If you’ve heard the term “photoshopped”, then you might also know the name of the company that created the program, Adobe. A world leader in digital arts, Adobe is the industry standard for most creative agencies and studios, with their dominating digital trio Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator.
When I’m not writing about comics or other Blerdy things, I’m an artist that relies heavily on these products especially since they’ve opened the world with mobile versions of these apps for my iPad. In the chaos of the last year, needing something to help my well-being I took advantage of as many online tutorials, live learning events, and challenges that I could squeeze in.
That is how I discovered Adobe Product Marketing Manager Jasmine Whitaker (She/Her). Along with being a Product Marketing Manager, she is also an AI Fairy as her focus is on Adobe’s graphic design segments Illustrator and InDesign. From the various live stream and group chats, I witnessed a positive and energetic person who knows their stuff. When I got a chance to speak with her, it only reinforced my initial perceptions of how much of a Boss she is.
As an artsy person in high school interested in the arts and music, Whitaker attended a special school where she took academy programs tailored to different types of industries that students could potentially pursue when they went off to college. Following that she had an opportunity to apply to the Academy of Creative Technologies, where she took part in a three-year-long program that focused on graphic design and print, this was her first introduction to Adobe products. “I learned all of the flagships like Photoshop. I think we took a year to learn illustrator and then a year to learn InDesign, and that was my first introduction to digital art and the Adobe brand,” Whitaker explained. Upon attending San Jose State, her interest in graphic design grew, at first with a minor in graphic design and interests in videography and copywriting, all of which go hand in hand with the creative process, and eventually she would switch her major to graphic design.
With the knowledge and tools, she decided to go bigger and focus on creative advertising starting in production and doing side gigs, gaining experience while becoming a freelance content producer. It was the universe manifesting itself that she got an email from Adobe just as a contract was ending. This email was for a contract role that according to her “…was basically a beautiful combination of all of my experience and all of my interest.”
With her foot in the door, she moved into a bunch of different roles at Adobe, and for three and a half years concentrated on graphic design, working on apps like Fresco and Photoshop, developing customer insights, content, and campaigns towards communities to, as she explains, “..amplify community voices and the ways that people are using our products.”
Then the world was forced to shelter in place when COVID-19 became a global pandemic. As Whitaker explained, it was “…during the pandemic that shifted quite a bit, because we had to launch a product, and Illustrator on iPad was the priority for Max 2020. We went into shutdown and couldn’t connect with our product managers and our engineers on a frequent basis. I mean we could, but not in the way that we’re used to. We couldn’t get insights from the community which we would usually do when we went to launch a new product.”
“We couldn’t do a lot of user testing and you didn’t have that front-facing user testing experience. So, we were in a pretty interesting spot, you know, trying to launch a product in the pandemic. And I think one of the things that was really great was I stepped in more of a product marketing manager role, but also still honing my expertise in community and content and fusing all those things together in order for us to launch Illustrator on the iPad, eventually. That was my pandemic/post-pandemic transition and now that’s my role full time as Product Marketing Manager.”
Before the vaccine was a dream and testing was a weekly thing, my day gig, out of a superabundance of caution, sent some of us home for various reasons. In those early days of April, we were told to quarantine for two weeks and in that time, I took advantage of my Adobe subscription catching as many challenges and tutorials as I could, eventually, I would have to go back to work, but I still would put on a class and listen in, especially when it was the big events. Whitaker would pop up here and there hosting different Adobe Live sessions eventually being a part of Adobe Max 2020 and being the first Black woman to demo for MAX’s keynote address.
In addition, this online event, which is a jammed pack conference of creatives and speakers, had, as Whitaker explained, “…a vast variety of not only different people and how they identify, but also just like different use cases, different personal styles. And so those are the types of initiatives that I personally love to work on and will like to push our company to just do more and be louder about. You know what are the things that we stand by.”
This then leads to one of my favorite themes in science fiction, the building OF communities. It’s one of those things I love about shows like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or Babylon 5. It is this passion that she brings to her job of building an online community to not just be guinea pigs for a project but to share ideas and inspire each other.
And in that inspiration, it is also important for POC (People of Color) to see, as Whitaker explained, “…Creatives of Color, because, for my experience, being in the advertising space which is a fairly creative industry, I was always the only one not even some of the time all the time. Every agency I worked in I was the only creative Black person in my company, and I always found that it was very hard for me to get the insights, it was hard for me to move up on the ladder, I didn’t have allies that I could reach out to, and it was definitely a struggle.”
“When I got into Adobe using Illustrator and InDesign, these two incredibly powerful tools, I said “Hey there are so many people out there that are using these to create amazing things and tell amazing stories. How do we get to that?” And if we need to kind of move some things aside to focus on, to know what the community looks like. I think that’s important and that’s something that we need to do.”
Besides being a graphic designer and community builder (she had just finished organizing a virtual art walk for our Slack community) she is also a singer/songwriter and plays a little bass, using these other talents during the pandemic to help with, as she explains, “…channeling a lot of my creative energy into more of the music space, I also can make a really good playlist.”
George Carmona 3rd is a graphic artist and contributing writer on comics and nerd culture for BlackSci-fi.com, Comics Beat, and Narazu.com. He is also the author of the DC Super Friends Joke Book from Penguin Random House and a co-creator of the Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community. The banner art for this piece was made by him using Illustrator and Illustrator on the IPad. You can find more of his work at FistFullofArt.com or follow him on Twitter at GCarmona3.