Adobe and Cynthia Erivo's vibrant creations celebrate Black skate culture

The actress collaborated on 3D skate designs honoring the legacy of Black roller skaters

Published On
Aug 11, 2021

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As many searched for time-passing hobbies and simple workouts during quarantine, the popularity of roller skating surged. Aided by social media influencers on TikTok and Instagram, the boom led to a skate shortage a la toilet paper and the PlayStation 5. 

A new campaign from Adobe and Hollywood talent Cynthia Erivo, however, aims to highlight how in the Black community, skating isn't just a trend. It's a storied culture.

Adobe's “Stories on Skates” push, designed to promote the brand's Substance 3D texturing tools, highlights various aspects of Black skate culture with unique 3D animations created in collaboration with Erivo, the Emmy, Grammy and Tony-winning actor and singer who also earned Oscar nominations for her role and music in "Harriet."

Erivo "wearing" the digital skate designs

“I was so excited to work with Adobe on Stories on Skates to showcase Black skating culture, especially as an expression of Black joy and creativity,” says Erivo in a blog post from Adobe. “This project brings to life stories from the rink that are inspiring, important, and deserve to be remembered. My hope is that 'Stories on Skates' is a fitting tribute to skating and Black culture while celebrating its rich history in music, movement, style, empowerment, community, and legacy.”

The push continues a string of advertising and marketing that centers the influence of Black creatives in mainstream culture, such as Sephora's recent celebration of Black beauty pioneers, and Beats by Dre's unapologetic "You Love Me" ad

An Adobe representative tells Ad Age that Erivo was highly involved in each design, contributing on everything from each skate’s story to the use of textures, color and motion.

The “Skate with Soul” animation is decked out with cassette tape laces, sound system dials and wood paneling. Stickers on the side of the shoe read “funky beats,” “all the classics,” and “bump and soul,” paying homage to funk, soul, rap and hip-hop. The back wheel spins a vinyl record. When Black artists were pushed out of mainstream channels like MTV, their music found a stage at roller rinks.

"Skate with Soul" animation

And what would music be without the moves to match it? The “Rattle and Roll” skate features Barbie-pink and silky blue quilting. Graphic lines emulating the motion of skate choreography trail behind the shoes.  

"Rattle and Roll" design

A skater’s signature is more than just their boogie; it’s in the shoe itself. The “Self-Expression" skate expresses the passion and boldness of the community and pays tribute to the custom skate trend that began in the ‘80s. The design sports loud patterns, sequins, disco ball glass and a tuft of fur. The laces are stylishly tied and stream like banners behind the shoe.

"Self-Expression" design

The “Power" skate showcases Substance 3D’s textile capabilities. Coarse denim and textured leather, frayed at the ends, swirl behind the skate. A patch of bandana fabric adds pop. On the shoe, the same fabrics are puffed with filling. Patches, one reading “don’t hate, let’s skate,” decorate the skate, and a headphone cord snakes through the eyelets. The image challenges historic discrimination in roller rinks, whose signs in the past displayed messages including “no saggy pants,” “no fiberglass wheels'' and “no headphones.” According to Adobe’s blog post, it “embraces the nuances that society tried to prohibit and empowers skaters to express themselves.”

"Power" design

The “Fam Jam" skate is a nod to how the rink itself brought the Black community together. The design’s use of neon lights, wood-paneled flooring, carpet design and locker metal brim with nostalgia of that physical space. There, the community expressed their creativity freely on the wood floor and found friendships at the skate counter


"Fam Jam" design

The “Rink Rat" skate is named after those who grew up circling the rink with generations of family and friends. It honors the legacy of the Black skate community with time-worn polaroids on the shoe juxtaposed against modern social posts of Black skaters.

"Rink Rat" design


“It’s been a joy to work with Cynthia on Stories on Skates and bring her bold, bright energy to this campaign,” Sebastien Deguy, VP 3D & immersive at Adobe said in a statement. “This project illuminates how Adobe’s 3D vision goes beyond just a set of tools and brings creative visions and culture to life in new, immersive mediums. With Cynthia’s help, we hope 'Stories on Skates' shines a light on the joy and impact of skating culture for the Black community.”

The “Stories on Skates” campaign also features a toolkit that Adobe users can download to customize their own skates in the suite’s programs. Adobe will share designs posted on Instagram and Twitter tagging @Substance3DDesign and using hashtag “#StoriesOnSkates.”