I've been getting a few emails from folks interested in the Adobe Creative Residency — many of them asking for advice or tips as they prepare to write and submit their applications. That's awesome — go apply for the Residency, you guys! But since I can't get to everyone's general requests, I decided to write about my experience here and hope it helps.
When I was preparing my own Residency application, I dug around the Internet and found Becky's blog post with advice. I love how she said that she didn't want to color anyone's idea of what an application /should/ look like, so she kept her advice pretty general. That helped me a lot, and I want to say the same thing: don't feel limited by what's been done, both by residents this year and last.
More tips and advice for those prepping their applications:
Be sure to propose a project that you're really, truly, excited about. I can't stress this enough. Be sure it's something that you yourself would want to do for a year. Don't stress about what Adobe wants (or what you think Adobe wants). Pick a project that's so exciting to you that if you got a letter saying you didn't get the Residency, you'd want to still do it anyway. I'd say that was key for me in my application; I got so excited about the idea of a line of products that I knew if they didn't pick me, 2016 would still be the year I'd focus on my business.
And besides, a project you're genuinely excited about will always be easier to talk about and explain when you're in front of a panel or a crowd (or one of the bigwigs at Adobe!) What feels right, natural, and genuinely you? Go for that.
Start where you are. Preparing an application for the Residency should also be a chance for you to assess where you are in your creative career and where you want to go. Try to look back at past work and projects to see if the project you're proposing is something within your realm of experience and interest — it should at least speak for itself and show Adobe that it's a project you're capable of doing. At the same time, be honest about what you need right now. People often think the Residency is just like a grant or automatic Kickstarter backing, and it's not. It's also a chance to ask for mentorship, guidance, help in getting your message out there, and growing by saying yes to things outside your comfort zone. I knew I needed the Residency to help me think bigger, to force me out of my solo-working introvert designer shell and share my work. What cool things have you done in your career, what do you need to grow, and how can the Residency help?
Don't sweat the details. I get a lot of questions asking how specific the budget itemization section needs to be, and I'd say, don't think too much about the nitty gritty; those things can change and evolve as your project evolves. Be clear about your why and the overall idea; specifics often and will probably change as the year goes by. My Residency plan has changed so much throughout the year because of new opportunities, ideas, and pivotal breakthroughs (and I'm sure my fellow Residents will say the same!) I kept my pitch pretty sure open ("a line of products around documenting...") vs super specific ("a series of five journals...") to leave space for creativity and surprise opportunities along the way.
Don't worry about having all the answers. Don't feel limited by your present skills in figuring out the "how" of your project — the whole point of Adobe being there to support you is for them to offer mentorship and help where you need it. While explaining my project, I remember commenting, "I think a website could be cool too, but maybe not since I don't know how to code that specific feature," and someone from Adobe saying, "well, that's what we're here for." It dawned on me that my job was to know what I wanted to do AND think big — Adobe is there for support where it's needed. Hone your message, and you'll figure out the best medium to use, even if it means you need additional training along the way. Now that I look back, I'd say the right mindset instead of "but I don't know how" should be "I'll learn how"! ;)
Be open to new things, a.k.a. say yes, figure it out later. The Residency is going to be one big challenge after the other, and you have to be willing to say yes to new opportunities. I love to joke that I say yes and freak out later. Freaking out is always part of my process — I need weeks of anxiety (don't we all?) before I embark on something new and scary to me, like speaking in front of a crowd or knowing I'm going to present my idea to a designer I've followed forever. I have to remind myself that it's the only way I'm going to grow in my creative career, and so far all the "scary" times I've had have actually almost been life-changing (because hey, I survived!) Having an open mind about trying new things is key in presenting your project proposal.