Adobe Sensei Stories: Meet Andrei Stefan, the Product Manager Using Design to Channel AI and ML Tech into Useful Solutions for Creatives
Adobe Creative Cloud is a set of tools and platforms to empower creatives to produce their best work, and a large focus of Creative Cloud’s many teams is to make that as easy as possible for end users. The creative assistant that Adobe’s Sensei and Search team is working on is designed to do just that: leveraging AI and machine learning technology to design adaptive and assistive experiences for digital creatives.
Andrei Stefan is a Senior Product Manager on the Sensei Agents team, and is one of the PMs responsible for defining this vision. Originally from Romania and now living in San Francisco, he is deeply passionate about finding new and emerging ways to help CC’s creative user base. “The creative assistant we’re building aims to amplify the abilities of the users and their tools, providing them with inspiration at the right time, building their proficiency, and addressing daily productivity challenges,” he said. We spoke to Andrei about his work in AI at Adobe, and how he got to this place creating the creative assistant of the future.
Tell us about your goal with the create assistant?
Our overall goal with Sensei Assistant is to leverage AI and machine learning to build intelligent and assistive experiences, that will massively improve the way users work and interact with Adobe’s products throughout their creative process.
We’re actively invested in understanding the profiles of our users, their skill level, workflows, and behavior inside individual applications and also across multiple applications, so that we can adapt to their needs and provide a personalized creative assistant experience. We’ve broken down the stages of the creative process, defined a clear set of corresponding product hypotheses, and conducted extensive user research to learn about how people work on their projects.
In terms of an actual user-facing creative assistant, and the functionality we’re providing to users, our design team came up with a UX interaction model that is in-app and in-context, allowing us to surface what we call a ‘stream of suggestion cards’ through which users can quickly perform actions that are relevant to what they’re working on. An example of this would be using the best Adobe Stock assets, discovering recommended fonts, various shapes and colors, even product features they might not be aware of. What we’re aiming for is to broaden user’s horizons, augment their thinking, and spark their creativity.
We’re also laying the foundations to be able to scale to all Creative Cloud applications, allowing us to easily account for new use cases and add even more functionality.
What challenges come with developing this kind of ‘Creative Assistant’?
As the scope of what we’re doing is quite broad, you can imagine that there are interesting challenges we’re trying to tackle — like defining the user scenarios for which the creative assistant responds, what types of use cases it covers, as well as the user experience and interaction model.
One of the challenges I faced after joining the team had to do with narrowing down the scope of what we’re doing with the creative assistant. Where do we start? Which Adobe product and use cases should we tackle first?
Given our extensive product portfolio, you can imagine that we had to spend some time to assess the options, cross-team collaboration opportunities, and getting product teams onboard. The outcome was quite interesting, as we didn’t end up picking one of the simple apps, but on the contrary — some of the most complicated. As a reference to JFK’s “We choose to go to the Moon” speech, we did it not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard. This approach helped our team build-up diverse and unique competencies, that in time have proven to be a real asset when scaling to other applications and tools.
My personal take-away: always aim high.
How did you get to this stage in your career working on AI and ML assistant technology?
I joined the Sensei and Search team in 2018, and before that I worked in the Cloud Tech organization managing the end-user and admin welcome experiences for the Admin Console project. In my new position, I started out by defining the early requirements for Adobe’s creative assistant and helping to establish the team’s best practices in partnership with engineering.
This involved collating a rich collection of user research, design concepts, user stories, and other information that helped the entire team get a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges, as well as leading the team through ongoing competitive analysis.
You have educational backgrounds in politics and business, but chose to go back to school for web design and new media. Why keep studying?
My passion for visual design, and design in general, is the main reason behind my decision to go back to school and pursue a graduate Master’s Degree in Web Design and New Media. It’s been quite an interesting journey, I learned a lot about the design process, UX, user research, typography, front-end development, which are all great additions and enhancements to the skills I already had as a product manager.
While I started the program before working on the creative assistant, I can say that the design experience has had a powerful impact on what we’re doing with the product, both in terms of understanding our audience and their workflows, and also in shaping up the future of AI-powered creativity at Adobe.
From my point of view, AI/ML tech will have a positive impact in the creative space, as it will enhance people’s abilities and skills enabling them to build proficiency (think of it as having a bionic arm). It will increase effectiveness by automating repetitive tasks, allowing creators to focus more on the ideation/brainstorming and concept definition stages of the creative process.
Why are you so passionate about your AI and ML work, helping creatives design and innovate?
With our team being at the forefront of AI/ML-driven product innovation at Adobe, it’s a really exciting place to be and I can’t imagine trading it for anything else. There’s a tremendous amount of exploration in what we’re doing; we have the liberty to perform a lot of research and experimentation, then package everything we learn into this amazing product that empowers others to create.
I hope that what our team is designing right now will contribute to changing the way people interact and work with Adobe products in a positive way. It will gradually raise the bar for what can be accomplished, redefine the standards, and push forward the progress for the next generation of creatives.
For more on how Adobe is using cutting edge AI and machine learning technology to revolutionize creative workflows, head over to the Adobe Sensei hub on our Tech Blog and check out Adobe Sensei on Twitter for the latest news and updates.