Adobe ‘Make It’ Conference 2017: Design. Passion. Sharpies.

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I spent my Thursday blissfully binging on inspiration at Sydney’s beautiful new ICC, a kind of in-the-flesh ‘Netflix & Upskill’.

Adobe has expanded its product range and community massively over the past few years and its annual Asia Pacific ‘Make It’ conference has grown to match. This year featured an eclectic array of exhibits, workshops, speakers and demonstrations, great food and drink, and even a live musical/dance performance.

The vibrant festival of creativity reflects our gradual shift into what James Noble, founder of Carter Digital and awesome speaker, calls the Design Age. Already, we’re seeing that it’s no longer about the technology nor the information, both of which seem to be outpacing us all. Now there are few gatekeepers and few limits. The personal video recorder in your pocket is probably better than what professionals used in the 80s, and much smaller too. Technology is merely a conduit and our approach to projects should reflect this. We need to take the technology considerations away, design a solution to the problem and then add back in the technology required.

I attended ‘Adobe Make It’ as a graphic designer, but the attendees I met were from a range of professions — I even found an accountant! And why not? In the Design Age, creative problem-solving is becoming more important for all of us, because, let’s face it, when the friendly robots take our jobs, some of the only roles left for Homo sapiens will be the creative ones. But whether you’re a creative or not, I think some of the things I learnt at ‘Make It’ can be applied to your career. In the Design Age, we are all becoming creative problem-solvers with abstract, multi-directional-hyphenated titles on our business cards. So here’s what I wanted to share – and it’s all about passion, a running theme at this year’s conference.

It’s great to be passionate about what you’re working on, but Gareth O’Brien from animation agency Buck asserts that it has been an important business metric for his team. The difficulty lies in justifying so-called ‘passion projects’ for a busy individual or team, especially when there is business to be done and money to be made. But for Buck, 'passion projects' have been important in creating new revenue streams: Gareth notes that when you look at the agency’s work, there is often a clear line from passion project to similar paid client work immediately after. The underlying message: Make what you want to make more of and you will proactively define your career. And that’s not all. By pursuing a passion project, you can win design awards, learn, do something you believe in (like help a non-profit with a campaign), improve team culture, and have fun, too!

Watch the talks from the main stage speakers as well as the pre-conference Sessions on demand here.

Watch the talks from the main stage speakers as well as the pre-conference Sessions on demand here.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But how on earth are you going to fit passion projects into your already-packed calendar? Gareth offers some advice. The project needs not be something you just made up. You can use a real brief from a real client; the ‘passion’ part can be you going above and beyond to explore an exciting angle or add value beyond the budget. In fact, having the boundaries of a real brief can be creatively beneficial. And also, passion projects need not be huge undertakings: we can all think about ways to work on tiny side-projects every now and then.

Of course, the concept of passion projects is nothing new: many creatives have created careers by investing time in exploring, playing, and honing a style or a craft they’re naturally interested in. Two speakers were striking examples of this because of their niche specialties. Kitiya Palaskas ultimately made up a new job description for herself: she’s a ‘craft-based designer’ who makes designs out of felt, and piñata-esque props for various creative applications. Meanwhile, Timothy Goodman has recently become well-known for his illustration work using his preferred medium, the humble Sharpie. Both designers used passion projects to build a habit of constant practice and experimentation, and kept one eye open for opportunities to create unique income streams in their personal businesses. And both have published books to showcase their success: Piñata Party and Sharpie Art Workshop.

All the speakers at ‘Adobe Make It’ made the case for stoking your creative fire, not only because life is sweeter that way but also because creativity can make a difference to what your business looks like moving forward. So whether you’re a graphic designer or an accountant, whether you work on them in your personal or professional life, passion projects have a place — more so than ever as we enter the Design Age. I left ‘Make It’ with a recharged inspiration to, well, just make it. I’m going to brush the dust off my Wacom tablet and start making something, for fun and for profit. And I’d encourage you to do the same. Not sure where to start? Just pick a place — any place — and go from there. To quote Tim Goodman: “You gotta make a lot of stuff before you start making stuff like yourself.”

Freckle’s War On Waste


I went to Africa a few years ago. We rode a truck from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania out into the Masai Mara. As we entered a small town on the edge of the National Park, we were greeted by the Masai locals - a beautiful race of people. The warm, orange sun crept slowly toward the horizon and the local kids cast long shadows as they herded their goats back to their village. And, drifting along in the warm breeze between the kids, the livestock and the acacia trees were hundreds of bright white plastic bags, empty water bottles, coke cans, crisp packets, cigarette packets, Mars bar wrappers, containers, newspapers and toilet rolls.

In amongst so much natural beauty, there was SO. MUCH. MESS. “What are you doing?” I wanted to shout out to the Masai. And then, I realised that we are no different over here. In Australia we produce 50 million tonnes of waste every year. Of that 50 million tonnes, 12.5 million tonnes is being produced by Australian workplaces. That’s about around 23 wheelie bins per worker per year! So in an office of eight people we are wheeling out 184 bins of waste. In fact, the only difference between the Masai and us is a garbage bin. We clean our waste away so it’s out of sight and OUT. OF. MIND. But the thing is, it’s not gone. Just forgotten.

This got me thinking, I can’t fix Africa, but what can I do in my patch?  Well, I've decided to set us a challenge: To reduce our office landfill-bound waste to one small shopping bag a week by Christmas. Yes, that’s right: from two 50-litre bags to one small shopping back per week. We’re looking at reducing our waste by about 75%. It’s huge.

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Here are the three things I think we could focus on to start:

1. Recycling.

Freckle's strata don’t provide recycling facilities so I’m going to create a bag so I can take our recycling home with me once every week or two. This means I’m going to care a great deal about how much paper we use. I’ll also pull together a poster that shows us which plastics can be recycled so it makes it easy for us to get it right.

2. Eat or repeat.

Like Mum always said: “There are starving people in Africa.” It’s true, but there are two million starving people in Australia as well. I believe the key here is: Don’t buy more than you need, and if you do, store it properly so you don’t have to throw it out after one day. Obviously, some bits of food we can’t eat, so I’ll be ‘repeating’ them. Yes, I’m saying we should start our very own Freckle worm farm.

3. Multi-use. Reuse, Repurpose, Upcycle.

If we make something, let’s aim to keep it in the system for as long as possible. This goes for projects we do for clients as well. And once that something has become useless, let’s try to find another use for it.

I also think we could make a real effort to print double-sided. I know we do already, but it’s worth noting that for every 100 reams of paper printed double sided, we can save about one cubic metre of landfill, a tonne of greenhouse gas, and a couple of trees. Not to mention a 50% dollar saving for the business.

Finally, let’s not use it in the first place. Plastic bags are a good start. So, for our garbage let’s start using bags that are already in the system, instead of buying new ones. I know, plastic bags are bad, but practicality and hygiene in a work environment means that we have to be smart about it. And, of course, coffee cups … I ran some numbers. If eight of us have one takeaway coffee a day, that’s 1,440 cups a year – more than 20kg of waste. Hands up, who needs a reusable cup? How about we order them this week?

Let’s do this together. Over the coming months, I’m sure we can all come up with ways we can make our 83sqm a more pleasant place to be.

There are plenty of resources out there to help. One worth having a look at is Business Recycling. It is run by Planet Ark and NSW EPA and provides loads of information to help businesses reduce their impact on waste generation.

Just because we can’t see rubbish, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Rather than figuring out new ways to deal with our waste, how about we stop creating it in the first place?

What are your top tips for reducing waste in the workplace?

Want to know more? Here are some fantastic resources about waste and what we can do about it:



The Conversation


Business Recycling




Freckfast 1: How to get things done

For as long as I can remember, I have tried to organise my time so that I can get stuff done.

Even as a 7-year-old, I would set myself clear KPOs and keep to a strict schedule so I had more time for play! Old habits die hard. But I know I’m not the only one who likes to have structure in my life. One of my friends has ‘Sunday sort-outs’ where he divides his afternoon into the tasks he wants to complete; another has a spreadsheet with icons to tick off once goals have been achieved. And then there are methodologies like The Checklist Manifesto and Bullet Journal, which have seriously huge followings. There are whole communities of us out there who like to be organised.

I stumbled on the book Getting Things Done by David Allen on a plane journey a few years ago. The system is simple: You empty your mind to be able to engage with what is important to you. And, do you know what? It really works. It allows me to free up my mind and focus – and I know I am more productive as a result. One of the best techniques for me is mind sweeping. When I ‘mind sweep’ I capture everything I can in writing, without giving it any extra thought at the time. If you looked, you’d think I’d written in code with all the squiggles, lines and icons. But when I pick through my shorthand, I can see all sorts of patterns – and inspiration often leaps off the page. I find it so effective.

I’m also a big fan of ‘Morning Pages’, an exercise developed by author Julia Cameron. Once a week, I write down my thoughts stream-of-consciousness style. It all comes tumbling out, but I keep going for about 15-20 minutes each time. And the end result is amazing. The process of writing often helps me to resolve those niggling problems I didn’t even realise I had. It also frees up my mind, sharpens my focus and ensures I use my time well to get things done.

These techniques are simple and effective and I truly believe they can work for everyone.

What techniques do you use to free your mind and organise your time effectively?

The inaugural Freckfast was hosted by Senior Designer, Luke McConaghey. Thanks Luke!

The inaugural Freckfast was hosted by Senior Designer, Luke McConaghey. Thanks Luke!

Freckle: Designers of Intelligent Communication


A few months ago we embarked on a journey to rediscover what it meant to be ‘A Freckle’. We decided that the reason we're here is to use design to enrich the lives of the people we work with, the brands they represent and the audience they are trying to reach. But that takes more than just creating something beautiful. It requires digging deeper to find what's truly valuable for your audience. It requires intelligent design.

So we've repositioned ourselves as Designers of Intelligent Communication: Brands. Campaigns. Events. 

Our new website represents this new approach, encompassing everything we're known for in the industry – ease of use, scaleable service, direct access to senior designers – but with a new focus on helping you to find, own and communicate your hidden brand values and enrich the lives of your audience.

This is the continuation of a story that started over 12 years ago, in the back room of a Surry Hills office block, and we can't wait to start writing the next chapter.