Adobe today launches a major initiative to democratize access to visual design across the enterprise with a big update to Adobe Express, its two-year-old general-purpose content creation tool, coupled with the launch of an enterprise edition of Firefly, its new tool for creating content using generative AI. Other announcements at today's Adobe Summit EMEA conference in London bring further updates to Adobe Experience Cloud and the Content Supply Chain offering.
With the integration of Firefly directly into Express workflows, along with closer connections to Creative Cloud products and a new all-in-one editor in Express that can also now import and edit PDF documents, Adobe aims to support closer collaboration between design professionals and other users across an organization, speeding the creation and delivery of content. Ian Wang, Head of Product for Adobe Express, says that design professionals will find Express a useful addition to their toolset:
For Creative Cloud core users, particularly those that are really living and breathing Creative Cloud, they have a gap in their workflow that Express really solves. First of all, a lot of use cases that are more high velocity, high content, we really need to spin things out very quickly, whether it's a social poster that needs to go to five different channels — those are the workflows Express is really good for ...
What they're asking for is complete connectivity to Express to their workflows. Interop with Photoshop, interop with Illustrator, interop with Creative Cloud libraries and all the asset management tools that they have. For the pros it's absolutely a way to really help them do things faster, and augment their workflows.
At the same time, the combination of Express and Firefly unlocks design for the many users across an organization that don't have specialist design skills but still need to be able to create and edit content without having to wait for a design professional to do it for them. He explains:
Photoshop is not for everybody. Express is a tool that is there to empower everyone. We're talking about hundreds of millions and billions of users that really can benefit ...
We believe everyone is creative. Express is really that tool for everybody. And for some, it is all they need and all they want to use, whether it's on their phone or on their desktop. For others, it is really an augmentation to the Creative Cloud and other tools that they use.
Removing design bottlenecks
Rolling out Express to those users across an organization will remove the bottlenecks that exist because content design has previously been something that only those expert users were able to perform. Wang goes on:
Collaboration is critical to Creative Cloud users. You might be creating a template and you want somebody to go edit it. How many times have you heard someone say, 'I just wish my creative team edit this one text, can you go in and go edit it?' For the creative team, that's too much to do, they're like, 'Do it yourself.' This is an opportunity to connect the dots and it's really solving the needs of many users.
Using the new enterprise edition of Firefly in tandem with Express, which includes the ability to set brand controls so that designs remain consistent with brand guidelines, allows the wider population of non-specialist users to take more ownership of content creation. Claude Alexandre Vice President of Digital Media, elaborates:
We really believe that, whilst Gen AI will accelerate radically the creation and the productivity of creatives, Express plus Gen AI is the way to get the rest of the organization to be way more productive and to contribute to that effort, but in a way that stays connected to the desires and the direction of the creative team and the CMO.
The connection was for creatives to make sure that the templates, the content, that is used in Express at scale with the entire organization is actually directed by the studio. There are mechanisms we're working on to make sure that people don't just create whatever content, but they have guardrails to stay on brand. And also the connectivity with [Adobe Experience Manager] makes sure that everyone in the organization has access to the repository of sanctioned company assets at the same time. It's really that notion of a platform where you have the creatives, plus the rest of the organization, enabled with tools that work together, and are all supported with AI.
Enterprises will have to find the best balance between controls and creativity in how they set up the templates for the wider population of users to work with. But the contribution of generative AI is that it makes it much easier for non-specialist users to create powerful designs because of its ability to perform many of the operations that previously required a skilled designer. He adds:
The problem is, exactly what is the granularity of the controls in the templating? And for each use case, what level of freedom to give users? There's an element of letting go a little bit, when you're giving more control to end users at scale in a large organization. How does that play out exactly in the balance of risk versus speed? Gen AI is going to be part of this.
Further integration of other Adobe products into Express are in the roadmap, bringing the tool further into the broader content supply chain across the organization. For example, Workfront is not yet integrated into Express in the same way that Creative Content products are now connected. Wang comments:
We're already having roadmap planning conversations with Workfront, also with AJO and many of the other downstream systems,, because there's a lot of opportunity there. If you think about email, the value of actually starting with an email template within Express and then enabling that downstream. There's a ton of opportunity across the board.
Indemnification for enterprise use of Gen AI content
As part of the enterprise edition of Firefly, Adobe is making a commitment that enterprises can rely on the integrity of the images created by generative AI. When it first launched the product, the company emphasized the accountability built into Firefly, which uses the Adobe Stock content library along with other openly licensed and public domain content as its source material. It also adds content credential tags to images, showing that they have been AI-generated and providing a degree of transparency over their origins. To encourage confidence in the product, Adobe says it will indemnify enterprises against any legal actions based on their use of content created in Firefly. Alexandre comments:
We stand behind the images that we provide. In the case of [Adobe] Stock, they've all been reviewed one by one with human eyes, and we know that they're safe and fully compliant.
In the case that there's a lawsuit or anything that happens to you, we will indemnify you of those damages, or whatever you might be liable to ...
We've trained the tech with pristine, clean content, and we know for sure that it's safe to use. And so we feel confident that we can provide the same level of indemnification to our customers.
Adobe is also committed to compensating creators for the use of their content as part of the Firefly training set, although the details of how that will work will not be announced until the product completes its beta testing. Alexandre says:
We do care about the creatives, on whichever part of the fence they are, as suppliers, as creators as customers. This is important to us as much as it is to the artists that are supplying the content. As much as we want the content to be safe for enterprises and customers, we want it to be ethical and responsible in terms of how we're treating the creators on the other side.
Other announcements at the conference build on those from Adobe Summit in the US in March, including a new ability to query using natural language within customer journey analytics and the ability to ask natural language questions the Adobe Experience platform to help marketers get answers quickly about any of the applications.
This is a bold move by Adobe, which might have been expected to aim to protect its existing Creative Cloud products by resisting the urge to make content creation more universally accessible. But it's betting that this move will expand the market and cement its position among creative professionals. Nevertheless, the disruption to the profession is going to be significant as creatives adjust to this new landscape over the next few years. I believe this Gen AI fueled accessibility to design is similar to the move towards no-code and low-code toolkits we've seen in the IT space. The difference here is that it's happening a lot faster and enterprises need to move quickly to figure out how this will change work patterns and stay ahead of the proliferation of 'shadow design'.