An Interview with Libby Nicholaou on Creative Residency

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Chris Coyier on

I met Libby years ago from running into her at conferences. She was with Typekit and would be at the conference bringing their their super cool “pop up library” full of typographic books. She’s still at Adobe now, but running the Adobe Creative Resident program.

The program is now entering it’s second year. What’s it all about? Let’s find out.

Headers are me, the rest is Libby.

This is an opportunity to have the freedom to fully commit to being a visual artist for a year, right?

For Adobe Creative Residents, the program is about committing to a personal passion project, whether as a visual artist or as a designer, and putting so much creativity and energy into it that it changes your career. The intention is for the year a person is a resident to be the beginning of something bigger that will grow in the years to follow.

Sounds like an amazing opportunity to go big on creating and potentially change your life. What was the first year like?

The first year has been an incredible journey. We are fortunate to have Kelli Anderson and Becky Simpson as our first ever residents.

They came in with great projects and a willingness to challenge themselves to grow their practice. Both of their projects have progressed in different positive ways. Kelli has succeeded in producing a series of functional paper pop-up objects and gained the attention of museums and design institutions. Becky has fully prepared herself to launch her own line of lifestyle products and is in conversation with notable stores to carry them.

Who is the perfect person for this program? What do you mean by “whose work elevates the role of visual content in our culture”?

The perfect person for the Residency is someone who likes to be challenged, enjoys engaging with the community, and thinks big. They are willing to try new things, be resourceful and create work that sets a higher bar for quality in the art and design communities.

That phrase you quote from our site is intended to express one of Adobe’s goals for the Residency. We want residents to make work that pushes beyond the status quo and reminds people that design and art are more than decoration but actual important parts of our world.

It’s called a “residency”, but you don’t actually have to move, right?

That’s right. The program resembles aspects of a traditional residency but also has characteristics of a fellowship. Since most people who will be residents already have a nice studio to work in, it didn’t makes sense to geographically uproot them for a year. It’s a big enough commitment to put all other work on hold during the program. We wanted to allow people to retain their creature comforts.

What motivates you to work on a program like this?

I’m motivated by the opportunity to empower creative people to succeed. When I worked in an art gallery, I always enjoyed when artists sold their work, got invited to a big fair or were offered a big commission. But I often felt like there was more we could be doing to ensure the artists lived well off their artwork. With the residency, I’m proud to lead a program that not only considers financial needs of creative people but also training and experience that will equip them to have a fruitful career.

There is a long history of benefactors in artistic endeavors. Is that essentially Adobe’s role in this?

Adobe’s role in the Residency is focused on a holistic perspective of the design industry. As a design based company we are interested in contributing to the positive future of design and empowering creative people to have more opportunities to build a vibrant career.

Chris: I’m timed this dreadfully poorly in that applications for this next round of Adobe Creative Residents closed at the end of February. But! Even if this was out, say, last week, I don’t think this is the kind of thing you want to rush. If you’re a designer or artist and this appeals to you (It certainly appeals to me, in a slightly different parallel universe anyway), keep this on your radar and take the year to prepare yourself to on being a great applicant.