Cameron Parkins, July 8th, 2008
Behance is many things – a creative network, an online magazine, a producer of creative tools, an index of creative professionals, and a purveyor of methodology for getting creative projects done. Perhaps it is better to think of Behance then as an organization that, in their own words, “designs products and services that empower the creative world to make ideas happen.”
The Behance Network is particularly compelling, acting as a means for creative professionals to meet and collaborate successfully in an online space. To better understand what Behance does we recently caught up with founder/CEO Scott Belsky and asked him some questions, in turn illuminating Behance’s overall philosophy, why they chose to include CC-licensing in their creative network, and what Behance can provide for those in the CC-community.
Firstly, can you give our readers some insight into your personal background? You graduated from Harvard Business School, spent some time working on Wall Street, and then made a jump into the creative world. What inspired this move?
I have always been fascinated by how people, teams, and networks are organized. I think that the importance of “organization” and productivity are underrated – especially in the creative community. There is so much emphasis on idea generation and innovation, and so little energy focused on how people get organized to actually make ideas happen.
Back in college, I did an independent study on “redesigning the resume” for creative professionals. During this experience, I realized that most creative potential is never recognized in the corporate world. And in artistic pursuits, creative people often fail to adequately represent their ideas and push them to fruition. After college, I spent about five years on Wall Street but in a rather untraditional job focusing on “leadership development and organizational improvement.” Eventually I left my job and starting searching for a way to apply my love for organization and productivity in the creative community.
In September 2006 I started to assemble a team – around the same time as I started business school. I am truly honored to work with such a talented and committed team – we design and develop all of our work ourselves. The first thing we did was interview hundreds of “uber productive” creative people and teams across industries (many of these interviews can be found at BehanceMag.com). From all the research, we identified some of the MAJOR OBSTACLES to making ideas happen. We recognized a major need for a robust online platform for the creative community to organize itself. We also recognized the need for more productivity on an individual and team level.
For the past few years, our team has been developing products and services that empower the creative world to make ideas happen. Our mission, as a company, is to organize the creative world.
Can you give a brief overview of Behance’s core philosophy and how that philosophy applies to the different products and services Behance has created?
Behance started with an important realization: most ideas never happen. And when creative people and teams push Ideas forward, they do so through a commitment to boosting productivity, harnessing the forces of community, and becoming a better leader.
Our products and services are all designed to help people and teams boost productivity, harness the forces of community, and lead others (and themselves) more effectively.
The Behance Network has become the leading professional platform for the creative world with many thousands of active members and millions of visitors. We think of it as a sort of “LinkedIn” for the creative community. Very different from the typical “digital art” or portfolio site, Behance is a professional platform. Membership is free but by invitation-only. Members use the network to quickly broadcast their latest work and build their private networks of peers and clients. The vast majority of visitors to the Behance Network come from agencies, press, recruiters, galleries, and enthusiasts of great creative work.
We view the Behance Network as an attempt to organize the creative community on a MACRO level. In contrast, the Action Method was developed to help creative people organize on a MICRO level. The way you manage projects, take notes, and organize with a bias-to-action is critical in the creative process. The Action Method started as a simple methodology based on our research of the most productive creative teams. We then designed a series of paper products to help people practice the methodology. We have heard reports of the method and products being used at companies such as Apple and Miramax Films, top agencies, and notable designers, photographers, and other creatives. We are now designing some online tools to further support the Action Method.
Our litmus test with every new product or service is a simple question: Will this help organize and empower creative people to make ideas happen? We only proceed when the answer is “yes.”
The Behance Network allows users to upload creative content to their portfolio – be it audio, visual, text, or otherwise – under a CC license. Why did you choose to incorporate CC-licensing into this process? Have you seen any interesting outcomes as a result?
The CC licensing system has empowered creative professionals in the Network to broadcast their work on their own terms and in a way that fosters cross-pollination and artistic integrity. A vast majority of the thousands of projects in the Behance Network were published under a form of the CC license (the settings can be viewed for every project in the “Project Info” tab at the top).
CC-licensing has helped creative professionals get their work featured more frequently across the web. It has also fueled collaboration in the Network. We hear many examples of people electing to share ideas and adapt each others’ works. One great example was when an India-based Illustrator adopted a piece of work by a Brooklyn-based photographer – the outcome [link: http://www.behance.net/Gallery/The-Joy-Ballad/88660 ] is a breathtaking piece of work that received praise across the web, including Kanye West’s blog.
One of the best practices we observe among the most productive creative teams is to “share ideas liberally.” We even wrote an article about it. CC-licensing is a simple and reliable way to support collaboration while empowering creatives to manage their work as they see fit.
Obviously there are a bevy of ideas being floated around the Behance offices – what can we expect in the future?
Ha! Actually, we try to generate ideas in moderation…because often times a surplus of ideas is the culprit when things fail to happen!
Here’s what I can say about the future: We believe that the Behance Network is only in it’s first inning. The platform is truly international, and we believe that geographic boundaries will become less important when creative people can seamlessly find each other and work together. For many agencies and creative companies, the Behance Network has become a primary recruiting source. We want to make it easier for talented creatives around the world to be connected, discovered (and hired) for their talents.
We also think that personal and team productivity in the creative world needs a revolution of sorts. It is frustrating to think about how many great ideas never happen due to poor execution. Our team at Behance wants to make an impact in how creative people manage projects and, more importantly, how they take action.