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Creative Jam

Moving beyond in-person and single customer engagements


Since 2013 Adobe’s Creative Jam has been bringing creatives together in a friendly design competition format. It is an event where a presenting speaker inspires participants; they get trained on a software product from an expert and then complete a design challenge. Teams create solutions and then present their work to a jury of industry experts and peers for a chance to win. It’s been a long-standing favorite of conferences, professional work settings, and students.


When I joined in January of 2019, Creative Jams was composed of 3 event types: in-person community events, in-person commercial or educational customer events, and hybrid college customer events. I was brought on to grow the hybrid college events from a single customer event to larger-scale virtual community events and to help make all our events virtual.  


I have been a show host, the communications director, customer support, facilitator, as well operational mind – developing the systems and workflows that allowed the program to go from 30 students to 2000, as well as taking a cadence of events from 150 to 25 events each year. 





January 2019 to present


  • Design: Michael Stinson, Versa Studio

  • Team: Rachel Elnar, Ben Slutter, David Carr-berry, Nate Beltz, Heather Lynn, Eva Crawford, Mike Joosse

  • Platforms: Eventbrite, Crowdcast, Airtable, Basecamp, Survey Monkey, MailChimp, Google Workspace



  • Show host

  • Onboarding programs

  • Partner Recruitment & Management

  • Project Management

  • Communications Planning

  • Leading team of 3-4 team members

  • Project Review Intake and Management 

  • Reporting metrics

  • Event Materials

  • Improve efficiency with workflow adjustments

  • RACI to operationalize tasks

  • Improved organizational collaboration

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The original structure of the event was very limiting. It was a single day, and everything happened manually. The team had many factors to consider as we planned to expand the scope:

  • Limited working time (2-3hrs)

  • Too many presentations to review (critique fatigue)

  • No system and rubric for scoring

  • Hard to discern and score projects when seeing them for the first time

  • Limited to only one school at a time, low engagement numbers

  • Too dependent on in-person component and faculty engagement

  • Student learning was not linked to future career opportunities, we needed to connect students more directly with the industry

  • The project Intake system was in the chat and lacked details

  • Printed materials were limited for updates and any last-minute changes

  • How do we do this show LIVE with everyone being in different locations?

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With an initiative as complex and intricate as this, the solutions have been multi-faceted and layered. It focused on five main areas: Project Planning, Partner Relationship Management, Documentation, Off-Air Review, and Tooling.

Project Planning
  • Planning a Jam went from 6-week process to 3 weeks

  • Separate the components of the event into events held on two different days

  • Eliminate dependence on a single institution & faculty engagement

  • More time for students (1+week)

  • Judges review

  • Off-air review

  • Training & tech checks

  • Have a more detailed & repeatable plan for each event

  • Provide students with direct contact with industry partners & added coaching meetings for winners

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Partner Relationship Management
  • Formalized the timeline to maximize partnership time 

  • White glove experience

  • Working with my and Rachel’s expansive design networks, the team was able to recruit popular brands for students to learn from and give back to the community, as well as build a hiring and intern pipeline. Overall, partnership engagement is structured to be a very easy lift.

  • When working with Adobes’ customers, the program is flexible enough to flex for their needs and can align with their internal priorities

We had a blast; working with you on this was a nice creative break from our day to day. We’d also like to call out how thoughtfully run the entire program was from end to end, how operationally sound and easy it was for Instagram to participate, and the level of production starting with the first email.

Mig Reyes, Product Design Manager, Instagram

  • Created a website that would house the creative briefs, partner relationship materials, training materials, rubric, user guides, event assets, and more. It serves as a single source of truth and reference for all participants in the Jam.

  • Since we were eliminating feedback from so many students, how do we give them feedback with ease? And share their work?

  • RACI Charts & Airtable

  • Design Systems for Creative Jam in general

  • Metric gathering for reports

score sheet.png
Off Air Review
  • Find a way to have reviewers score projects to increase the number of projects we can take it

  • Recruited volunteers thru our collective networks

  • Build a way to narrow the projects down to only 10 & focus on them for the finale

  • Provide on-air judges more time to spend on projects

  • Flexible resource

  • Determined gift to time ratio - so they would get “paid.”

  • Thru trial and error, determined the right amount of projects to review (10-15 in 24 hrs)

  • Since scoring is not always equal, ensuring students get reviewed by 2 to 4 - professionals

  • Created sets of scoring sheets for off-air reviewers (inspired by on-air documents) that were blind to student details and aggregated the scores – the total per project as well as in rubric categories (for future scores posting) 

  • Created onboarding process training video and instructions for asynchronous training

  • With an adjusted timeline, we could provide the on-air judges 48 hours to review student work and provide better on-air feedback since they are not seeing it for the first time

All too often a disparity exists between education and industry, with a lack of opportunity to receive guidance and experience from those within the industries we aspire towards most, and the impacts of COVID-19 only serving to perpetuate this barrier. I would encourage everyone to take advantage of opportunities, such as an Amazon Creative Jam, whenever possible–it has furthered a whole spectrum of my design-related skills and the outcome is a great asset to my portfolio!


Luke Kingham; Student at London South Bank University, UK

Improved Tooling
  • We implemented Eventbrite for easy event registration and accurate student information

  • Incorporated MailChimp for automated emails and data reporting

  • Use SurveyMonkey for proper and accurate intake of projects

  • Utilizes Airtable for engagement tracking and reporting, as well as better task management

  • Stage Manager thru texting

  • Standaridze chat messaging

  • Slack channel for behind the scenes communication

  • Video chat so back end team is communciating

  • Created central Google Sheet to show growth and event by event stats

  • Scoring Automation: The easy win was to create a collaborative Google sheet that listed all the projects and aggregated the scores (show example)



  • Reduced our event cadence from 33 per year to 20 while increasing student reach from 50 to 350 per event, with the highest engagement being over 2000 students

  • Planning a Jam went from 6-week process to 3 weeks

  • Maintain an active pool of 200+ off-air reviewers that engage with programs allows us to handle any size event

  • Scoring sheets now let us share feedback with all participants professionals and students (link to projects site:

  • Website allows for a lot of asynchronous learning and support for all involved and is always up to date and accurate

  • Average conversion of 65% per event

  • Creative Jams are agnostic from software and subject matter – so any partner and software goal can be met with format

  • Internal team capacity has grown since the formalization of workflow and the assignment of tasks




  • Notes about commercial events

  • Engaged _____ students since Jan 2019 (my start date), worked with ____industry partners, awards ____coaching meetings, _____ dollars awarded to students, and ____ events 


2021 successes!

  • engaged 12,752 competitors

  • awarded 313 prizes to winners

  • granted 188 honorable mentions

  • and launched over 2,144 Adobe XD projects (submitted by 5,516 participants) that solved real-world design challenges

Thank you so much Adobe! This was a great experience. We all learned a ton, met new colleagues, and were inspired, Two years in the making, the finale showcased dedication, innovation, and inspiration. 

Shawn Walsh, Design Director, CVS Heath

Discover more about Creative Jams


CVS Health Care Article

Amazon Article

WSU Article

I am sure there is another one

And probably one more

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