Adobe is a company that is synonymous with the creative industry, so I was really excited to finally talk with someone from the company for Revision Path! Meet Caitlin Crews: a creative outreach and design specialist on the Adobe Stock team.
We started off talking about Caitlin’s day-to-day work, which includes a lot of writing, interviewing, and discovering new designers from all over the world. Caitlin also talked about her photography background, her work with Lord and Taylor, and she shared how she’s helping use her current work to create a more equitable future. After listening to Caitlin’s story, I hope you’ll become inspired to contribute more to the world as well!
Maurice Cherry: All right. So tell us who you are and what you do.
Caitlin Crews: Hi, my name is Caitlin Crews and I am a creative outreach and design specialist at Adobe.
Maurice Cherry: Now what does a creative outreach and design specialist do? I’m curious. Tell me a little bit about that.
Caitlin Crews: I actually worked on the Adobe Stock team. So a lot of people think of Stock photography, but we have what we call kind of complex or extended assets, meaning we have motion graphic templates, design templates, 3D models and such. So a lot of people just think of, this the tick vocal stock photography, but I actually work on the templates team. So my day to day with that is I’m working with graphic designers globally to bring their work into a marketplace.
Maurice Cherry: Now I’ve seen it inside of Photoshop where you can link to Adobe Stock and different libraries. I’ll be honest, I’ve never really used it. I feel like it was one of those things at Adobe because Adobe tends to just roll out updates come so fast and furious and there’s so many things in it. I’d never get a chance to really experience everything that the Adobe products can do.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah. So within the applications for illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign, we offer free templates. So we’re working with designers to do very specialized content. When Photoshop is rolling out something new or InDesigns rolling out a new feature, those templates that you find in the application are actually designed and best practice with the application to feature something new depending on what that new tool is. Also, it’s a way for us to kind of work individually with artists or small design studios to kind of bring their work a little bit more into the forefront. Also we have a subscription paid situation through our website and there are of course 10 more, a lot more templates there. But what you find in command in and the new dialog box for those apps are we’re refreshing them a couple times a year. So it’s a great way for people who really aren’t sure how to use InDesign, or people who are maybe familiar with illustrator but not Photoshop to kind of explore and see how files are set up properly. So it’s a lot of like design thinking and a lot of best practices being put into those templates.
Maurice Cherry: I see. I didn’t even think about it that way that you could really see how someone else’s file structure and things are. I’ve seen those sort of templates and designs before and I’m like I can’t do that. Well the candidate thing, it’s like a tutorial or something. I’m not going to do that. I just need to like resize this photo or something. That’s interesting to know that people are kind of using it in that way.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah, let people we have strong download numbers I think week to week in that and those are free. Like if you’re a trial user and you want to kind of test and see what that’s like, it’s great. If you’re someone who needs a new resume and you want to do it InDesign those are just kind of like great places. I always tell people to start there. And then also people who are creating new work for the marketplace of Adobe Stock just as nice way to see like this is how it should be done and this is probably like maybe the best way for another user or your end user to be able to use this template. So yeah, it was a whole new world for me coming in this role. Yeah.
Maurice Cherry: It’s like instructive as well as sort of a showcase in a way.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah. And I learned a lot. Like I’m adverse to Illustrator completely. I’m like, oh, I don’t want to touch it, no thank you. But being able to kind of see how it works and working with these designers on it, like day to day basis, I learned a lot very quickly.
Maurice Cherry: So in a normal day, you say you’re helping designers get on the market place. Can you talk about like what that process is like for designers that are listening now? How would they work with you say to get their work on the marketplace?
Caitlin Crews: Yeah, so what we do is our process right now is kind of like an invite only. So a lot of my job is researching and finding people online or through conversation that would be interested in doing this type of work. So it’s usually a pretty interesting conversation of like this is what you do, this is how it gets done. And we actually have like our specs, our requirements for everyone per application to kind of follow. There’s a contract that needs to be signed and then we kind of work. It’s mostly like, okay, I see somebody’s work online. I like it. I think it may be interesting to see it as a template and then we kind of go from there. Through that process I’m also kind of guiding them a little bit through creative direction I’m looking at what’s selling, what’s not doing so well.
Caitlin Crews: Actually asking people to switch apps. So if someone’s making a lot of work in Illustrator and I’m like, ah, this is actually better InDesign, can I give you the tools to revamp your work and InDesign because it may sell a little bit better or it may perform a little bit better. So it’s this multifaceted like mind switch. And working with people globally is been a really interesting thing as well. Like I sadly don’t speak a second language, but being able to decipher and be able to communicate with people that are in Spain or Italy or I think I have someone in like there’s people in like Ireland. You know what I mean? So it’s just kind of like this being able to communicate broadly. It can be a little difficult, a little bit hard, but it’s just really interesting to see like what you get back through those conversations.
Maurice Cherry: And so because it’s a market place, some things are free, some things are paid. So these designers are also earning revenue from being in the market too.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah, earning revenue and kind of explaining how that works. A lot of the free content, like that’s a completely different contract. So it’s like you’re getting paid for your work, we’re not taking your work and just trying to sell it for free. But it’s a whole process when it comes to making sure that artists get paid and make a living. A lot of it for a lot of people is passive income and you can make a group of templates and we can get them online and you can just kind of like, okay, let’s see how it goes and test the waters and see. But a lot of it it’s kind of like a passive income. We’ve had a few people, a few Adobe Stock artists that were doing this in their spare time and we’re able to like open small studios and do it as their full time job is making design templates for marketplaces.
Maurice Cherry: Oh nice.
Caitlin Crews: Yes. It’s fun to see that happen.
Maurice Cherry: So when you’re doing this outreach, like I’m curious like what’s a normal day like for you or are you just like scouring the web and just reaching out to people?
Caitlin Crews: Yeah, scouring the web, reaching out to people. Also finding really good resources. I loved meeting people in person. I never really go in being like, hey can I sell you on this thing. It’s more like I really want to get to know the people, the artists that we’re working with. I really want to get to know like things that they want to try but they’re not really sure how to.
Caitlin Crews: So even meeting people in person has been, if you go to a talk or you go to a panel or what have you, just kind of meeting designers out in the real world I think is the most important and constantly keeping your eyes like on Instagram. I think predominantly everyone I follow now is like some sort of designer or illustrator. Just kind of like being able to see what’s happening right now InDesign and thinking about what it’s going to do in the future. Like, especially from an aesthetic standpoint, just what does it look like and how does it function? So it’s a lot of research and it’s a lot of just like kicking around ideas most of the day. Yeah.
Maurice Cherry: Now Adobe, I don’t know, it kind of has a contentious relationship I feel like with designers because it’s the tool that many of us started with. Like it’s the tool that many of us just sort of cut our teeth with whether we paid for it or pirated it as I or whatever. But like it’s the tool that we use to kind of not only sort of get our feet wet with what we could do digitally, but also to learn about like different terms and things like before design I had never heard of like cropping or rasterize. Because I didn’t go to design school so I didn’t know any of that stuff. But I knew I really liked graphics. I had a copy of Photoshop and I learned really kind of like a second vocabulary through the tools and learning about like different blend modes and what does that mean?
Maurice Cherry: And that got me more interested in learning about design. So for a lot of designers, Adobe’s like an education to them, like learning the tool, learning things from that. However, Adobe also gets a lot of flack because, well I think it’s probably most people know about the pricing. Adobe went from, well I think at one point in time they just had, you could buy the downloaded actual software and that was pretty expensive. So now going to this sort of monthly model, monthly subscription model of subscribing to all of the apps or any number of apps you wanted to, which a lot of designers in necessarily feel like was something they could do, like they can afford. And I feel like there was like an inflection point when that happened because then you started seeing a lot of these difference, almost anti Adobe design tools come out because they’re like, oh, I can’t pay for Photoshop, so I need to make something else that can do the same things or similar things.
Maurice Cherry: And a lot of that is borrowed from Photoshop, like the terminology, the things it can do, et cetera. A lot of that, I mean Photoshop like the OG in that respect. So that in like is it challenging talking to designers when you let them know like I’m from Adobe because of that kind of stigma?
Caitlin Crews: I think so. A lot of people, when I do approach them, I do talk to them. It’s like, no, you’re not. Like I’m not a real person. Like I was actually trying to assign a contributor artist onto stock and she was like, can you send me your LinkedIn page? I don’t believe you are who you are. And I was like, well, there are real people. There are a lot of us at this company and I think that when you have a product, like the products that Adobe has put out and I think has been around for a very long… It’s like some application had been around for 35 years and in the world of technology, that’s a long time. I think that what’s interesting is like, yeah, I mean as someone who also don’t tell anyone, but we’re going to tell everybody I also would pirate, you know what I mean Photoshop because I had to do something.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah, I think that it’s just you know what I mean? It’s kind of like this barrier of entry and I think what Adobe is trying to do is to price things at a way that’s still competitive but also like it’s a company you have to realize they need to make their money too. But I think that with every step of the way and the new applications that are coming out and the new software that’s coming out, I think that just makes it healthy. I think that Adobe has always been kind of in the forefront of that technology, but it wouldn’t be a true world if there wasn’t someone out there to kind of push at that a little bit.
Caitlin Crews: And I think that’s the role of creatives always to question and also reinvent. So is that a good or bad thing for Adobe? I’m not exactly sure. I think as long as the wheel keeps spinning and we keep innovating, I think that no matter how you get the work done, you’re going to get it done. So that’s kind of my take on it. I don’t have any official word from my company, but-
Maurice Cherry: Oh no, no, no. Yeah, I completely understand that. I mean, and Adobe continues to innovate. I mean, with the subscription price, like so for example, I have mine through my company I work for, for Glitch and so we’re able to all of the Adobe apps, of course Photoshop, Illustrator InDesign, I use Premiere, I use Audition. There’s a number of different ones and then that also extends to the mobile apps as well. And I’m always finding something new aside from just new features that Adobe rolls out, I’m always finding something new I can do with Photoshop that I didn’t know that I could do before. I think probably one of the biggest game changes for me was two of them. The first one was how you could straighten images using the ruler tool. I had no clue about that. Like, I think I lucked up on that one day and was like galaxy brain, like I can’t believe I can’t do this now.
Maurice Cherry: I can straighten crooked images with the ruler tool. And then the second thing was the content aware fill how Adobe’s using like machine learning and AI to fill in parts of an image magically that don’t exist. I mean just it’s like magic. It’s like, oh this makes my job so much easier. I don’t have to like clone stamp and blur, clone stamp and blur to try to get the texture right or whatever. I mean, I don’t know. I see what you’re saying about, I kind of be in that healthy competition. I mean I do have Adobe apps, but I’ve also got the full affinity suite of apps. I’ve got designer and following publisher and I’ve used those as well on times where I couldn’t use Photoshop because it didn’t work for a certain thing that I needed to do, but affinity did. So I can see where that could be healthy competition.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah. I think it’s also just always important to know what tools are out there, no matter if it’s with an Adobe product or not. Just kind of like what can I do to get this done? And I think that’s just super important as well. There are tools in Photoshop I took a, we’ll probably get into it, but I took a break for a little while in the creative space to kind of stopped and coming back into using Photoshop I was like, where did this come from? Why didn’t I know about this? This would have saved me so many tears about three years ago. What happened?
Caitlin Crews: But it’s interesting to watch these products continue to develop because there’s a reason to why there is content aware fill now. You know what I mean? They’re realizing, oh okay, if we can do this through machine learning and AI, why not make it slightly easier for somebody? So I do find that to be really interesting and also like a big thank you when you’re doing design work.
Maurice Cherry: And speaking of content, I mean Adobe has been really like not so suddenly flexing in the content creation department. For the past few years, like there’s been live streams, of course there’s conferences like Adobe MAX. Of course there’s all the articles and things on the Adobe blog. How does that factor into your work, if any? Like that’s stuff that you have to work with as well?
Caitlin Crews: For sure. Outside of doing the day to day finding new contributors and finding new artists to work with. There’s also like we’re a pretty small team and Adobe Stock is rather new compared to other departments within Adobe. And so a lot of that the blog writing, doing contributor interviews and spotlights, writing about new features that we’re finding within templates or marketing that also comes from my team. So also on top of the day to day, and there’s also I’m writing blog post, I’m working with marketing teams, I’m also building collections. That’s another big part of my job right now is to build highlighting the best of the templates collection and making sure that that gets out to the marketing team. So on Twitter or on through internal communication, just so people know, kind of like what we’re doing and what we’re producing.
Caitlin Crews: And that’s something else that I work on. So it’s actually in ground very deeply into my role. So it’s like it’s not just one thing. You’re always wearing different hats and it’s always like, I call it the brain switch constantly. One moment you’re focused on, okay, getting someone’s contract done and processed and ready and the next thing you’re like, oh, okay, cool. I get to switch gears and write about an interview another designer. Have those like really awesome conversations about their process and how they thought of this concept or why did they choose this route.
Caitlin Crews: So yeah, it’s a multiple fold kind of job and it’s something that I think I like and I excel in, even with Adobe MAX getting prepared for that this year. There’s always something. It’s either you’re trying to find content to feature during MAX or this year the template scene, we don’t have too many features coming, but like a couple of years ago we announced Adobe Stock.
Caitlin Crews: So that was like really interesting. And I was there a couple of years ago working in the booth, meaning people. You get the craziest questions sometimes I don’t tell people I worked for Adobe because it’s like I was at a conference, I was actually at the Black is Tech Conference on a panel this was early spring and Adobe has their like booth up because it was also like a recruiting event for us. And I’m there and this kid comes up to me and call me kid, but he’s a grown man comes up to me and was like, can you help me with my Photoshop? And I was like, actually I can, so sure. But like every single time you mentioned you worked for Adobe, it’s like my account won’t think or like it’s just you get the craziest stuff and I’m just like, whoa, that’s so out of my lane. I don’t know, but let me try to find someone that can help you. That’s like the biggest thing is just like I may not be able to do it but like give me your information and I’ll try to help you out.
Maurice Cherry: You are like tech support basically.
Caitlin Crews: All of the time. All of the time. I was somewhere, someone was like, “Oh, where do you work?” And I go, “I work at Adobe.” And he was like immediately wait, let me open my laptop. Can I show you something? And I’m like, “Ah.”
Maurice Cherry: Oh boy.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah, it’s a lot. It’s a lot.
Maurice Cherry: So we met in a slack room. We met in the Black is design slack room. And I know that your job has to do with, of course finding designers. I would imagine diversity plays a big part in that. And when you booked, you said the first thing that you said was, I really would love to chat about where to find diverse black designers. You are in the perfect place to have the conversation, so let’s chop it up.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah.
Maurice Cherry: What questions do you have? I’m curious.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah. I think for me it was like I’ve spent my time in different fields, right? So getting kind of back into design was like a shift for me. And then realizing, I don’t know if you’ve felt this, but I’m sure you have. It’s like, okay, you’re the only one in the room. And for me it didn’t matter what industry is and if it was in the museums or art or if it was in fashion and photography. I was usually only the only one. So I was like, hold on, I’m in this position now to actually help and elevate designers at a company that is for designers.
Caitlin Crews: So my thing is just like, where do I find everybody? And then I found that Slack group and I was like, Oh, okay. I found it. This is great. It was just one of those things where it’s just like, well, where do I begin? And being in New York too, it’s I feel like things are so specialized and so niche sometimes where I’m just like, who am I to walk into this space? And the thing about also being in that Slack group, it’s like I didn’t come into that Slack group being like, hey guys, who wants to sign up to be an Adobe stock contributor? I haven’t done that at all. It’s more so I just want to get to know people where they’re…
Caitlin Crews: … to know people, where their struggles are in this space and what kind of person can I be in that moment as either an aid or someone who helps or mentors in this space. I think finding those pockets and those areas is super, super important. I also think that having those connections means a lot to a lot of people. Looking at the Slack groups and looking at different boards, I think there’s another group called African-American Graphic Designers and being in that space has been eye opening as well. I think I’ve found a few spaces since I put that question out there, but yeah, I’m always curious to be like, “Where is everybody?” All of the time. It’s interesting, like even my brother, he’s a sales dude in telecommunications, he’s a VP of sales for a company and we have this conversation all the time of like, “Where is everybody?”
Caitlin Crews: How is it this the age and this year and I’m still sometimes the only one in the room, it doesn’t make sense. So when you go to find that and you’re like, okay, and it has to be done in a meaningful way, where do you begin, where do you start? Actually finding that Slack group was, just for me, myself, my own personal career journey, a huge thank you. Because always and often in the world I can walk into art shows and be like, “Okay cool, how am I in New York and I’m the only black person in this room?” That’s insane to me. That’s the thing that I want to break down, but also preserve space, I think that’s super important as well.
Maurice Cherry: Okay. I’ve mostly just found people online. People always ask me like, “How are you able to find so many designers for Revision Path?” And I’m like, “On LinkedIn.” That’s usually how I do find people. I’ll search LinkedIn, I’ll go through their connections, I see who their connections know. Sometimes I’ll just pull up a company and just look through who their employees are and try to find the one or two black people that might be in there that might be in design. But then even just from people who I’ve had on the show, there’s been a lot of referrals.
Maurice Cherry: I’ll interview someone and I’ll say, “Oh well if you know some people who you think might be good to have on the show, let me know.” From there I’ve been able to build up not just the network for the show, but we’ve got a running list of about, I don’t know, maybe about 2,000 or so people that could be on the show. They’re not just in the US they’re worldwide. Which, even if you think about it is a small number just when you think about the size of the design industry, but they’re out there. It’s harder to find I think for one because of networking and two, because the overall design community has not placed any level of prioritization around spotlighting voices unless it happens to be that diverse voice’s affinity month. You’ll hear about us during February, that ain’t no problem. They’ll find black designers in February, they’ll find Hispanic designers between September and October for Hispanic Heritage Month. They’ll find Asian designers in, I think May is when Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month is.
Maurice Cherry: But it’s like you’ll find them during that time, but then other times of the year it’s non-existent because they haven’t made an attempt to really diversify really who they showcase. A lot of this is perpetuated unfortunately by design media, this is a big reason that I started Revision Path is that I didn’t see other designers I knew who were doing really great work ever being recognized or ever being showcased and I’m like, well, there needs to be a platform to showcase this work they’re doing, so I guess I have to be the one to make the platform.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah, I think it’s a great platform. I’ve listened to this podcast, so it’s exciting for me to actually be here, but also part of my other role at Adobe is I am one of the co-leads for the Black Employee Network in New York for Adobe. So that has been an awesome experience as well, is to be connected with other black employees in New York. And the gamut, right? You have people in marketing and people in sales, you have people in design and people who are engineers and getting together with people and being able to talk about what those struggles are in our day to day. Then also having connections with other black employee networks in other offices for Adobe has been this amazing place and being able to elevate certain voices. So my job, my day to day is finding these designers, but I have literally baked it into my KPIs with my manager to make sure that I am elevating certain voices.
Caitlin Crews: I also set personal goals for myself every year to sign… I was like, I definitely want to sign on at least three black designers by the end of the year. I also want to be able to make sure that I am working with a lot of women designers as well because I was like, okay, we have this platform, we have this space, let’s make sure we’re using it to the best of our ability for those people who usually are looked over or are not recognized. I mean that might not be everybody’s goal, but it’s definitely one of mine in my day to day.
Maurice Cherry: For designers that are listening, how can they become an Adobe Stock Contributor? Is there a process or a form they have to fill out or anything?
Caitlin Crews: There’s a process and a form. I’m trying to think of the best way to go about it. But usually if you navigate through the helpx section of Adobe, you will find the templates page there and there is a form that you can fill out and that will come to my team and we’ll review portfolios and contact you. Our bandwidth isn’t the biggest compared to think what people may think it may be, but it’s a very small, small team going through the process. But yeah, through the helpx page and you can look for templates, there’s a form there and you’ll be able to find us.
Maurice Cherry: And that’s just helpx.adobe.com?
Caitlin Crews: Yes.
Maurice Cherry: Gotcha. Okay. Yeah, I’ll try to find it and put a link to it in the show notes because I’m sure people that are listening will want to be able to get in contact with the team and submit their work so we can help you meet those KPIs, we’ve got to look out for you. I want to go more into your career, but let’s learn more about you. I started doing my research, I saw you’re from a small town called Uniontown, in Pennsylvania?
Caitlin Crews: Yes.
Maurice Cherry: Talk to me about growing up there.
Caitlin Crews: Oh wow. Okay. I just talked to my parents today, so I’m feeling very nostalgic and excited to actually go back for Thanksgiving. If you would have asked me that a couple of years ago, I’d be like, I’m never going back. But it’s a really small town, about an hour and 15 minutes south of Pittsburgh, basically on the West Virginia border. If you can take a sense of what that’s like, it’s exactly what you think it is. It’s a small town of like 14,000 people. I think when I was growing up, it was maybe 16,000 so the population has definitely dropped off. When I was younger I wanted to get out as quickly as possible, but it’s a beautiful place to grow up. You’re near the mountains and there’s lakes and it’s very beautiful for nature. But growing up there was a little rough.
Caitlin Crews: My parents worked extremely hard to get us through Catholic school, my brother and I both. My mom was this public school teacher, so she was like, “I will figure out how to pay for this, but you’re going to Catholic school,” and I kind of hated every moment of it. I was also raised Catholic, so I was in Catholic school from kindergarten all the way all the way through high school and graduated with 76 people in my high school class. I dealt with a lot of racism, that’s just how it is there and it’s interesting because it is a mixture of people in that town. It’s just, when you’re dealing with people who aren’t from your life, it can be a really difficult kind of place to be, but I don’t think I would be the person I am if I wasn’t from there.
Caitlin Crews: You had to fight a lot. Not physically, but just making sure that you’re always on point with whatever it is you’re doing because the goal was to leave. That was also my parents’ goal, was to get us out. “You have to go, you cannot go to school around here. You have to go.” So, I’ve got that push from them mostly to get out and don’t look back. I mean I joke around all the time because I’m like, “Wow, it’s really cheap to live there, maybe I should just move back.” And my mom was like, “Absolutely not. Heck no, you’re not doing it. You can come back and visit but you’re not staying.” So yeah, I enjoy going back now and of course to see my family and some of my friends who still live there, cousins, but it was an interesting place to grow up for sure.
Maurice Cherry: Wow. I really grew up in a small town. I grew up in Selma, Alabama. A little bit bigger than Uniontown, I think we maybe had about like 25,000 people, but everything that you’re saying about small high school class, growing up with racism, all of that, we are here. I understand that 100%. Were you exposed to any art and design or anything when you were growing up?
Caitlin Crews: Yeah. My mom grew up in the city of Pittsburgh and my dad is from Uniontown. They met in college and got married and my mom moved away from the big city to this small town and she made it a point, we were in Pittsburgh almost every weekend. We were either going to like Phipps Conservatory to see the flower show, I was encouraged to take photos at a young age, going to the Carnegie Museum, going to the Andy Warhol Museum, taking a trip to DC, going to the Sicilian there. I was always exposed to stuff like that, and even in art class, even though we were just probably with crayons on like Manila paper coloring, we still had art. Then in high school, that’s when I started taking photo classes, photography. Black and white photography in dark room, my little 35 millimeter Vivitar camera, I still have it.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah, I was always encouraged to do stuff, I was always painting at home or my mom always made sure that we were going to go see the symphony, we were going to the ballet at least once or twice a year. Those were things that my parents made sure that my brother and I both experienced. I think even for herself growing up in the city of Pittsburgh and a pretty large family, her mother made sure that she did that. It was just a natural thing, it wasn’t weird. Because then when I got to high school, I had friends that have never set foot in Pittsburgh before. It’s an hour drive. You have your license, what do you mean? “Oh no, I’ve never.” There are people who literally at 17, 18-years-old have never made the hour drive into Pittsburgh and that blew my mind. Yeah.
Maurice Cherry: I joined marching band when I was in high school and that was really my first foray out of Selma. Selma, I guess similar to Uniontown was like an hour away from the nearest big city. The nearest big city was Montgomery. Montgomery was to us, that was our New York City. They had a movie theater, they had a mall, they had a McDonald’s. All the things that I didn’t have growing up, I didn’t see any of that stuff until I was like 18 but anyway. I get that that sort of… it’s almost provincial in a way. I definitely grew with people who had never stepped foot outside of Selma or even never really stepped foot outside of the part of Selma they were in to another part of the city. Because Selma was very much a sundown town, there’s certain parts you just don’t do it.
Maurice Cherry: But yeah, I feel like if I wouldn’t have joined marching band and gotten to at least go to other cities in the state and I think eventually we ended up doing some out-of-state stuff, I don’t think I would’ve left until I left for college. I would’ve been one of those people that wouldn’t have left the city because it wasn’t even so much that I didn’t have the want to leave. I wanted to leave, I really wanted to leave, but I couldn’t see a vehicle and not like a physical vehicle, I couldn’t see a vehicle to get me out of it until I got to high school really until like junior, senior year. Once college and things came, I was like, “Oh I could do that.” I could go to college somewhere and my mom was like, “You are not going to college out of state. If you go somewhere, you’re going somewhere close.”
Maurice Cherry: If I told my mom I was moving back home right now, she would roll out the red carpet. She’s like, “Come back.” I don’t understand why, that’s a whole other podcast. There’s a, and you can probably attest to this, being in a small town like that, there’s this weirdly safe and insular feeling from the rest of the world and it’s like ignorance is bliss kind of thing. If you don’t know that it exists outside of the city limits, then it doesn’t matter to you.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah, it’s been interesting going back now, when I go back for the holidays or something like that. The town itself is changing again and it’s really interesting. There’s yoga studios popping up, there’s art galleries popping up and I’m like, “Okay, this is really cool.” So people are either coming from other places or people are leaving, seeing something and coming back. So that’s been really interesting to see. I played sports a lot growing up and so in high school when I got into this photo thing, we took a trip to New York and I came back home and I told my parents that I’m moving to New York when I’m done with college. My mom was like, “Okay.” I was a very shy kid, like you wouldn’t know I was in the house. I am the person who was somewhere in a corner reading.
Caitlin Crews: I was very, very, very shy until about high school. Then making this declarative statement that I am moving to New York and then I did, but it was like this, even when I come home now and I seem them they’re like, “Oh, are you back now or are you moving back?” I go, “No, I’m literally here for the week.” It’s an interesting time and place, but it’s also really cool to see cities change, that urban sprawl almost again happening where people are finding these smaller towns to raise families in and to live in and to grow a business, I think it’s really interesting.
Maurice Cherry: That’s true because now, I mean at least you know for us in the tech and design industry, a lot of the work we do can be done remotely. I’m very fortunate that the company that I work for, they’re based in New York, but I live here in Atlanta and I can still do my job and excel in my job, not being at a physical location, which is great, which is probably a big reason why my mom wants me to move home because she’s like, “You don’t have to live in Atlanta to do this job.” And I’m like, “I know, I know that.”
Caitlin Crews: “But I want to.”
Maurice Cherry: Right. I totally understand that. Yeah. Before you moved to New York though, you went to Kent State and you studied photography. What was your time like there?
Caitlin Crews: It was a weird time, again from a really small town and then I go to Kent State, which is probably triple the size of the town that I grew up in. It was a culture shock for me to be around so many diverse people and to be on my own. It’s about three hours from Uniontown and it was out of state. It was almost a safe distance from my parents. There were times where they would come hang out and come visit for the day or a couple of days and so I did have a connection. One of my roommates actually in my freshman year, we went to high school together. It was a really close comfort in a way, but also this time to just explore everything. It’s a big school, people don’t realize it’s like the second largest school in the state of Ohio.
Maurice Cherry: Oh, wow.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah. A lot of people don’t know that. The reasoning for going there was, I actually started out as a pre law major. I was going to be a lawyer. That’s what someone said I should do and I was like, “Sure, great, let’s do this.” I got into some of the coursework, especially around criminal justice and realized that I can’t do this. Actually, we were sitting in the Rodney King case, in that frame by frame and I went to Kent in 2003? Studying the Rodney King case frame by frame and then getting to the point that like you would have to maybe defend someone that you don’t believe is guilty or innocent and I just was like, I can’t do this. I couldn’t sleep. I was having trouble sleeping after reading case law and diving even more into politics.
Caitlin Crews: I was like, this is too crazy for me. I don’t know how I can do this for the rest of my life. In a split decision moment in a call home, my parents were like both of them on the phone with me in probably two separate rooms in the house telling me that I need to do what I want to do and that you’re good at photography, why don’t you do it? You love art, you love history. I was like, “Oh yeah, art history is a thing too.” That’s what I did. That moment walked over to, I think I was housed actually in the journalism school and walked over and changed my major that day.
Maurice Cherry: Wow.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah.
Maurice Cherry: How did that help prepare you for your early career? You mentioned moving to NYC, that was after college? How did it help prep you?
Caitlin Crews: Yeah. I took an internship with a celebrity portrait photographer. His name is Chris Buck. I actually saw his work in GQ because I was a big magazine… like I love layout, I loved the way things looked on paper. I love physically holding magazines and I knew that I wanted to be a photo editor, but I took this internship with Chris Buck and my first week was like four shoots. The first one was the New York Times. The next one was like Business Insider Magazine. Spin and I think Psychology Today. It was all within the first week of me starting in New York and just being like, “Wow, this is nuts.” It’s another level.
Caitlin Crews: I don’t think I would have had that experience anywhere else to work, to meet that photo editor of GQ or to walk into W Magazine or whatever, and just be like, “Oh, hey I’m here to drop off some proofs.” It was this really interesting couple of months for me. I was thrown in the deep end in New York in the middle of the summer. So yeah, kind of how I got here. Then from there, the economy took a nice dive in 2007-2008, so the recession hit and it was really hard to find a job. And when the recession hit-
Caitlin Crews: And so the recession hit and it was really hard to find a job. When the recession hit for sure you remember all those magazines were closing left and right and a lot of people got a job. So it was very hard to find a job. Actually didn’t move back home for 4 months. Then my parents came home one day from work and they’re like, you got to get out of here. Here’s pack your bag here’s a plane ticket go find a job in New York you’re depressing.
Maurice Cherry: Wow.
Caitlin Crews: And so I did and that’s kind of how I ended up at trunk archive actually. There was a few other jobs before that within retouching and color correction and production and printing. Then I landed at trunk archive.
Maurice Cherry: The work you’re doing at trunk archive was retouching like you were mentioning.
Caitlin Crews: It was more so like image research and keywording. It was more like, cause you’re getting images in and you’d have to keyword them and by site and then also researching like is this person the famous artist you know this is all before like AI being able to tech faces and you had to know like okay I think this is a model. Okay let me search through all the model agency websites and let me find this person so you could properly tag everything so everything could be searchable. Which is interesting cause it now comes into my job now like keywording and having metadata and all of that is so important. It’s just interesting that that now has kind of come part of my job as well. I kind of like was in this very fancy office in Soho at like 21,22 years old and kind of like just kind of thrown in it like you’re in the office with like famous photographers and you’re in the office with like models walking through.
Caitlin Crews: So it just was like this really interesting like those early, like early mid 2000 like years of just exposure to every creative field possible. So it was really cool.
Maurice Cherry: It sounds really glamorous.
Caitlin Crews: It was and I’m not a glamorous person so it kind of felt like a fish out of water. Like I’m the girl with jeans and like glasses and the flannel shirt on. You know what I mean? And so it has been like, it was really interesting to like kind of be in that world and have it not really affect what you’re doing. Cause I was like I’m just done I’m making enough money so let’s figure this out.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah. And now after that you held down positions at Lord and Taylor. You were at VF corporation for a while. We were doing the same kind of work there too.
Caitlin Crews: Yeah it was doing a lot of like at Lord and Taylor I was doing a lot of like image coordinating and like pre production work. It was like retouching working with retouchers also that’s kind of where I started getting more into like design work. I was basically like QC the quality control person for a lot of stuff went to print. So like looking to make sure that files were in black and not registration in Design. Making sure that like what I’m looking at as a final proof is what I’m seeing on screen. So when all those I was responsible for packaging up all of those materials and sending them off to a printer that’s kind of cut little bit into like design work and production work there. Then after that I went to VF Corp and worked mostly on Nautica and Kipling and that’s where I was like a full on retoucher.
Maurice Cherry: Okay.
Caitlin Crews: So I’ve like jumped a lot. But yeah, retouching in E-Commerce in the photo studio. So again, surrounded with like hair and makeup people who are still to this day friends with some of them. Some of the models are also really lovely too and just having like a really small young all female staff in the photo studio was also super exciting for me.
Maurice Cherry: What made you decide to go to grad school?
Caitlin Crews: Oh boy. I didn’t really see a future in what I was doing. I thought my choices were to somehow creep into creative direction but I didn’t see a movement there at all. I didn’t see an opening our clearing for me to move that way or it was to leave Nautica and go to another company just like it and do retouching there and do the same thing.
Caitlin Crews: And I was like i don’t get to be part of the decision making or the thought process behind a lot of things in that role. I was like okay, I’ve always wanted to work with nonprofits. I have always wanted to work a little bit more closely with artists. I decided to go to Pratt and get my master’s in arts and cultural management and with that thought process it was more so along the lines of i want to run or become like an assistant director or director of a nonprofit. That’s where my head was at the moment but the great thing about the program i will say it was really diverse in terms of curriculum. It’s like you’re learning how to budget, you’re learning IP law, you’re learning just how to communicate with different people in terms of leadership.
Caitlin Crews: It was at this really interesting kind of combination of things that really had me kind of entranced then completely into this idea of working for a nonprofit.
Maurice Cherry: Well you ended up in Adobe right after that. You worked for a museum actually for a while.
Caitlin Crews: I worked in the museum for a year. In the future a [inaudible 00:05:05] , okay, let me see if this kind of structure of nonprofits and kind of like an academic art world situation would be right for me and quickly decided that it wasn’t. I knew that I always wanted to be in touch with the artist community and just community building in general so in between all those jobs I also was always like working with friends and we started a collective. Where we were doing kind of like nonprofit artwork meaning we were throwing parties in Brooklyn art shows so I would find artists all over Brooklyn or friends of friends and kind of we would curate these shows and have bands play and all the money that we would collect would go to a local nonprofit in the neighborhood we were having a show.
Caitlin Crews: So that’s kind of what set me on the path of being really excited about art and how art in the community works because at the time it’s like bushwick was new in a thing and starting and you had these local nonprofits who had no connection with the community or you had community and artists who were living there but didn’t know anything about the neighborhood. So it was kind of like our duty almost to kind of go in and make those connections. Yeah so I was always doing that in between different jobs and different roles and then just found that kind of all come together within my master’s program.
Maurice Cherry: So with a lot of the work that you’re doing, I mean design and is clearly part of the conversation. I mean it’s interesting cause you’re working for essentially a software company that also sort of intersects a lot with the creative world and it feels like especially when we’re talking about tech that design tends to be really designed and art in general tend to be left out of the conversation. There’s been places where I’ve worked that it’s been like pulling teeth to try to get a design hire or something because they figured out what we can and demonetize it so they figured out we can just get a freelancer and doing it and it’s not super important to our brands as long as we just get like the thing that we need done. What do you think art and design tends to be left out of the conversation when it comes to tech?
Caitlin Crews: I think a lot of people will put this very high mark on like engineering and the skill set that’s needed for that and yes I understand computer science is not maybe the easiest thing in the world to study. If it was I think everyone would be a computer scientist and I know some people who have left the creative world to do that. I think that the thing that kind of needs to shift in thinking is the creative people that have to also implement their part of the deal. Like I don’t know a lot of designers that are paid like engineers and I’m really kind of curious to kind of explore a little bit further like to why that is. Why is a creative person almost less valuable than someone who knows code? And I think that also I work a lot with some students that are in high school at the high school level and every time you talk to a new group of students like I’m going to be an engineer, I want to be computer scientist, I want to do this.
Caitlin Crews: Like that’s cool but I think there are other things that you can do and learn and just as and be just as happy. Like if you are a creative person and you are an artist at heart, why do we have to make such a delineation? And a mark between the two. So I think that the conversation you were trying to push, especially young black kids into STEM and we’re completely leaving out. I think that for some people, and I definitely was one of those kids that I needed that creative outlet throughout my life and still do to be able to like I have a place somewhere. I think it’s something that people have left out because it’s easy to put I think like you said, a price tag on this certain skill. It’s still very hard to measure someone’s creativity and if they’re good or bad at it. You totally measure someone that if they’re not hitting something exactly it’s just I think that mindset completely has to change what is important in work.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah cause I mean the thing is that creativity is not an untapped resource like that. Like say for example, if you’re hiring someone to do like a custom image for you or do branding or something like that and instead of you coming to them with a discreet concept that you’re kind of coming with just the general thoughts. They have to do the research to try to find what you’re looking for. They have to do sketches there’s a lot of back and forth to kind of determine whether or not this is the right thing and it’s oftentimes when I’ve worked with big companies they always will just try to boil it down to a number of hours like Oh well how many hours will that take as if you can just click the stopwatch and then just automatically get to it. You know it’s not that simple of a process.
Maurice Cherry: I wonder if the commodification of it comes from the fact that it’s maybe just not seen as valuable especially in the tech industry. I mean I’ve had several designers here on the show and several developers also and it just seems to be this running thing of design not getting a seat at the table. It’s not I guess understood in a way that people realize that design influences people. Design is something that we’ve all had interactions with since birth.
Maurice Cherry: We all come into the world especially now as adults with a very rich design language. We may not be able to tap into it as readily as a designer could but that’s why they’re designers. They’re specialists in that way. Like we all know if something like if we get a shirt and it doesn’t like fit right or if we sit in a chair and it’s not comfortable or we use a pen and like the ink is leaking out over here, I’m like, those are poorly designed experiences and we all have these touch points or I’ve had these touch points throughout our lives with design so we know what we like and what we don’t like.
Maurice Cherry: I think designers have the keen sense to be able to tap into that more easily and then turn that into something that can serve a business’s goals and that’s a skill that translation, transmutation if you want to really get fancy with it. That’s a skill that a lot of people do not have to be able to make something out of nothing and I think with tech, what happens is like a lot of the executives that you see sort of propped up they’re not as funny. Not only are they engineers but they also didn’t go to college or they dropped out of college or something like that. So it’s not even so much the whole I want to be an engineer but also like not to say that college is the way because you certainly don’t have to go to college to be a designer but there’s a lot of interesting overlapping narratives that go into it and you know, of course capitalism is a big part of it because you hear about starving artists you don’t hear about a starving engineer.
Caitlin Crews: Exactly and I that’s kind of like my whole, like when I speak about designer and my path into it. It has to be I want people to know that It’s not like you said the starving artist. I know starving artists I know well but a lot of them have taken on other skills and I think that’s another thing too. I talk to a really good friend of mine recently about this idea of like do you specialize in something or do you become a generalist? And I feel like I’m a generalist I think I have like there’s something that has to be said for people who can pick up things learn them and execute them well and then also you mentioned something about like being able to design and that’s the one thing like with my current role is like looking at designers.
Caitlin Crews: You can design whatever but when you design a template you have the thing about your end user. How many people are thinking about that process like from conception to the end and it sometimes that design and that art doesn’t end with you. It’s picked up by someone who’s purchasing it or enjoying it so I think sometimes in the realm of like understanding I think all of them just don’t even understand what designers do. I’ve come across that a lot they’re being very specific words for what people are doing and what people are doing on their daily life of the job. I don’t think a lot of people deep down I don’t think completely understand what a designer’s role is and what the expansiveness of it can be.
Maurice Cherry: Yeah and to that end I have a question and this is sort of a thing that I’m trying to run with this throughout the year. Which is how are you using your skills as a designer or as someone who works with designers and creativity?. How are you using your skills to help create a more equitable future?
Caitlin Crews: Yeah, I mean I think for myself I am lucky enough to work for a company that is allowing for that space to happen within the walls of Adobe and being able to just connect with people in general and being almost like an ear or a support to them I think is has been not only great for me as someone who’s always looking to connect with people but also just for anyone else involved. Like I have younger coworkers that are like “I’m going through this” or “I don’t know what to do” and I’m like “Well I’m glad that you came to me to talk about it, let’s talk about it”. I think that being really open to the idea of helping other people and being maybe a little bit of a support system or building a support system I think is super important in your space.
Caitlin Crews: Either if you’re a lot of people work remote and I think that sounds has to be I think semi hard for people too is like where do you find people to connect with? I always tell people like extra time like for networking and networking doesn’t have to be like okay, I’m dropping you my business card and networking can be like, Hey I have this question or I’m going through this experience. What has your life been like during this? And if I can tell anyone listen I’ve been in some situations and jobs with people that as being a woman of color and as being a black woman has not been favorable. It has not been an easy road by any means but I’ve always been able to ask questions and kind of seek out that you know information that I’m needing and for me it’s like if I can reduce the worry and the pain and the tears that I have had in my life.
Caitlin Crews: Being a black woman in art, design, creativity or tech it’s also something that I have to put on myself is to make sure that other people aren’t going through the same thing.
Maurice Cherry: Now it’s the year 2025 where do you see yourself? Like what kind of work do you see yourself doing in the future?
Caitlin Crews: It’s so interesting. I never as you can see, I jump a lot. In the future I kind of want to have my own thing going. I don’t know exactly what it looks like. I feel like every year I’m building on this idea of like what kind of creative agency I can have or what creative output I can have in the world. I’ve always kind of worked in bigger corporations. I would like to kind of see what it’s like to work for something smaller or to work for myself. I don’t know what capacity that would be yet but I still hope to be in New York or if I win the lottery have an Island somewhere who knows?. I always see myself, I feel like this in the past year I’ve kind of come into my own a little bit in terms of my career and what I excel at and what I don’t excel at.
Caitlin Crews: Like I know what I don’t want to do. I can see that but when it comes to wanting knowing exactly what I want to do I can’t pinpoint that. I’m always an open book to like it’s just like Oh that looks cool. How does that person do that? How do I incorporate that into my world?. I just think it’s like, I want to say open to the idea and the prospect but 2025 I would like to be working for myself only cause I want to have my own hours and do my own thing but I also love being connected to other people. I like coming into the office working with my team which is also a very diverse team as well so I kind of battle like I can do anything. That’s what I have to say.
Maurice Cherry: Okay, well just to kind of wrap things up here where can our audience find out more about you or your work or even the work you’re doing with Adobe where can they find that online?
Caitlin Crews: Sure. You can first start off by going to the Adobe stock website and checking out all our templates online. I’m also on LinkedIn. Find me on LinkedIn, it’s Caitlin Cruz and I will definitely connect with you and I love chatting. I’m kind of off social media. I don’t really do Twitter and I don’t have a Facebook anymore. I’m on Instagram It’s just Caitlin Cruz first and last name you can find me there.
Maurice Cherry: All right, sounds good. Well, Caitlin Cruz I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I think first I want to thank you for really just giving us a little peek behind the curtain of Adobe. I mean just for someone who has used Adobe products for so long and it’s been such, I think an integral part of my development, early development really as a designer. It’s interesting to see how things work there and I think it’s really dope that the work that you’re doing really helps to showcase others. Like you were mentioning at some point when we were talking about how to use your skills for more equitable future and you’re saying that you kind of want to make those opportunities for other people and I feel like this work that you’re doing is that’s a prime example of making that happen. You’re giving people not just a space to be celebrated but also an opportunity to advance themselves through this and it’s really just as simple as a connection to make that happen. So thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.
Caitlin Crews: Thank you for having this. Awesome to speak with you.
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