Why collaboration will drive our subsequent artistic renaissance

If there was one take-out from Adobe MAX 2021, it was the critical role that collaboration plays in the creative process. Headline speakers from a diverse range of disciplines touched on the influential part that collaborators have played in their lives – empowering them, challenging them, and driving their work to new heights.

According to Adobe’s Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky, the global rise of remote and hybrid working in the wake of the pandemic has made it even more critical to connect people seamlessly, wherever they are in the world, so that shared creative energy can power amazing things from teams, clients, and collaborators.

Throughout history, Belsky pointed out in his first-day keynote at MAX, there have been countless examples of periods of despair acting as a catalyst for a vibrant creative rebirth – and the pandemic is no different. “The coming years are about renewal and reinvention,” he says. “At Adobe, it’s our responsibility to outfit you for that creative renaissance.”

“People used to stick print-outs to the wall and mark them up with red pens and Post Its,” Belsky adds. “Teams are now spread around the globe, with multiple people working on an asset simultaneously. We needed to imagine a better way to bring everyone together.”

Here, three headline speakers at this year’s Adobe MAX reveal how collaboration has long been at the heart of their practice, and we explore how Adobe Creative Cloud is catering to the fast-evolving collaborative needs of the industry. If you missed them live, these sessions (and over 400 more) are available to watch on-demand now.

Tilda SwintonScott BelskyEddie Opara


Oscar-winning actor Tilda Swinton is a strong believer in how working with the right people can empower and enrich any creative endeavour. “I’m not a director, but when I first started making films, we were all encouraged to think of ourselves as ‘filmmakers’,” she explains in her Adobe MAX session. “The process was the thing. The group was the thing.”

Creative uncertainty is a big motivator for Swinton: “I like not knowing quite how, or if, it’s going to work. I like the high wire of that,” she says. “And you’re going to need some friends to go on that journey with you. You have to trust each other: you can’t have highfalutin ideas of dignity.”

In her session, Swinton describes her early-career collaborations with director Derek Jarman as “like a playpen for me”; a space for her to find her unique voice and express her creativity as part of a wider group of individuals.

According to Belsky, this sweet spot between people and process is at the heart of the latest evolution of Adobe Creative Cloud. From early 2022, teams will be able to use Creative Cloud Spaces to come together, visualise and review every aspect of a project in real-time. Plus, using Creative Cloud Canvas, creators will be able to use “infinite whiteboards” to share work in progress, comment and make collaborative edits on the fly.


In his Adobe MAX session, Riz Ahmed reflects on how growing up in an immigrant neighbourhood – where a career in the creative industries was a rare ambition – influenced his art. “The same people that are excluded from mainstream culture are those with an abundance of culture to share,” he says. “When you move somewhere you take your language, your culture and your way of thinking with you. That’s what art is.”

It was only recently, however, that Ahmed felt comfortable to bring those lived experiences to bear in his work. “I’d always leave part of myself at the door,” he explains. “I learned from a young age how to make masks and wear them. But now, it’s all about taking them off. More and more, I’m bringing myself to roles. To do that, you must believe that your experience is relatable, not niche and marginal.”

You need the right collaborators to encourage and motivate you to stay the course, and to validate your experience. For the 2020 movie Mogul Mowgli, Ahmed found that in co-writer and director Bassam Tariq: “He gave permission to bring my own experience to the table,” he reveals. “We need to empower people to tell their own stories, not do it for them. We need to add nuances and humanity to simplistic binaries like ‘East’ and ‘West’ or ‘good’ and ‘evil’. There is no ‘other’, no ‘us and them’. Just us.”

Once you’ve found your authentic voice and honed your creative craft, correct attribution of your work is crucial. With the rise of NFTs, artists are increasingly seeing their original work copied and minted by someone else. Launched at MAX, the new Content Credentials feature in Adobe Photoshop enables ownership to be tracked, giving credit where it’s due.


With the right people involved, design can be a powerful advocate for social change – and fruitful collaborations are often at the heart of this. In his MAX session, Pentagram partner Eddie Opara demonstrates this through a series of case studies, in which he teamed up with progressive individuals at the forefront of art, fashion and technology.

“Use your ‘now’ work to promote, fund and empower future designers and leaders within developing communities,” urges Opara. “Not only to make a statement, but to further enhance and define your design language. Use progressive ideas, cultivate diversity, inclusion, and equity, so that then you can invest in others. Me, we, us, together.”

“Collaborating should be as easy and frictionless as creating,” concludes Adobe’s Scott Belsky. “The impact of creative work doesn’t spring solely from creativity: it’s also the product of organisation.” This year’s Adobe MAX programme provided invaluable insights to master the art of creative collaboration from all angles. If you missed it, don’t worry – hundreds of this year’s sessions are still available on demand.

Watch a selection of Adobe MAX sessions in full on demand here