Applying for the Adobe Creative Residency

The applications for next year’s Adobe Creative Residency positions are now open. Many people have asked me for my advice about applying. I can’t talk to everyone personally, simply because my advice is cut and dry. What you might find helpful are my own application process, experiences in the program, and my views about the nature of opportunity.

History stuff first: Last February, during the final semester of my degree plan, I was applying to just about everywhere I could find for post-graduation opportunities. On top of class, I was working full-time freelance as well as a part-time campus desk job. I didn’t have much time for my own work — everything in my thesis and portfolio was done after dark, after hours, and whenever I could squeeze the minutes. I saw a tweet about the residency applications about five hours before the final deadline, and decided to throw together a project proposal. I submitted it without any expectations of a person reading it, and added a copy of the pdf to the folder on my desktop containing the other 60+ cover letters I’d sent elsewhere since the start of the year. (grim, right?)

About a month later (I’d forgotten about it, honestly) I got an email requesting a phone call to talk about my application. After that, it happened quickly — I was invited to interview in San Francisco. I talked to a ton of really amazing individuals about my work — it was super intimidating, but a few days later, I was offered the job.

This is a bright, flashy opportunity. The residency brings money, visibility, benefits, travel, and seemingly unlimited time (a year really isn’t that long!) and resources to spend on your own ideas. It’s SO juicy. I was in awe, and my ego was a little more than inflated. It’s been an interesting couple of months since then.

What I didn’t realize in the beginning was that this opportunity isn’t just one to go places, see people and make stuff. It’s all about self-discovery.

Good things — Being able to go to new places and hear inspiring people speak shifted my ideals and my personal focus, without me even realizing it for a while. I’ve made lifelong friends who have taught me things I didn’t know that I didn’t know. It’s given me a perspective of the world.

And bad things — I never realized that suddenly having all hours of the day to focus on myself and what I thought I wanted, might actually stall me. Anxiety, fear of failure and even imposter syndrome are a daily struggle for me. At the end of the day, I’m still the same person — one who works daily to overcome time management issues, procrastination problems and work guilt. So if you’re considering this, please keep all this in mind, and be more mindful than I was along the way!

Still on board?

You probably have a great project to apply with in mind by now — Great! I can’t give everyone personal feedback on whether or not your project will be ‘good’ for the residency, but here’s a short questionnaire that should help:

Question #1: Have you started the project on your own?

Question #2: If you aren’t chosen for the residency, will you still try to do the project on some scale?

The correct answer to #1 is, ‘yes!’ If you said no, what’s stopping you? Make the time to get it out of your head and into the tangible world.

The correct answer to #2 is, surprise! Also ‘yes.’ Don’t do the work for the opportunity — do the work for yourself. Opportunity will then follow.

The rest of my advice is simple: show your work. Always, when possible. In your application, in your portfolio, to your mom and to your dog. It’s like grade school math — You can end up with a right answer, but proving how you got it gets you more points. My application had work I’d previously completed — I’d done the work and could prove it. Showing is always so much better than telling.

(Also, a human will definitely be looking at your residency proposal. The small team of people who review these is amazing, and they’re going to be doing a lot of reading — give them some pretty pictures to look at.)

Documentation is super important, but if you’ve done your work, it will speak for itself. Take the time you meant to spend polishing/worrying about a form application, and put it back into the project itself — break down your process and make your thoughts evident. (I mentioned my proposal was put together in a few hours before the deadline. It was not refined, but I believe the work it contained was.)

Of those other 60+ cover letters I mentioned earlier? I heard back from exactly 0 other opportunities I applied for. Am I bitter? Absolutely not.

I mentioned having gained a new perspective — now more than ever, I recognize how small each person is, how many of us there are, yet how unique we all remain. I really hope you get what you want — I want you to be happy! But if you don’t hear back, please remember this, it’s very important:

Rejection is never personal. Not being chosen for something you applied for is not an assessment or a judgement — it’s just that you didn’t quite fit. Everything is just puzzle pieces — just because one piece of a puzzle doesn’t fit where you want it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a place elsewhere. That fit can’t be forced. Not fitting doesn’t make you or your work less valid or valuable — You haven’t lost anything, and you’re right in the same place you started, but with a cool project filled with potential!!! You just have to keep working on it, and keep looking for where it fits.

Put your application together for yourself — not the residency. If you approach it that way, you will have created a project outline for yourself, and clarified a lot along the way. Use that as a foundation to create your own opportunity.

I hope this has provided some things for you to think about. TL;DL: Stop only saying you’re gonna do the thing; show people you can do the thing you said you could.

Thanks for reading, and thank you always to Adobe for everything.

Love, 
Syd