probably a nice media-capture device, like a camera, hopefully a 360 camera. My wish? Tim Cook makes an appearance to giveaway new Macbook Pros. One can dream.

1:45 PMPretty Much Everything: Aaron Draplin

The quick-fire casually polished presentations by Aaron James Draplin of the Draplin Design Co. warm my heart. His work-your-ass-off ethic via his passion for good design clears minds of the noise and gets eyes to see the best in things. I’m bringing cash to buy some merch from his table because cash is king.

3:30 PMTen Designers That Changed My Life: Nick Sambrato

I know of Nick’s awesome print shop, Mama’s Sauce, and I don’t think this topic is going to fail. Lay it on me, Nick.

5:15 PMThe Difference Between Being Cute & Being Creepy Is One Emoji: Timothy Goodman

I have no idea what he’s going to talk about, but it should be both entertaining and insightful. Timothy is a very talented illustrator who’s collaborated with many other gifted designers. Pumped to hear this talk.

6:30 PMSponsor Night

There should be keynote presenters here showing off the latest Adobe tech. I’m excited to meet these experts in person and ask them questions one-on-one. Also, mingling with like-minds. Also also, apps+snacks+beer.


8:15 AMEverything Your Mother Never Told You About Launching a Product Line: Rebecca Simpson

I don’t have any plans to make physical products at the moment, but I find the whole process fascinating (probably why I like Draplin so much). Looking forward to hearing a good story and some nuggets of knowledge from Becky.

10:00 AMSecond Keynote

This keynote features rockstar creatives making it happen in big ways. Scheduled to attend this year is artist Janet Echelman, fashion designer Zac Posen, photographer Lynsey Addario, and some filmmaker named Quentin Tarantino. This keynote usually involves inspiration overload.

12:45 PMTelling My Stories, My Way: My Journey to Becoming a Self­Made Artist: Josiah Brooks

Josiah from Jazza Studios is a high-energy speaker. It should be full of positive vibes from a person making a buck from his passions.

2:30 PMMasters of None: The Made Shop

I’ve been a generalist in nearly every job I’ve been paid for. This title speaks to me. Sounds like the entire Made Shop is going to be there.

6:00 PMMAX Sneaks

Keegan-Michael Key to offer witty banter alongside some of the craziest late-breaking tech from Adobe engineers? GOLD.

7:30 PMMAX Bash

The Mogli’s and the Alabama Shakes will rock among performance artists and fancy appsnacks. I saw the Alabama Shakes in Seattle the week after their appearance on Saturday Night Live. It was amazing and loud, even from the back row. I’ll be trying to get closer to the stage this go around.


8:30 AM Crafting the Story: Storytelling Techniques That Capture the Audience: Christine Steele

I do a lot of work with user experiences. When outlining a journey online, with an interface, and, of course, in a seat at the movie theater, a story arc is essential to engagement. I’m interested in Christine’s take on storytelling.

10:15 AMUsers Are People Too: Meagan Fisher

Humanizing user experiences is a big deal all over the web and especially challenging in my current gig (web design for insurance). Meagan’s talk feels close to home.

12:45 PMYou Don’t Have to Start with a Good Idea — You Just Have to Finish with One: Dan Stiles

Dan hails from the PNW, he’s an excellent illustrator, and he’s speaking at MAX. I’m there.

2:30 PMAdventures in Experiential Design: Jessi Arrington

I am very, very excited about this talk. I once spent a summer driving boats around and around Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise. It goes without saying, it was a fun job that a lot of people would do for free (I did it for minimum wage), but the main benefit for me was being immersed in virtual realities designed and built for in-person experiences. Jessi designs these kinds of experiences for pop-up shops, conferences, and other themed environments.

4:15 PM What the Future Holds for Video Creatives: Dave Werner

I’m waitlisted on Dave’s character animation labs, so this session will have to do! I love video and I am pumped to hear from Dave, someone who routinely churns out cool video content. Great way to end MAX and look to tomorrow.

Are Photoshop smart objects worth it?

Smart objects are great! Right? Come on, are you with me? The entire Adobe community agrees that they are a best practice; use smart objects and your wildest dreams will come true.
Smart object icon

Smart object icon – weeee!

Sure, it’s a single reference that can be changed once to make sweeping affects on your psd’s. If you have a logo file and you’re copying it across multiple page comps, by all means, you should make it a smart object and copy from that.  Need to change the logo? Edit one. Edit all. Rule the world. Extract But let’s talk about one particular workflow that isn’t working for me. I use Adobe Extract a lot. Extract is awesome; it’s Dropbox plus a PSD inspector that allows me to share comp details with clients, developers, friends, family, etc. It’s been around since 2014. Extract is wonderful and I love it. Creative Cloud Extract Extract is a complicated feat by Adobe. Basically, I’m uploading a PSD to the cloud (I’m pretty sure it’s hosted on Amazon Web Services) and it waits there for you to check it out. When you come along, it grabs the PSD and goes to town, rendering all of the layers, doing all sorts of math for you, gathering data on font families, sizes, colors, etc., etc., etc. Extract does all of this online, inside your browser, without the need to download, license, and run Photoshop. Amazing. Artboards Photoshop CC 2015 brings artboards to PSD’s. Now, instead of doing an insane amount of layer groups or layer comps (which I always got lost in), you can now lay out all of your comps as artboards across one PSD. The experience is killer and clear and especially amazing when dropping PSD’s into InVision. I’ve been loving artboards since day one. Then, like with many new things, that love can begin to wane. I noticed my files getting huge, roughly 5 MB per artboard. It would kind of bother me seeing a PSD approach 50 MB, 250 MB, once 500 MB, but I wouldn’t let it get me down. I’m a professional! I’ll swing through my PSD later when I have some time, clean it up, optimize some things, and feel better about myself. No big deal. Artboards + Extract Hey, let’s check out one of my multi MB PSD’s on Extract . . . holy nuts. The render time, while I wouldn’t classify it as, “forever,” takes some time. And it makes sense, right? I’ve handed some server on the cloud the task of rendering layers and layers of information, on demand. But, shoot, this is really slow. Don’t get me started on the unfortunate reality that not everyone I share links with runs the latest version of Chrome on a fast internet connection. That render gif? They stare at that thing for many minutes before writing me a nasty email. Extract rendering I quickly arrive to the conclusion that I should do my due diligence in optimizing these PSD’s and what better way can I reduce file size and hopefully improve Extract’s performance than with smart objects? Everybody is doing it. Come on, you know you want to. Smart objects I spend a little too much time thinking through my PSD. I do all of the basic stuff (“Oh, I use that icon more than once … smart object!”). I even do some deep cuts, nesting smart objects. My pages are consolidated like a defragmented hard drive. Things are looking goooooood.
File size climbs

File size climbs

It’s the funniest thing, my file size? With single references for multiple objects on my artboards, my PSD file size actually goes up! What?? Yes!! Unbelievable, I know, but my theory is, smart objects make Photoshop think harder and when you start creating them all over the place your file size will initially step up. Now, from my understanding, the more I copy that referrence, the more my work pays off. With the file I’m currently gabbing about, it contains about 20 artboards. If the PSD were to contain 100 artboards, then the smart object starts to pay off hand over fist. It’s like investing money or buying wheat futures or  . . . whatever, I’m terrible at analogies. You get the picture. Alright, so smart objects are kind of screwing me at the moment. Do they make Extract perform any better? It doesn’t feel like it. Well, how about doing the thing that no Photoshopper likes to do, and flatten my smart objects? You can do this – and it will reduce file size, but at what cost? Flattening smart objects is dumb. It saved me about 15% on the PSD in question and ruined Extract. Even before flattening the objects, Extract doesn’t allow inspection of smart objects (yet). Want a developer to lift some CSS or simply see what font-family that word is? Forget it. Extract requires things like fonts, shapes, layer styles, and the like to be on their own layers to be inspected. Lock it into a smart object and that Extract feature dies. So, are smart objects in Photoshop worth it? I think if I need to repeat a raster image that doesn’t require layer styles (box shadow or something) then I’ll keep up with using smart objects. However, if I have something that has multiple shapes, fonts, and layer styles, I’m not going to count on smart objects doing me any favors. Luckily, Adobe seems to care about improving Photoshop and Extract features. Join the Adobe Forums and get your ideas in the hands of Adobe developers.