Brooke Hopper, Designer at Adobe sat down with Photofocus senior writer Kevin Ames during MAX to talk about artificial intelligence, Adobe Firefly and more.
This interview was edited for readability.
Brooke Hopper was all set to give a talk at South by Southwest in Austin on the metaverse and what changes it would bring. When she came back from maternity leave, artificial intelligence had pushed its way to the forefront of tech. It changed everything including the metaverse. That’s how our conversation began at Adobe Max 2023.
AI is sneaking into our lives
Brooke Hopper: I have a completely different talk. So I had to entirely change the name of the talk that I was giving. I ultimately turned it into a sort of AI 101 course, which was really interesting. It was because it was super popular just because of that, just because AI was making headlines everywhere. But people weren’t familiar with what AI was. People were talking about AI this and AI that, and I’m like, well, do you use spellcheck? Do you use Content Aware Fill in Photoshop?
So much of what we do is AI-based. It has been sneaky. And so I think like a lot of this has been really educating people on what AI is, number one. But then also taking a step back and saying, how does this affect the creators, like it’s difficult to put emotions aside. I’m a designer. I’ve been an educator for my entire life. It’s so difficult.
What is this doing? And where are we going? And I think that’s what makes me feel good about what we’re doing at Adobe. It’s not just from the design perspective, but all the way up through our CEO. Engineers, everyone, are looking at this from like, how is this going to impact creators? So, how can we approach this in a way that feels good, not just to our creators, but to us, because we are also creators?
What is Adobe like if it’s all a machine? Who are we? What are we doing? You know, as a company, because we are creativity.
Kevin Ames: Very few people remember when Photoshop came on the scene.
KA: Then there was a big hue and cry that it would ruin photography. Of course, it hasn’t. It’s another tool. I see AI as another tool in my kit.
BH: Yeah, exactly.
KA: Would you talk about the creative guards that Adobe has put in place? I remember seeing a presentation where they were showing how they could detect work done with the Healing Brush or the Clone Stamp tool, for example. So this to me is an extension of that. How does that fit in?
BH: Content Authenticity. That’s a hard question to answer, but yeah, I’ll start with the sort of content authenticity portion of it. So, I mean, I love this analogy, but one of the things that we talk about internally is knowing where your content, and how your content is made is like knowing the nutrition of the food that you eat. I really like that analogy because like, yes, I want stuff that’s good, you know, in my work. And so you’re right. In 2019 we started the Content Authenticity initiative, and that was against deep fakes. But that has been super helpful through all of this because we already have, you know, as David said yesterday, 2000 companies who are committed to this alongside us, making sure that creators are first, that they get credit for their work, that we understand who made it.
And I was a part of it. That’s fine. But let’s acknowledge that part. I speak with a lot of universities and they’re starting to think about, what our ethics and guidelines are. And, you know, sure, you can say we don’t accept any AI-generated work, but that’s sort of just closing your eyes.
AI now and beyond
KA: This Max was all about what can we do with this new toy or this new tool.
BH: That’s been the amazing thing with Firefly and [Adobe] Express. I have two small kids and my daughter designed her birthday invite with me and Express using Firefly. She was able to tell me what kind of a unicorn and what color, and it makes it fun. And I look at these as tools for like I’m a different type of creator in different settings. I’m at Adobe, I’m a professional UX designer. When I’m doing logos and designs for my friends and family, I’m a graphic designer. I’m a hobbyist, right? When I’m with my daughter, I’m just having fun like everyone to cultivate her. I’m trying to cultivate her creativity and Firefly happens to be a really good tool for me to use in many of those situations. I use it completely differently in all three situations, right? And I think that’s great.
Staying in touch with creators
KA: Now Adobe is a big company.
BH: Yeah, huge.
KA: How are you going to keep connecting with the creators on a personal basis like you have in the past?
BH: That’s one of the things I think the company is struggling with. I am personally super passionate about that.
I used to work on Adobe Fresco. That was sort of my baby that I helped design and build. And for me, really building a tool meant that I needed to be part of that community. And so even here at Max, a third of the people I’m running into are illustrators and artists that I know. [I] consider them friends now, because community is such a big part of that. And I think you’re totally right. We need to find a way to not lose that. Even as our company is growing and as our number of customers is growing, [to] people my age, Adobe means something very different to them than the kids in school, right?
Adobe Firefly origins
The discussion moved on to Adobe Firefly, its development and how the creator community was involved.
BH: We pulled in people, we selected a group of people. We said here, it’s not ready. We know it’s not ready. But we want you to try it out and tell us what you think. Is it working? What would you use it for? I mean, even before we had Firefly even available internally, I was setting up calls with artists and illustrators and just saying, what do you think?
I call them little therapy sessions And I want to know how do you feel about this? If you hate it, that’s fine. Just tell me more about it. I want to know. And that’s how we actually landed on the model that we have now. [It’s] because we had talked to all of these people in the community and we said if we are going to put out a generative model, [it] has to be a model that is safe and doesn’t infringe on artists’ rights and [it] isn’t taking away from artists. That’s first and foremost. We cannot do what the rest of the generative AI models are doing, which is scraping the web with data that’s not theirs.
Note: Adobe Stock is used to train Firefly.
KA: If you can say one thing to the world about marketing Adobe, what would you say? That it’s creative?
BH: We’re here to help you create. I mean, that’s what it is at the very base. I don’t even know how else to say it. [It] is just another tool. I work every day with the technical research teams who are building this magic. And so, I get to see way in advance some of the stuff that’s probably going to be unveiled at Max next year.
KA: Thank you so very much for everything that you’ve shared and best of good fortune with your family, your new daughter, and where you’re taking us at Adobe.
BH: Thank you. I take my job seriously. I really do.
KA: Nice to meet you, Brooke.
BH: So nice to meet you, Kevin.