Vibes and emotions from my trip to California

Laura Lei
Laura Lei
Nov 12, 2018 · 15 min read
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Last month I had the chance to travel to California to attend Adobe MAX in Los Angeles. I was so excited: it’s always been my dream to go to this conference, it was also challenging because I was traveling solo.

I’ve always been an anxious person, in fact, the week before I left I struggled a little, but I was able to handle it.

LA wasn’t the only thing I was looking forward to, because I knew I was also going to San Francisco. As fate would have it, there was another conference in Santa Rosa that some of my coworkers were attending during those days, so earlier this summer my colleague Natalie noticed that and she asked me if I wanted to go to the Bay Area, spend some time working with Mike and then do a Get Together with all the others. My answer was “OF COURSE !” (I have to admit I was thrilled 🤩).

Exploring Los Angeles

I arrived a few days before the conference: on Friday 12, late afternoon. It was my first time there so after some hours of rest (it rained all night long 😱), I was looking forward to taking a look around. 😊

Day one: I woke up early (jet-lag) on Saturday and the weather wasn’t good: it was still raining, and I was thinking “Am I in California or what?”. By the way, it didn’t scare me, and I was ready to explore the city. Here’s a recap of what I saw:

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Walt Disney Concert Hall — designed by Frank Gehry | Photo © Laura Lei 2018

I’ve always loved Frank Gehry and wanted to see this building since forever.

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Los Angeles Public Library | Photo © Laura Lei 2018

This Public Library system holds more than six million volumes and serves over 18 million residents in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area. Such a nice place to visit.

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OUE Skyspace LA | Photo © Laura Lei 2018

Want to see the city of Angeles from the top? OUE Skyspace is the place you want to go: it’s one of California’s tallest open-air observation decks. There is also a small all-glass Skyslide: I took a ride! 😉 Finally the sun came out! 🌞

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Venice Beach | Photo © Laura Lei 2018

I knew I’d fall in love with Venice Beach as soon as I arrived there: in fact, it happened. I used to be a punk-rock kid (maybe I still am..), so I felt like I belonged to this place.

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Santa Monica | Photo © Laura Lei 2018

Ha! What can I tell you about Santa Monica? The ocean, the sunset, Pacific Park… Pictures speak for themselves… It was Magic!

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More... | Photo © Laura Lei 2018

After all of this, I came back to my Airbnb; it was 9 pm: I fell asleep in less than one minute.

Day two: Second day, yay! I woke up early again, had a quick breakfast and took a Lyft to Beverly Hills because my sister kept telling me “You have to go!”, but I didn’t enjoy it: I mean.. It’s nice, but I’m not really into that kind of stuff so I wouldn’t go again.

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Second stop: Arts District. I absolutely wanted to see the Binford Lofts (famous building from New Girl — one of my favorite TV shows). My Lyft driver asked me if I really wanted to walk alone in that neighborhood & I thought “Uhm, I guess so. I just want to take a picture of me near this building”, and he was kind because he offered to stop, park the car for a few minutes and take the picture for me (I was so happy happy! see the picture 😃).

11 am: The plan was to meet other conference attendees’: you have to know that there is a Facebook group called Adobe Max 2018 — Attendee Community and the members are so kind and friendly, it’s a great community.

I joined the group a few weeks before the conference, wrote that I was traveling solo and I would have loved to meet new friends: so many people replied and told me about their plans. I decided to hang out with a small group: the plan was to visit the Broad Museum, head to Chinatown for lunch and then go to the Griffith Observatory to watch the sunset. It was awesome to meet these guys from all over the US (and the UK) and talk to each other about our work, life, etc. I had a great time! 😊

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Beverly Hills + Arts District | Photo © Laura Lei 2018
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The Broad Museum | Photo © Laura Lei 2018

If you love art, you have to visit The Broad someday. Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed the museum in collaboration with Gensler, and it offers free general admission. +2,000 works of art!. I could have spent the whole day here! 😍

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Chinatown | Photo © Laura Lei 2018

I had my first Ramen in Chinatown! Awesome lunch with great people 🙂

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Griffith Observatory | Photo © Laura Lei 2018

Sunsets and sightseeing are some of my favorite things in the world so watching the sunset from the Griffith Observatory was LIT. I also had the chance to see Saturn from the Telescope.

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More… | Photo © Laura Lei 2018

After seeing Saturn from the Telescope, I came back to my Airbnb apartment and… 😴. I needed to rest to be ready for the first day of the Conference!

Adobe MAX: The Creativity Conference

Adobe MAX is a conference where Adobe shows off new products and features. This year MAX was in Los Angeles, October 15–17, at LA Convention Center and I was lucky enough to be able to attend it.

This event was the biggest I’ve ever been to. 14,000 attendees and more than 200 sessions divided into:

  • Sessions (usually a presentation)
  • Labs (given PC with the necessary files and software)
  • Bring Your Own Device Labs (learn on your own laptop, tablet, or smartphone
  • Creativity workshops (explore and play).

I loved the conference: it’s not just about new features/products, it’s being a part of this huge experience. It gives you so many opportunities to find further ideas, new stimulus and to network with other creatives.

The organization of the event was disappointing: they ran out of food at 11:40 AM the last day (lunch began at 11:30) and.. for the BASH I waited in line almost 2 hours to get the bus to go to the event. I know 14000 people are a lot to manage but come on Adobe, I’m pretty sure you can do better.

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Photo © Laura Lei 2018

Talks and Workshops

These are the talks I decided to attend. I added the material or the video (if available).

01. Adobe Illustrator Pro Tips and Techniques, Paul Trani

Video - Slides

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My Notes

This talk was useful; I didn’t know some of these tricks since I don’t use Illustrator every day. It’s going to help me in the future. 😉

02. Finding Yourself, Over and Over Again, Jessica Hische

Video - Notes

“Jessica Hische is a lettering artist, author, illustrator, letterpress printer, type designer, mother, procrastiworker, and a million other things.” […] “What do you want to be when you grow up?” — is finding out who you are in the first place.” […] “Only once you know yourself, discover what actually makes you tick, can you “do what you love”.”

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Jessica Hische, Adobe MAX 2018 | Photo © Laura Lei 2018

She’s always been an inspiration to me: such a talented and super creative women.

I watched a lot of videos of her previous talks, and I’ve been following her work for years. I was really excited to see one of her talks.. finally, live! Jessica didn’t disappoint me, at all: slide by slide I was more inspired and happier.

The Talk

  1. The first part was a non-conventional presentation of herself (through astrological topics, Love Language etc), so interesting.
  2. After that she showed us some of her works, talked about her life in New York City a few years ago, she was a workaholic. She changed from WORKLIFE → to WORK and LIFE (two separated things). “You don’t have to work 80 hours/week to be a successful designer”.
  3. Then a white slide with a question we should all ask ourselves “Who am I?”, She explained the importance of finding your true strengths and, also, your weaknesses. Being useful is one of the most important things to her. “Only when you have free time you can understand who you are.” “What do I truly love to do? → Make People Happy 😊”
  4. Last but not least, she presented her new book for children “Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave.”

03. Talking About Feelings: Personal Work for Fun (!) and Profit(?), Adam J. Kurtz

Video - Notes

“Personal work is the perfect opportunity to explore what matters most to us while letting potential clients and fans know exactly who we are.”

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Adam J. Kurtz (aka @adamjk) is a designer, artist, and author of 1 Page at a Time and Pick Me Up, which have been published in over a dozen languages each.

I found out about Adam’s work two years ago; I immediately bought a copy of his book Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives: I really liked it and started following his work on social media. He became more and more popular. Earlier this year, I was listening to Good Company Podcast by Grace Bonney, and I found out there was an episode with him and WOW: he seemed such an honest person.

The Talk

  • Personal Work is important because: it let us speak our minds, identify what matters, and leaves a “paper trail.”
  • Do it Yourself and See How It Goes (Example: Start a Kickstarter project)
  • Life Is Hard But Mostly Worth It

04. Next-level Lettering Design on Mobile Devices, Jennet Liaw

Workshop Material

“Push your typography and illustration skills to new heights using the devices we carry everywhere. In this hands-on lab, explore Adobe mobile apps that let you warp and embellish letterforms on the fly so that you can do great work anywhere. Start with the perfect canvas of a single letter, and discover intuitive brushes and tools so you can create designs that go far beyond the screen.”

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© Laura Lei 2018

This workshop was lovely: we built a letter with Adobe Illustrator Draw and styled it with Adobe Sketch (you can find all the information in “Materials” section below).

Here’s my final letter 😊

05. Tell a Great Story: Shooting and Editing Better Photos and Videos on Mobile, Abba Shapiro

“Great photos and videos can tell stories with a proven approach using mobile devices. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to hone your vision, develop photographic skills, and practice effective image and video editing skills. Join photographer, video producer, and editor Abba Shapiro as he helps you become a better visual storyteller. You’ll shoot photographs and videos in a few preset scenarios and learn to make your work shine with insider tips and editing techniques.”

I can’t tell you much about this workshop, because we mainly practiced and took videos but we were asked not to share it on the internet.

We learned how to:

  • Use Photoshop Lightroom CC for mobile to improve your photos
  • Use Project Rush for mobile to quickly edit videos

06. Workshop for Beautiful Brush Lettering, Laura Worthington & Debi Sementelli

Resources

“Try your hand at brush lettering with experienced lettering artists and script typeface designers Laura Worthington and Debi Semetelli in this fun and informative hands-on workshop. Discover how to approach brush lettering with techniques, processes, and methods that can be applied to future lettering projects.”

For those of you who don’t know it, I’m super passionate about lettering: it’s one of my favorite things ever. During the last year, I’ve been practicing a lot, and I finally see some improvements.

This workshop was cool: Laura and Debi are great teachers, very well-organized (we had all the supplies provided and ready on our desks when we arrived) and they guided us step-by-step. You can find a link below with all the materials.

07. Creation and Collaboration: Hands-on Image Making, Christian Clayton

“Step away from the screen and put down the mouse. Here’s your chance to roll up your sleeves, relax, and explore the unpredictable process of making art with your own hands without ego or judgment.”

This workshop was all about CREATIVITY, excellent! You can see the final result here:

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Creation and Collaboration Workshop | Photo © Laura Lei 2018

08. Hack Your Creativity: Banish Your Inner Critic!, Denise Jacobs

Notes

“What if there were simple, effective ways to silence the inner critic to do our best work as contributors, collaborators, and leaders? Discover three mental power tools you already possess to stop the inner critic in its tracks, learn methods to deal with the fear of being judged and criticized, ways to feel that your ideas are good enough, and how to stop committing “ideacide.” Leave with a roadmap to get unstuck, do your best work, and channel creativity as a force for positive change in the world.”

I signed up for this session but didn’t know anything about it: I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised, it was absorbing and inspiring.

Denise Jacobs knew what she was talking about; I loved her self-confidence: she was able to make you feel the same way. She really cares about what she does, she wants you to be successful and believe in yourself (not all the speakers care about it).

The Talk:

  • Creative flow should mean NO inner critic
  • Ideacide: we self-censor, and we kill ideas
  • The inner critic is just a representation of fears that we already have about ourselves
  • Here are some Mental Power Tools you can use:
  1. Neuroplasticity Attention/Focus (Shift focus — hand exercise)
  2. Mindfulness
  3. Self-compassion
  • Be curious and open → ask for specific feedback and take the relevant part
  • Swipe left your negative thoughts.

She also wrote a book about it: Banish Your Inner Critic: Silence the Voice of Self-Doubt to Unleash Your Creativity and Do Your Best Work.

09. Adobe Premiere Pro: An Introduction to the Basics

Material

“Develop the most important skills you need to create a video. Join Adobe MAX Masters Karl Soule and Dave Helmly as they introduce you to the basics of editing with Adobe Premiere Pro. This is a beginner class in Premiere Pro designed for people who have never used it before.”

This was the last session of the conference, and not just for me: for everyone: it was the latest class.

I added this session to my schedule because the advanced one was full. A beneficial lesson for those who didn’t already use Premiere.

General Sessions

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Photo © Laura Lei 2018

Day 1 Keynote: THE NEXT GENERATION OF CREATIVITY

Shantanu Narayen — Chairman & CEO, Adobe

“Take a peek into the Adobe labs and expect the unexpected. Some demos will work and some might not — some features will end up in Creative Cloud and some might not. Actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish hosts this year.”

Day 2 Keynote: COMMUNITY INSPIRES CREATIVITY

“Join us for a day that celebrates the power of community and creativity — you’ll hear from multi-faceted artists across different disciplines who will share their unique stories of triumph and inspiration. These include comic book artist Nicola Scott; photographer Albert Watson; a conversation with GRAMMY-winning artist Questlove and actress, producer, and writer Lilly Singh; and Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard.”

Day 3: MAX SNEAKS

“Take a peek into the Adobe labs and expect the unexpected. Some demos will work and some might not — some features will end up in Creative Cloud and some might not. Actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish hosts this year.”

→ You can find all the videos here.

Creative Cloud Updates

A lot of people already write about it; you can read this interesting article:

MAX BASH at Banc of California Stadium

On Tuesday night I wanted to go to see a concert: Soccer Mommy (one of those indie artists that almost nobody knows). She was playing SO close to my Airbnb apartment and I knew I’d never get the chance to see her in Italy.. buuut the Conference Party was happening too, and the expectations were high: the location, Beck playing and everyone kept saying to me “You can’t miss it! So cool! Best thing ever!” so I decided to go.

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Photo © Laura Lei 2018

What really happened? At 7:30 PM I was in line waiting for the Shuttle (the bus was supposed to take people to the venue from that time), I began to realize that the line was endless but I decided to wait…I got on one of the lastbuses, and I arrived there after 2 hours. This happened to a lot of people, in fact, Beck should have started playing at 9 PM, but it was delayed for one hour (most of the people weren’t still there). All I did at the BASH was get some food, a beer, and then seen Beck play. I was excited about the rest, but I couldn’t see it because after the concert the party was over. 😥 It’s okay.

Quick tour: SF, Sausalito, and Santa Rosa

After the conference, I took a flight to San Francisco. My coworker Mike was waiting for me at the airport, and we planned to go to the Museum of Ice Cream and then to the MOMA.

Here are some pictures 🙂

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Museum of Ice Cream and MOMA — San Francisco

Balsamiq Get Together in Santa Rosa

I was so excited about the Get-Together! I was going to see my colleagues Natalie, Joy, Val, Alasdair, Mike, Liz and Leon! Yay! I feel lucky I had the chance to see them and spend some time together.

We met at Natalie’s house after lunch and then we went to the Charles M. Schulz Museum (I didn’t even know it existed!). It was nice!

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Charles M. Schulz Museum — Santa Rosa

We came back home, and we had a lovely aperitif (Natalie prepared everything, awesome food, and wine! 🧀🍷).

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You can see by the colors in these pictures the weather was perfect, Natalie’s farm is a lovely place. We also met the cutest dog, Teddy: he was the superstar of the day!

Thank you so much again, for everything. I already said that a million times, but Balsamiq is such an awesome company to work for: #dreamjob. It was time for goodbyes.. see you next time Balsamici! 🥰

Discovering San Francisco

Last but not least, I took some days off to see San Francisco. Honestly, I think it’s my favorite city in the world. I prepared a map with almost 50 places; I wanted to see some hidden gems of the city (if you want to look at the map write me your e-mail, I’ll invite you).

I have seen some beautiful places, and I’ll let these images speak for me:

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PIER 39 | Photo © Laura Lei 2018
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Telegraph Hill | Photo © Laura Lei 2018
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Lands Ends — I left my heart here | Photo © Laura Lei 2018
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Beach and Ocean | Photo © Laura Lei 2018
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Berkeley | Photo © Laura Lei 2018
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More… | Photo © Laura Lei 2018

Thanks again to Balsamiq for this opportunity, to my colleagues for being lovely human beings and to everyone for UNFORGETTABLE memories. I will remember this adventure forever and ever.

My heart is full of love. ❤️ I have to admit that I’m deeply in love with California.

— A special thanks goes to Anna Maria Mariotti and Alasdair Manson for helping me review the content.

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