At the start of every year, it’s fun to think about what's next. However, for the creative professional community, considering the future is not just a casual exercise. It's a necessity. The creative industries are rapidly changing, as is the way we manage our own creative careers. Do you rely on the web for inspiration, feedback, or any other part of your creative process? Do you rely on online networks or websites as a source of new customers, clients, or collaborations? Are you involved in the worlds of
advertising, design, fine art, or any other industry that ultimately relies on matching the right creative talent with the best opportunities? If you answered yes, get ready. Thoughts on the Road Ahead for Creative Professionals In recent years, I believe that technology has been a little reckless with creative professionals. In many ways, technology has (shockingly) been obstructing productive creative careers. Crowdsourcing spec contests, the lack of proper attribution for most creative talent displayed online, and inefficient services for career management – just to name a few. But my team and I at Behance see the tide turning. We believe that technology and the latest shifts in creative industries will ultimately empower creative professionals. Here are some of our predictions (and hopes) for the creative professional community in the near future [and full disclaimer: our inherent bias is that we think about this full-time and are developing Behance with these thoughts in mind!]: 1. The Era of "Distributed Creative Production" Is Upon Us The advertising agency of the future will consist of account managers, administrative staff, and a tiny leadership team that provides creative direction. The creative production itself will be distributed to individuals and small teams around the globe who are at the top of their game. The
same applies to corporate marketing departments and other creative firms. In the past, resources for finding and managing top talent were extremely limited. Now, the rise of online networks, as well as project management and collaboration tools is empowering creative professionals and ushering in a new era of independence.
Recently, I sat on a panel for NY Advertising Week called "The Shortage of Digital Talent." My fellow panelists – all senior folks from large agencies – sought to explain what they saw as a "shortage of creative talent" in the digital space. I was the only one with the opposite perspective. There is remarkable talent emerging from all corners of the globe. But, I explained, "the only problem is that this talent doesn't need to work for you anymore." In the new era of "distributed creative production," top talent will be able to work on their own terms. The companies (and clients) that welcome this future will benefit from better creative output. 2. Crowdsourcing (As We Know It) Will Be Rendered Obsolete The early crowdsourcing initiatives have been nothing more than vast spec contests. The open calls for ideas and free labor from anyone has hurt everyone. Given the low odds of getting paid for work, this form of crowdsourcing has incentivized careless engagement. You just spend a few minutes on something and lob it in. Not surprisingly, the quality of creative
output suffers, and attributing careless work to your name could hurt your career. The good news is that people are starting to catch on. Top talent now avoids these crowdsourcing programs. New, more sustainable models are beginning to take hold.Quirky has revolutionized crowdsourced product design by ensuring that every contributor gets paid. Our team at Behance is also experimenting with new models for "sourcing" groups of top talent and guaranteeing payment for contributions. Regardless of what new models emerge, the old and destructive form of crowdsourcing will become obsolete as we have more options and develop better judgment. 3. The "Credible Mass" Will Determine Quality
The future of "distributed creative production" starts with finding great talent wherever it may be. Relying on personal networks and headhunters won't cut it. We will need a way for the best talent to rise to the top based on merit.
The greatest challenge we will face is how to measure the quality of talent. The solution will be community curation. Aided by tools like Digg, Facebook's "Like" button, and the "Appreciate" feature on Behance.net, communities are starting to curate themselves. Anything from articles to pieces of art can now be sorted based on consensus.
But the insights of the critical mass aren't enough. For example, when evaluating the quality of a photograph, the opinions of 1,000 photographers should matter more than that of 1,000,000 random people. This is the difference between a "critical mass" and a "credible mass." The "credible mass" will enable creative professionals around the globe to get new opportunities based on the quality of their work. 4. A New Genre of Advertising Will Educate Us
With brands in the hands of the people, a new genre of advertising will arise that is more authentic and borderline educational. Companies will tap their expertise as a way to win over the "credible mass." For example, GE knows a lot about the future of energy and jet engines, Pepsi knows a lot about marketing and beverages, the New York Times knows a lot about journalism. While you would likely skip over any commercials from these brands, you might be interested in their perspectives in areas where your interests intersect. Maybe you want to learn about GE's smart grid from the scientists behind it? Perhaps you would enjoy a behind-the-scenes perspective on how a newspaper is assembled every single day from the New York Times? Great things happen when companies leverage their expertise for public interest. It also makes for powerful advertising. The corporate marketing departments are not going to make the leap, but the creative minds in advertising agencies – and more likely the production companies that actually do the work – will start to experiment with a new form of advertising that will serve its viewer in profound ways. With the rise
of online video and the role your friends play in curating the content you consume, advertising needs to step it up a notch. 5. The Static Portfolio Will Be Replaced by the Connected Portfolio Not too long ago, creative professionals across industries relied solely on their "book" – a physical portfolio that was sent around to headhunters and prospective clients whenever an opportunity presented itself. These books were expensive, heavy, and instantly outdated from the moment they were sent. They also accumulated a lot of dust. Over the last decade, most creative professionals transformed their portfolio book into a website. These static websites could be updated at any time and seemed much more efficient than the book approach. Personal portfolio websites proved effective, but only for those that visit them. Like the old-school portfolio books, you still need to invite people to view your site – whether by email or a link on your business card. Now, with the rise of social networks and professional networks, it is easier to spread the links to your portfolio and hope that the right person clicks.
I believe that the next step in this evolution will be the "connected portfolio," a set of projects that live not only within your own personal portfolio site but also on other galleries and networks around the web. Your
"connected portfolio" will act as both a personal portfolio website as well as a powerful dissemination tool that showcases your work wherever you want it – always keeping your work properly attributed and under your control. Such a system would boost efficiency and transform the portfolio from a static website into a tool for self-promotion and new leads.
Our team at Behance is doing everything we can to help steward this transformation through relationships with companies like LinkedIn, organizations like AIGA, and our product pipeline. 6. The Rise of Creative Collectives & Mixed Media Partnerships The unfortunate thing about trade associations and online websites devoted to one particular field is that they don't help foster creative collaborations across disciplines. An illustrator is unlikely to connect with a photographer in the Society for Illustrators. With the rise of distributed creative production and more independence for creative professionals, we will need to connect and collaborate with creative talents that are different from our own. I anticipate formal alliances between industry associations. Online websites and industry blogs will become multi-disciplinary (rather than serve, say, just designers or architects or photographers). We will also start to see more co-working arrangements and shared studio space between professionals from different fields. The rise of collectives and loosely assembled creative teams will support the increasing need to connect and collaborate across creative fields.
Our exhibitionist ways will start to change. The trend in the design community (among other communities) of posting public snapshots of work in progress to get feedback will evolve. Feedback exchange is extremely important, but the merits of a more private and controlled environment will shine through. In the future, these exchanges will continue but in a different, more private forum, with carefully curated participants. This intimacy will increase the level of constructive criticism. We will see fewer remarks like "cool" and "LOL great work," and more indepth comments with substance. Private forums will also help us better serve clients who would prefer that their projects not be shared publicly before they are completed.
Some of these predictions are more lofty than others. Some focus on smaller, technical details, while others contemplate broader, industry-wide changes. Regardless, they are all in our hands. We make ideas materialize on our screens and with our hands, and then we are the first adopters. As creative professionals, we are extremely fortunate to have such a direct influence over our own future.
Wishing you an imaginative and productive 2011. -What Do You Think?
What key changes – big or small – do you see on the horizon for creative
professionals? -Scott Belsky is the CEO of Behance and author of the national bestselling bookMaking Ideas Happen. You can follow him @scottbelsky.