Highlights From Adobe MAX 2023: AI-Assisted Leaps Forward in Craft (and Efficiency)

Posted inDesign Events & Conferences

PRINT was a media sponsor of this year’s conference.

Every October, software developer Adobe hosts its MAX conference, providing creatives with a week filled with sessions, labs, and keynotes to inspire and improve their craft.

MAX is also an opportunity for Adobe to showcase its latest innovations. In what was unsurprising to the crowd, Adobe focused on Firefly, the company’s name for its artificial intelligence (AI) technology, at this year’s MAX.

Some Firefly-powered features, like Generative Fill in Photoshop, have been available in open beta to Adobe users for months. Still, Adobe managed to garner applause from the audience in the Peacock Theater, demonstrating the capabilities of Firefly and how it will assist creatives throughout its software suite.

If there remained lingering doubts that we’ve entered the age of AI-assisted design, Adobe’s MAX conference erased them. Firefly-powered features are now available all over Creative Cloud, including Express, Illustrator, and Photoshop. According to Adobe, users have generated over 3 billion images using Firefly since March, including 1 billion in the last month alone.

Below are some of the highlights from this year’s Adobe MAX.

Keynote: How Adobe’s Firefly Is The Creative’s New Assistant

In Illustrator, Adobe showed off features that help creatives ideate, lay a base for new projects, and save time by taking over common, tedious tasks.

Text to Vector Graphics, for example, creates editable, vector-based images based on user text prompts. The feature works like other AI products that generate outputs based on user inputs. According to Adobe, this new feature is the world’s first AI-powered vector graphic generator based on user prompts.

Generative Match, also new to Illustrator, combines text prompts with reference visuals to generate more refined images. Say a user wants Firefly to create a picture of a cat sipping coffee in a Viennese café but wants it to match a particular work of art, like Moriz Jung’s Wiener Café: Der Littera. Generative Match will generate the image of the coffee-drinking feline matching the Wiener Werkstätte artist’s style.

Adobe also announced Generative Color for Illustrator. Via text prompts, creatives can ask Firefly to generate and apply new color palettes to existing work in seconds.

For example, users can type “Sonoran desert sunset,” and Generative Color will conjure a palette that best matches the prompt and apply it to an image.

Another feature new to Illustrator is Retype. Retype analyzes text in an image and generates matches within Adobe Fonts. The identified text becomes live and editable within the image. Adobe’s Retype currently supports Latin text only.

Adobe Sneaks: The Future Of Firefly AI To Look Out For

One of the features of MAX every year is the Sneaks showcase. The Sneaks presentation is when Adobe shows off experimental features that aren’t ready for production and may never find their way into Creative Cloud but are still cool enough to share.

Let’s get Project Primrose out of the way. It’s not every year that Adobe MAX features fashion, but this year’s Sneaks included a programable, dynamic, and interactive evening gown courtesy of the company’s research scientist, Christine Dierk. Who knows, maybe soon, when someone asks an ingénue on the red carpet who they’re wearing, they might just respond, “Adobe?”

Project Stardust was leaked ahead of MAX, but that didn’t deter the software developer from showing off this powerful new Photoshop feature. Using Project Stardust, users can select specific objects in an image, like people walking in the background. Stardust then goes Thanos on them, instantly removing these objects from the image and replacing them with an AI-generated background.

While technically a “Sneak,” there seems little to indicate we couldn’t see Stardust as a feature in Photoshop soon. Stardust is an amped-up version of in-production Firefly features like Generative Fill, after all.

Another Photoshop Sneak Adobe shared this year is Project See Through. Project See Through identifies glass reflections in images and removes them. Like Project Stardust, it seems likely that See Through will make it into Photoshop soon enough, as it’s only a step ahead of Firefly features currently available.

Sneaks this year also featured Project Glyph Ease. Glyph Ease analyzes letterforms in an image and, in moments, creates an entire matching character set. Unlike Retype, Glyph Ease isn’t dependent on an existing font; instead, it produces an entirely new one based on one or a handful of glyphs. Additionally, since AI isn’t always bang-on accurate, the glyphs generated are editable vectors ready for refinement by a creative professional.

Lots Of AI Features, But The Outlook Remains Unclear

To say Adobe is the dominant player in the creative software space would be underselling the firm’s market position. Now that AI is present, powerful, and readily available to anyone with a subscription to Creative Cloud, it has implications that Adobe barely touched upon.

Adobe is cognizant of some of the more apparent potential bad uses of Firefly. It has implemented Content Credentials, a feature that Deepa Subramaniam, Adobe’s VP of Creative Cloud product marketing, described as a sort of “nutritional label” for digital content that, in part, indicates who created it and if AI was used.

While Content Credentials addresses some concerns over AI-generated content like deep fakes, worries over the future of designing for a living still loom large and unanswered. Artificial Intelligence can do a lot of the uncreative pixel pushing or help ideate in the initial project phase, but how much of an impact will it have on creative professionals going forward?

Adobe did a great job at showing off what Firefly can do to our images but didn’t, and maybe can’t, tell us what AI will do to the future of creative professionals.

Artificial Intelligence isn’t a wholly scary proposition, and based on billions of images generated using Adobe’s Firefly technology, creative folks globally are at least experimenting with AI and finding ways to incorporate it into their process. This year’s MAX made it clear that Adobe is diligently finding ways to make Firefly the smart AI assistant available to every creative with a Creative Cloud subscription.

Rudy Sanchez is a writer and product marketing consultant based in Southern California. Once described by a friend as her “technology life coach,” he is a techie and avid lifelong gamer. When he’s not writing or helping clients improve their products, Rudy is playing Rocket League, running laps in Gran Turismo, or deep into a YouTube rabbit hole.