Contradiction and Community

By Robert Ordona

Forty-eight artists from across the globe create a unique representation of the Adobe Creative Cloud logo.

To celebrate the 2014 release of Creative Cloud, a design team at Adobe had a big idea for a project that would express the sometimes contradictory notions wrapped up in the release—notions like connection and disruption, individuality and community. The team envisioned a collaborative mosaic that would bring together artists from all over the world, with each artist creating one piece of a unified whole.

The piece’s inspiration and centerpiece was the Adobe Creative Cloud logo, which itself embodies contradiction: Its gentle swirls connote flow and continuity, while its broken curves suggest a break from the expected.


First, the team put the Creative Cloud logo on a grid of 48 sections that would be the Creative Cloud Mosaic’s individual pieces.

Then they scoured Behance, Adobe’s portfolio platform for creatives of every stripe, selected 48 artists, and asked each to contribute a tile—either an “atmospheric” tile (around the edges of the canvas) or a tile that contained a part of the logo’s curves.

This way, says Adobe Executive Creative Director AJ Joseph, each artist’s creative freedom ranged from “Hey, I have to work with this circle shape in the bottom right-hand corner [of my tile]” to “I can do whatever I want.”

The goal was to create something “super gritty and natural” and “thoroughly embedded in the community,” explains AJ.

But what defines “community” when the collaborators hail from disparate countries and cultures? The artists who signed on to this project include a vector illustrator, a puppet maker/stop-motion animator, and a typographer. Their inspirations range from art deco to newsprint to Japanese culture to undersea creatures.

What they share is a love of expression and experimentation.

And having a “weird background” in art didn’t hurt either, according to Orlando Arocena, a New York–based illustrator and one of the artists asked to participate. After graduating from Pratt, Orlando worked in traditional fine arts before “going commercial” in 1998. Since then, he’s used his talents to inject life into HP tablets and to bring art deco-ish Statue of Liberty iconography to the New York Auto Show, among other projects. (See more of Orlando’s work.)

Orlando says his work is inspired by two major sources: art history and pop culture. “Like Japanese woodblock printing or street art from the past few years mixed and melded into different movements,” he explains. “People tend to think that it’s just purely from art deco, but it’s a mixture, a spicy jambalaya.”

Says AJ, “We wanted to make sure we had a wide range of different styles—and we looked at people who were pushing the needle.”


Another Mosaic contributor was felt sculptor and videographer Hine Mizushima, a native of Japan who now lives in Vancouver, Canada, and who has worked on video projects with alt-rock group They Might Be Giants. Hine characterizes her work as “a bit retro, twisted, fun, nerdy, and cute, but in questionable taste,” and her inspiration stems from “Japanese retro culture and creatures like squids, octopi, slugs, mushrooms, and so on.” (See more of Hine’s work.)

She gladly accepted the challenge of creating a tile for the Mosaic project, although she wondered why she was chosen—because her work is mostly handmade and analog—and she worried that she used Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop only at a beginner’s level. “I was afraid someone at Adobe would notice!” she says. But she welcomed the chance to be “part of a big collaboration project with other artists around the world, and it was a great opportunity to have my work seen by many creative people at the launch event.”

Like all the Mosaic artists, Hine was given a tight deadline.

“I had only a week to create and photograph my piece,” Hine says. “I could make whatever I wanted, but I didn't have enough time to make a new creature, so I used a white squid that I had already made. And I made some new props and the background. I usually make only a few sketches before I start needle felting, but for this project, I doodled a lot, because there was a somewhat tricky shape layout in my tile. It was hard, how I put my squid in the shape.”


Craig Ward, an illustrator, typographer, art director, author, and Brit who resides in New York, also designed a tile. Craig’s inspiration stems “from everywhere,” but specifically from typography and images that are “perhaps doing something they shouldn’t be doing.” He explains, “So broken, flickering neon signs or when posters have been misprinted, or when they’ve been torn down, or the ink has run down, or a newspaper has gone through the printer with a creased page. I like accidents—and I like to exploit accidents.” (See more of Craig’s work.)

His biggest challenge with the Mosaic project was creating a tile with almost no direction. “An open brief is the best and worst brief,” says Craig, “because it can inspire you or it can cripple you.”

Craig asked for a tile that contained a logo curve because, for him, working with a blank panel would have been a struggle. “I don’t really have a predefined style, and I don’t have a go-to thing that I can fill in space with. Some illustrators have a certain brush stroke that they always use or a certain watercolor, or they have two textures that they can always go back to. I don’t have anything like that in my pocket, so I requested something that would require me to paint marks that would define the space.”

 “The Mosaic is definitely exciting,” says Craig. “It’s definitely worthwhile, which is as much as you can hope for in your work. It’s nice to bring so many people together in the industry because everyone always gets so caught up on styles, and people in the industry tend to guard their ideas, and people can get coy about sharing their work sometimes and working with other people—especially in design and illustration, where everyone is pretty much a studio of one. You know, all these individuals working alone in these silos. So it’s not often that you get a chance to get your work next to all these other people at the same time.…The whole experience was crazy and amazing.”

Hine was equally moved when she saw the unveiling of the completed piece. “There was a big panel of my work on the outside wall of the Lincoln Center in New York. I was so surprised! It was more than I’d expected.”

The Adobe team that worked on the Creative Cloud Mosaic included AJ Joseph, Eddie Yuen, John Caponi, Cindy Yep, Nicolle Rodriguez, and Royce Leonard.


Adobe’s AJ summarizes the importance of the piece, not only as the project’s lead but also as a graphic artist: “The piece is inspiring because there’s so much detail and there’s so much story in every single one of these [works]—and there’s so much experience in each one. If you go to a gallery, and you see five or six different artists, you can feel their experience and what they’re trying to communicate through their artwork. And this was like putting 48 of the best artists together from a whole bunch of different disciplines and just having a gallery be a part of one single image. It’s just an amazing work of art. Getting to be able to experience all of this at the same time is inspiring.”

(Want to start using your Adobe Creative Cloud apps but don't know where to begin? Check out these Creative Cloud tutorials.)