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Finding Fresh Inspiration

By Terri Stone

If you think libraries are dull, you’re missing the point. They’re actually experiments in communal power, where we pool our resources to build collections larger and more diverse than an individual could manage. Wander through a library and you’ll come across words and images that can nudge you in new directions. We had libraries on our mind when we sent two designers into the streets of New York City to document what they saw and share it with you in, yes, a library.

For two days, Luke Choice and Kervin Brisseaux of the Vault49 agency wandered New York armed only with the Adobe Creative Cloud mobile apps Brush CC, Color CC, and Shape CC. With those apps, the designers digitally captured anything that caught their eye. 

The eventual destination for these images, brushes, and colors was four billboards, each representing a particular neighborhood. Luke and Kervin knew that their billboard would be on the border of Soho and Chinatown, but they also had to collect assets for three other artists: Fredy Santiago, whose billboard would be in Williamsburg; Birgit Palma, whose billboard would be in Bushwick; and Rik Oostenbroek, whose billboard would be in Coney Island. (Look for more on those artists later this month.)

CHAPTER ONE: CAPTURING THE ASSETS

As they collected imagery, Choice and Brisseaux eschewed the easy choices. No Statue of Liberty for them! Instead, they searched for authentic urban grit, from a sewer drain to a crack in the pavement.

“People usually take photos of landmarks,” Choice notes, “but we tried to look at the mundane, the insignificant — objects like traffic lights, things with a typical NYC aesthetic. And we tried to find textures and shapes that the other artists could use.”

Neither had spent much time with the mobile apps before this assignment. “I didn’t really know what to expect,” admits Brisseaux. “We experimented and learned by doing it. We were surprised by the kind of stuff we could collect and use.”

During the collection phase, Choice relied most heavily on Adobe Shape, which converts rasters into vectors. “I would take a photo and convert it right then and there to see if it worked as a texture, but I also still had the original photo that I might be able to use in another project later.”

Choice is also a fan of Adobe Color. “Colors are a big part of my work, so having an app that captures color palettes was really nice.”  

Brisseaux had fun with Adobe Brush, which can turn any image into a brush for Adobe Photoshop CC or Adobe Illustrator CC. “I appreciated being able to play with the settings on the fly.”

CHAPTER TWO: CREATING THE BILLBOARD ART

Thanks to CreativeSync technology, everything Choice and Brisseaux captured with the mobile apps went into a Creative Cloud Library, which they could also immediately access inside Photoshop and Illustrator on their desktop computers.

After reviewing their asset library, their plan for the billboard art changed. “We had laid out a mood board of what we anticipated it to be,” Choice says, but the assets they collected led them in a different direction. “We went in with the idea of doing a character, although we didn’t think it was going to be a Chinese dragon riding a skateboard.”

While the designers worked on separate bits of the illustration, the end result was cohesive, thanks in part to the technology. “In the old days,” Brisseaux recalls, “we’d pass a PSD back and forth on a server. He’d have to close the file before I could work on it.” Instead, Choice says, “We worked seamlessly on one file in the library. Kervin would update it and I’d see it. It allowed us to riff on it and see what worked.”

An initial sketch drove the composition. Once they had the line work, they chose colors from the palettes they’d captured in the Color app. “We were inspired by street artists’ colors,” says Choice. Street artists aren’t always trained in color theory, so their combinations are fresh. The Color app took that freshness off the street and onto the monitors.

Look at the designers’ CC Library and you’ll find bits and pieces of it all over the final art. But they rarely used the assets in straightforward ways. A metal grate is the texture on the skater’s pants, a crate is a shirt pattern, brushes lend a gritty realness to the pavement, and so on. “We incorporated the content of New York City,” Brisseaux notes. “Not something as recognizable as the skyline, but we gave it an urban context. This process taught us to find value in the mundane.” 

CHAPTER THREE: YOUR TURN

Luke Choice believes that to stand out, you have to dig deep for inspiration: “Don’t look for the execution; look for the idea within the idea and start there. That’s how you come up with more original ideas.” Choice and Brisseaux are giving that opportunity to three more artists, all of whom will use separate libraries of assets to create their own billboard. Inspire will introduce you to their final art in the near future.

But now it’s your turn. Download Vault49's Soho/Chinatown CC Library and let it spark new ideas in your work. 

For more about this project, including a video of Choice and Brisseaux in action, see "Make It: Vault 49 Puts 'Finding' Back into The Creative Process."