Founder's note: Below is a lightly edited version of a post I sent our team and investors, outlining (to the best of my abilities) where the creative tools space is going, and how Facet fits in to that new ecosystem.
2021 easily takes the prize for the strangest year we’ve made it through: an amorphous, rapidly mutating, all-consuming global pandemic, the resulting economic and social disruption, hand-in-hand with incredible new advances in AI and a vibrant renaissance in digital art.
Amidst all of this, our users not only kept afloat, but thrived, expanding their creative practices and branching out into vivid new mediums. Digital art is suddenly everywhere at once: from oceanfront, back-projected polychrome at Art Basel and Sotheby’s (record-breaking) first ever purely digital auctions, to content creators telling stories on TikTok, to discords and google colabs in your parent’s basement.
2021 is the first time I personally felt that everyone has become a creator and storyteller in their own right. With NFTs, TikTok, and AI driving creative commodification and the attention economy reaching full saturation, there has never been a greater need for artists and designers to stand out on merit and skill in order to break through.
We’re also witnessing an accelerating shift towards inhabiting rich online spaces. Not a solipsistic retreat from the “real world”, but rather an embellishment, an enriching layer of art and media that we can move in and out of at will.
Facet is positioned at an increasingly critical juncture: artist-centric tools for mixing and remixing the real with the virtual, pushing the frontiers of visual storytelling. Analog-inspired ‘photo editing’ is quickly becoming a thing of the past and we are breaking down the barriers between different media to facilitate new creative directions - whether that’s photorealism in new contexts, surrealism in AI-powered art, or something we can’t even imagine yet…
With our Series A in place and 2022 right around the corner, Matt and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on Facet’s growth and development and map out some waypoints for the future.
2021 was a huge year for us -
We launched publicly—and made it to #1 on product hunt! Anyone can now sign up for a free trial, with 1000s of new users joining every month. Moreover, over 40% of our trials convert to professional-tier plans - up by 50% since our Series A announcement.
We raised a Series A—we’re incredibly excited to be working with Dan Abelon and the team at Two Sigma. The seed-stage to series-A transition is a critical inflection point for us. We are investing in hiring to build out our incredible team of product thinkers, refining our brand image, and knitting our community more closely together.
And it was a big year for the digital creative space -
Adobe entered the ring in a big way—Photoshop launching onto the web was inevitable given the dual trends of browser performance improvement and rise of multiplayer collaboration. And we’ve known it was coming since day one.
We’ve also believed that the notion of pure “photo editing” is quickly becoming an anachronism. The core metaphors and tools for high-end video, audio, games, and vfx production have all changed substantially over the last 20 years, while photo editing is stuck in the 90s. A new photorealistic medium is taking shape even as we speak and the current toolset is becoming increasingly provincial and irrelevant.
The NFT-aissance—The rise of NFTs has easily been the single biggest seismic shift in our market. Very new, very hype-forward, and blooming in a dark forest, NFTs nevertheless highlight a real desire in creative communities: a desire for a future that is antithetical to our Instagram-mediated present where value goes solely to the algorithm. A future where artists can support their work independently and are fed more than table scraps.
Facet is well positioned to provide tools for verification, publication and monetization and to be a critical component of this new platform independence. There is a better, more open future here and we’re excited to explore it with y’all.
AI-art is accelerating—Colab notebooks for mining “visual poetry” using OpenAI CLIP and diffusion models have escaped the ivory tower and have attracted a vibrant developer community. We’re seeing a new generation of digital artists flock to the medium in search of a “more intuitive paintbrush”. I’m confident we’ll see fully immersive, fully inhabitable AI-generated dreamscapes in the next 24 months.
A shift in design towards raster aesthetics. We’re moving away from the long tyranny of muted minimalism towards the organic and delightful. Duotone & halftone cutouts - Blocks - Outlines - Grainy gradients - Throwback console fonts - These aesthetics are on the upswing and are difficult (if not impossible) to do in traditional vector editors, but are dead simple to create and animate with Facet plugins.
When you're no longer shackled by the tools of the past, you can create not just a single work, but the new aesthetics of the future.
So, what does the future hold?
It’s incredibly clear from 2021 that this is the right place at the right time. Something huge is happening and we’re a small part of it.
Current tools and disciplines operate at the scale of the pixel. And they are siloed - photography and videography, photo and video editing, vfx, 3d rendering, and AI-powered image generation each require different skill sets and software.
But these mediums are on a course to coalesce. Execution is becoming easier, raising the bar for quality and inventiveness. Video, photography, and illustration are omnipresent, making it no longer enough to be fluent in just one medium.
We are starting to see the shape of these new tools today, catching glimmers from the avant-garde of AI artists, the next generation of photographers, and the genre-defying works that blend the real and the surreal. Facet will be a portal to these new worlds. The future of visual storytelling is digitization.
We know the terrain:
It’s AI—GANs, deepfakes, CLIP, semantic segmentation, relighting, infill, color match, intrinsic image decomposition, alpha matting.
It’s webdev—webgpu, p3, video codecs, wasm, simd—how can we make Facet usable and so fast that you forget it’s even on the web at all.
It’s real-time multiplayer—finally making dead/static tools feel alive and inhabited, like a vibrant town.
It’s rendering—for video! Scrub in real time!
It's the backend! Entire startups exist just for image storage and serving and we’ve got the GPU / AI load to boot.
It’s DX and the build system—multiplicatively make everyone at Facet’s life better.
We know that Facet will do for creative work what programming languages did for software:
- You use Facet to integrate and design your creative process;
- You use Facet to share your process with others;
- You use Facet to repeat and scale your process.
And we know the mission:
Our mission is to make the world smaller through visual storytelling. We enable anyone to create at scale, lifted up and supported by our global community of developers and artists.
And where is this all going? To make a tool that propels the future of storytelling, over the next 5 years we will:
- Build an open product surface that connects visual creatives and developers working across new mediums.
- Layer an extension marketplace on top.
- Be the on-demand infrastructure powering “no-code for creatives”.
But Facet is an entirely new genre of creative tool, and the exact instantiation of that tool is still to be discovered. Being able to sit comfortably with ambiguity—being still so we can intuit subtle changes in where this is all going—is going to be critical for fostering the creativity necessary to move us forward over the next months and years.
We’ve got our work cut out for us, but speaking personally I wouldn’t want to be working on anything else in 2022.
Matt+Joe+The Facet Team