Why not you? Why not now?

Why asking if you should apply to the Adobe Creative Residency isn’t the right question.

Do you know who Russell Westbrook is? Are y’all friends? If so, tell him I said sorry for boosting his tagline for a few minutes. If not, he is a mix of a bulldog and the secret stuff from Space Jam crammed into a 6’ 3 frame playing point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He famously wasn’t ranked as a high school student and was doubted as a player worth drafting when he declared.

Now he is the league reigning MVP and scoring leader, and he attributes that to the simple question he asks himself daily: Why not?

I want you to think the same way.

If you’re considering being a Adobe Creative Resident, start by asking yourself why not? And then the following:

  • Have you ever considered yourself an artist?
  • Do you enjoy what you create?
  • Do you have something to say?
  • Can you take it seriously?

If you answered yes to all of these then apply. I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking to whether or not you should do it (see Russell Westbrook heavy intro for that). I will however talk about application tactics and the residency experiences.

My experience:

During the interview, Mike Chambers, one of the interview panelists, asked me if there were any parts of my proposal that scared me. Confused by his wording I replied, “No, it’ll be hard work, but it’s nothing I can’t do.” He paused, looked me square in the eyes and said, “Our goal is for you to grow yourself three years in one.” And he wasn’t kidding.

My original goals for the residency:

  • Launch an immersive storytelling site called Echo Chamber using audio, video and photography to create a snapshot of America right now through immersive portraits of strangers.
  • Shoot street photography on the G train to highlight how much the line is changing.
  • Do a photo series about summer basketball in Brooklyn.

My revised goals for the residency:

  • Launch an immersive storytelling site storiesfromhere.com using audio, video and photography to create an snapshot of America right now through immersive portraits of strangers.
  • Shoot street photography on the G train to highlight how much the line is changing.
  • Create a short film about the CDC statistic that African-American kids are 5.5 times more likely to drown that Caucasian ones.
  • Cultivate a growing client base that includes CNN, American Express and Samsung.

As you can see, a good amount of this has changed. And with that, I have too.

Making my work my singular focus has yielded a different level of response from me. We have mentors and a program director, that spend their time helping me hone my focus and elevate my craft. We have weekly check-ins, talks to give, and pitches of our work to potential clients/employers after the year is over. When it first starts you think man, I have all of this time and then the truth of the residency hits you: there is always more to do, there are no more excuses to hide behind (money, time, access). You are accountable to not just yourself anymore. Does that scare you a bit? It’s supposed to. In that fear I’ve created some of my most dynamic work to date.


How to apply:

Remember when I said can you take it seriously? It starts here, right now.

Your project proposal is a business proposal, hard stop.

That means write it out and take it seriously. This is like you are pitching yourself and your project to complete strangers who could influence your career, which is the exact scenario you are in. You’re not writing to your mom, best friends or professors. Embrace the process, sweat the details and be specific.

Write and rewrite, study the work of those that inspire you and lean on their wisdom about the process. Build your proposal from the ground up, be descriptive and deliberate in your wording, avoid typos and grammatical errors. Obviously, you need a great idea, but don’t kill yourself trying to be the most original person on the planet because all art draws from other art. Frame your project around what you want to learn, using your current work as a launching point. Also, consider which specific Adobe products you want to master or at least work in/with.


Things you shouldn’t worry about:

How many followers you have.

Understand that your work speaks as loudly as your proposal does, internet fame is fleeting and often doesn’t give respect to the right people, this residency isn’t about that.

Who owns your work.

You do. Adobe doesn’t own your work during the residency.

How much money you’re going to make / do you have health insurance.

This part is actually easier than you’d think: you create a budget proposal for your project and you propose your salary in it and can negotiate just like a normal job. Health benefits are included.

Where you live.

You can be a resident anywhere in the U.S., Canada or Germany, and possibly more (TBD.)

What’s in it for Adobe?

I have no incentive to lie to you. It’s pretty straightforward. Part of a residents job is to be ambassadors to the brand and to show how it’s helped us achieve new heights as creatives. That in turn helps them stay relevant, understand trends, have guinea pigs for new products and associate with talented individuals like my fellow residents.

Things you should worry about:

Have I shared this proposal with someone who can give me feedback?

This is vital. Get out of your own head and allow professionals with more experience than you, and peers review it.

Have I given this proposal enough time?

Start thinking now. Write out your ideas and come back to them every day. Natalie, a fellow creative resident, taught me this trick where you get a notebook and write out every single idea you have until a buzzer goes off (set it beforehand) and then revisit it tomorrow and expand until you get where you want.

Is it realistic?

Can you physically do it? A year is a long time, but it isn’t forever.

Is it something I haven’t done before? Can I learn something?

If you get nothing else from this piece, get this: this residency is about your growth, you need to give yourself room for it. If you pitch stuff you’ve already done, what’s the point?

Do I want to be coached?

Are you cool with presenting your work in front of strangers regularly? Having deadlines and weekly check-ins isn’t for everyone!

Are you comfortable with failing and documenting it?

This one was a hard one for me, but the ability to share incomplete pieces and struggles is a huge part of this residency.

— — I’ve spoken about this far too much. Go ahead and apply and good luck!