Reflections on Adobe MAX 2015

by Gary Coyne

posted Friday, October 9, 2015 at 8:26 AM EST

Adobe MAX

This year's Adobe MAX conference was the largest of the four I've been to in my time. Some 7000 people attended hundreds of sessions with speakers and leaders from the every corner of the creative community

Adobe MAX originated with Macromedia, the company that gave us FreeHand, Dreamweaver and Flash, amongst a host of other applications. It was a convention of coders, for coders. But, after Adobe bought Macromedia, MAX started to integrate sessions for Photoshop, InDesign and very quickly started to go from a conference for coders to a conference for creatives. Like it or not, it's succeeding if attendance is any indication.

The curious thing about the attendance rate is that so many people travel so far to be at a conference where all of the sessions are available online for free soon after each day. I met one guy from Jordan, others from Sweden, Europe, South America, Africa, Australia and here I was, a man who had a whopping eight mile drive to the convention center each day, fighting traffic each way. Besides meeting all of these very interesting folks, I also met with many Adobe Engineers and was able to talk with them about the products and their interaction with them; something you can't quite do by watching a video.

Nick Offerman stares at his own 3D created face generated from a 2D photo

It's a bit like watching sports; it's more fun in groups. To see your favorite team is better in person, it's OK with a crowd in your living room, it's kinda OK by yourself in your living room and you really have to be a team fanatic to watch it on your phone. Watching Adobe's Sneak Peaks in a crowd of geeks is like watching Joe Montana at his best while sitting with a bunch of football fanatics. It's just plain fun watching the creative community be continually impressed with the tech, products and demonstrations

Like I said, this year was crowded. There were times going through the halls of the LA Convention Center, where it was held, was worse than trying to drive through the LA traffic in rush hour. No, really. It was wall to wall people all trying to get to their next session or meet up with the colleagues for a business meeting. Because of the crowds, and also likely due to the (surprisingly) few hotels in the immediate proximity of the LA Convention Center, next year's Adobe MAX will be held in San Diego (Oct 31 - Nov 4, 2016). It'll be interesting to see if San Diego's ability to handle Comic Con's last years attendance of 130,000 people will be able to deal with what MAX has to offer.

Folks at any age enjoy crafts, even at a computer event

One theme that did stand out in the Pavilion area (where vendors want to show you their latest hardware and software) is the number of arts and crafts projects that folks were having a grand time with. In the central area of the convention center stood the chalk wall, a monument to personal geek graffiti. More surprising was watching so many folks playing with scissors, tape and images that they had created at the conference, a scene reminiscent of days spent in summer camp.

Despite the crowds and organized chaos, the thing that keeps folks coming back year after year is the wonder and surprise of what Adobe will introduce each year. Some 4 years ago attendees received Google TV (it wasn't very good and not only did the appliance die in less than a year, but when it did die, I didn't realize it for some time as we were not using the device). The next year attendants received a Samsung smart phone. Last year, things got a little crazy as attendees were given the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (as a reporter, I was in one of the groups that did not receive the computer). And this year, if you've not heard, everyone received the Fuji X-T10.

The Chalk Wall is always filled at every MAX

All of that said, when it really gets down to it, the thing I heard over and over again throughout the conference is that despite the fact we can have Connect sessions across the world and we can Skype and text, and be in our virtual office, the thing that keeps people coming back over and over to MAX is that they can meet people face-to-fact and talk shop.

That and the massive party at MAX Bash. Until next year, Adobe MAX.