Creative Cloud

Commissioned Artwork, Adobe Nov / 2011

At the 2011 MAX Conference, Adobe announced their Creative Cloud. Soon after I was commissioned to create a piece of artwork that would be distributed in an limited edition of 300 and given to the members of creative cloud team. I couldn’t have been more delighted and honored by the request. Equally, I am very happy with the result.

Erik Natzke Limited Edition Print commissioned by Adobe for a Creative Cloud Event


The Meeting

As luck would have it, at the time they contacted me about the commission I was already in San Francisco. Embracing the opportunity to meet in person I met with Kevin Lynch and Mike Chambers, who were leading the project. Having recently been to MAX I was already familiar with the Creative Cloud, so we talked about what this meant to both community as well as Adobe.

For the community this signifies push towards ubiquitous creativity. The goal of the cloud and specifically the touch apps is to extend the reach of creative doing beyond your workstation and have it permeate into the out states of our creative lives. Making this a reality from the Adobe perspective meant a shift from how they were approaching tooling and a realigning of teams.

As an acknowledgement of that effort they wanted to create a piece of artwork for each member of the Creative Cloud Team. Since the artwork I create is heavily centered around code, they felt people would have a dual appreactiation for the process as well as the aesthetic.

In our discussions it was also clear that we wanted to make something that lived more in the art realm. Borrowings elements of design to help illuminate the underlying story while cautiously straying from anything that felt like branding or advertising. This was to be something people would be proud to hang in their homes and offices. Signifying an important milestone.


Fluffy Blue Clouds, the process begins.

The word cloud has some obvious visual cues. The mind quickly thinks of white fluffy clouds set on the backdrop of an ocean blue sky. Instead of resisting the clichéness of that though, I embraced it as a thought seed since I knew that was probably what most people were imagining as well, so I started to fill my sketchbook with clouds.

I started to then think about a possible hidden structure of the cloud. Where the contour was the result of a strong network bond that held together these smaller parts. Each with it’s own purpose, collectively working together and stretchen by the network that binds them. Tangent from this, I also played with the idea that these parts as possibly being screens and hint towards the diverse means for controlling these applications.

Brainstorming visual ideas around Cloud and Collections

From Clouds to Typography

As the thought of creating representational clouds started to wear on me, I decided to project the conceptual nuggets of bonding diversity and  structural overlapping into something more typographically driven. I was then off on a typographical form hunt. Scowering for hours the YouWorkForThem Font Library (which I happily enjoy doing even when I don’t have a project that requires it… typography can be a wonderful seed/inspiration). I scoured for letter forms that would nicely compliment one another while still having some unique identities (akin to the 7 touch apps). The bond in this diverse mixture of type would then be our hero word ‘cloud‘.

Typographic Breakout

Overlayed Type Composition


Close Up

Detail of the Typographic Treatment for Cloud

1 Color Treatement

With the thought that this could later be used for other collateral, I worked up a 1 color variation.

Color Reference

Similar to my quest for typographic forms was the journey for the colors to use for the composition. We were still in San Francisco and had visited The California Academy of Sciences and I felt the tonal values from some of the shots of nature I took would work well into the piece. As an interesting aside, the Academy was next to the DeYoung museum  (where the event was planned to be held), so I thought it would be fitting to take an element that had geographic proximity to culminating event.

Note: I would highly recommend visiting the Academy. We went on one of the free Wednesday with Leo and we could barely see it all. Leo was particularly entrance with the butterflies (so was Dad).



Artwork Process

The next stage involved applying these color reference images to the drawing system I have built in Actionscript. A series of ribbon like structures trail the mouse that enlists attributes of speed and inertia based on the gesture enlisted into the mouse. The focus of this style of input it to control the energy that is conveyed in the composition through the actions of the mouse. Quick movements are reflected by bold large strokes while more subtle movements build up complexity and detail. Colors are retrieved from the image base on the X/Y location of the segment that is being draw. Therefore the more subtle actions will also work to uncover the image that is being referenced.

Iterate, Explore & Play

The fun and fear of creating composition with such quickly changing outcomes is that you are unsure what results will emerge. In order to better control the outcome, a good amount of play is required to discover the connection between the number of variables at hand. Over time what appeared chaotic is now a workable palette where through iteration I am able to hon in on the desire outcome.

Here are some of the first iterations;

It was now starting to feel like it was hitting the tonal vision I was searching for, so I did one more iteration before incorporating the typographic visual.




Combining the Typography with Artwork;

At this stage I was pretty happy with how things had come together. However, the longer I looked at the composition there were still a few elements that were itching for improvement. Duplicating the artwork within the masking of the typography was one of the big ones. Repurposing those colors and forms felt like it diminished the value of the piece. The other was that I was wanting just a subtle hint of blue in the center of the composition. Even though it was abstract, I wanted the viewer to have the sense of looking up to the sky and get the sense energy on the horizon.

After a few more passed at it, I was happy with the following composition that emerged;

Additional refinements were done in Photoshop to lighten the center and integrate the typography.


The final composition hit on all the design notes of feeling aspirational and driven by light that I was striving for.

Printing 300

Since this was a larger number then I was comfortable doing myself in the short timeframe, we had them printed at Urban Digital Color in San Francisco. We were all very please with the outcome and I have since used them for prints that I have needed produced.

Signing and Numbering

A couple days from the event, I spent a full day signing and numbering all 300 of the prints. Knowing this would be an all day affair I tried to pace myself to prevent hand cramps and the insanity of the mind that creeps in when trying to repeat the same task while maintaining and active count of current edition number. I quickly made a game out of it with my mind to calculate the rate of completion and project the amount of time remaining. Like being on the treadmill, these number mind games often work quite well. being a fan of numbers, I’d think of sequences and point out primes to myself. Seven and a half hours and a couple tripple venti hazelnut lattés later they were all signed.




At the time the artwork was completed, I received a promotional email from Spoonflower (a company that specializes in printing on fabric) and that spawned the idea of printing the artwork on silk to make scarves. I ended up making 3 in total and gave them as gifts at the party. (Although, as you can see in the picture below, Leo was less willing to let them go)

Hands off the scarves

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos from the event. It was a great time and I was extremely honored to have been apart of the event. Here is a quick photo Tobey and I took as we waited at our bus stop before heading to the event.


Share your thoughts


  • Eric Dolecki
    April 23, 2012

    This was a very revealing and inspiring write up, thank you for all the work that went into composing it. I love reading about process and not just the inspiration and the final product. Thank you.

  • shauna
    July 9, 2012

    Gorgeous! I am coveting those scarves!

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