A Virtual Mural: Celebrating Adobe MAX on Instagram

By Charles Purdy

We’re marking the occasion of 2016’s Adobe MAX, which kicks off in San Diego this week, with an Instagram mural that celebrates creativity and global collaboration—and that was made with Adobe mobile apps by six of our Make It on Mobile artists, led by art director Micah Milner.

An Instagram mural, or Instagram “takeover,” is an image that spans multiple squares on an Instagram page—each individual image post represents a tile in the larger mosaic of the entire feed. It’s a medium that illustrator and Art404 art director Micah Milner has mastered. His own Instagram feed—at @micahnotfound—is a perpetually evolving mural; each new image that he adds interacts with those around it and becomes part of the whole.

“My entire account is just one scrolling image—over 200 tiles now,” says Milner. “They’re all connected. But an important differentiator between the murals I create and many other grid murals is that it doesn’t break up when you post one at a time. If you post one, the entire grid moves and it still makes visual sense.”

Milner has wanted to work with Adobe on an Instagram mural for a while now, and Adobe MAX provided the perfect opportunity. We made the project a collaborative affair by asking the artists behind our “Make It on Mobile” tutorial and contest series (Andreas Preis, Elise Swopes, Dan Mumford, Gemma O’Brien, Gyimah Gariba, and Witchoria) to lend their talents to different elements in the mural; Milner would art direct and organize the efforts of the global team.


The mural that Milner and his team of artists created for the @AdobeCreativeCloud Instagram channel is made up of 24 unique compositions that, together, form a unified artwork. It was added to one tile at a time over the course of several days—and as Milner notes, working this way requires a fair amount of forethought. He explains, “You have to plan for three instances of the grid view, because each time you post, it moves. It’s almost like three different compositions using the same elements. There are 24 images in the piece, and each one plays off those that surround it, so every time you move an element, it’s affecting all the different compositions.”

“Micah and the artists were given a very open brief,” says Adobe social media manager Amy Goldstein. “We wanted the mural to be inspired by the MAX theme—uniting the world’s creative community to serve as a driving force for inspiration and cultural connection.”

In addition to the challenge of creating a dynamic mural that works in multiple configurations, the team faced a collaboration challenge—with artists not only in different parts of the United States but also in Germany (Preis), the United Kingdom (Mumford), and Australia (O’Brien). In addition, the artists work in different styles. “We had two artists who are more raster-based and four illustrators who work in various styles,” says Milner. “But we knew we would be able to have fun and play off of one another’s work. And Creative Cloud Libraries make it easy to collaborate—not only to share files but also to work within the same files. That made it super easy.”

He continues, “The process was pretty organic. I knew coming into it, looking at the roster of talent, that my main job as art director was to stay out of the way and give the artists enough room to express their genius. The last thing I wanted to do was create a restrictive, assignment-based project.”


Milner had the idea having some of the artists work in pairs, and during the kickoff call, Witchoria and Swopes (the two artists who work more with photos) said they already had an idea for creating the photo-based skylines in the mural. Then, to give the mural a cohesive look, the group decided that those photos would provide the overarching color theme the team would work with.

Preis and Mumford were another obvious pair, since they are both illustrators and both in Europe, so they’d be in compatible time zones—together, they worked on the dragon in the image.

Milner thought that lettering artist O’Brien, being the only member of the team in Australia, would have an easier time working alone; she created the lettering motif of cities around the world (tying into the MAX theme of bringing together a global creative community). Gariba and Milner worked together on the undersea elements in the center of the image.

Milner says, “[O’Brien] was so great in helping me problem-solve and beef up some of the more barren tiles at the end. And Gyimah [Gariba] sent me his nautical element, and I hadn’t even been looking at the city as a jellyfish before he sent me that. As soon as I started plugging that in, it all kind of clicked, and I decided to go with the nautical theme in my section, based on what he had given me…that’s where all the fish and octopus elements came into it. I thought that tied in really well with what Witchoria and Elise [Swopes] had done.”


All the work was created with Adobe mobile apps, including Illustrator Draw, Photoshop Sketch, and Capture CC—tools that are the perfect fit for a social media–first project like this, as they allow artists to work anywhere, right on their mobile devices.

Milner was impressed by the apps’ power. “I really focused on the watercolor brushes in Sketch,” he says. “Those brushes really create incredibly lifelike results—they work like watercolors that are wet and dripping. That’s what I used for my illustrations of the fish and the octopus, and all those swirls you see in the sky.”

Says O’Brien, “It was a dream collaboration for me because I love working in different lettering styles…and each of the different artists had a different kind of color palette and a different sort of imagery, and that was the driving force behind what I created for those pieces. It was really great to see everyone’s different styles come together as one.”

Mumford agrees: “I think it came out great!” he says. “Everyone has a very unique style and way that they use the Adobe tools, and it’s fascinating to see the different textures and colors that people can generate. And when it all comes together, it makes for a really vibrant and interesting mural that has lots to get your teeth into and explore.”

Check out the full mural on the @AdobeCreativeCloud Instagram page.

November 2, 2016