Recently named as one of the most exclusive online networks by BusinessWeek, Behance promotes a philosophy of doing through its network of top-tier creatives, an ongoing series of action-oriented articles, a suite of well-designed work products and a forthcoming global directory. We sat down with founder Scott Belsky to chat about Behance’s evolution since its inception in 2005 and his tips for turning talk into action.
JC Report: What was the inspiration for creating Behance?
Scott Belsky: We were inspired by the lack of organization and productivity in the creative community and the reality that most ideas never happen. As we interviewed hundreds of creative professionals, we encountered lots of frustration and inefficiencies. Many brilliant designers, photographers, writers and creative teams faced an ongoing struggle to present themselves professionally and push their great ideas to fruition. There was a need for tools to boost productivity and build networks. There was also a need for more accountability and feedback exchange. We were also inspired by our research of some creative people and teams that are especially productive. In these cases, we sought to identify how they do what they do. Our mission is to share these tips and design products and services to empower creative professionals to better represent themselves and make an impact.
JCR: Who are the people fueling the network? What types of professions are they in and how does Behance help them?
SB: The Behance Gallery streams the latest work by creative professionals across industries. We have a strong presence in all fields of design including fashion, as well as photography, motion graphics, illustration, interactive, film and art direction (among many others). We’ve been quite surprised by the heavy international presence—over 50% of the Behance Network is outside the US. As you can see when exploring the galleries, people are using the network as a platform to get feedback and new business, and build peer networks.
JCR: Do you have any particular criteria for the people you invite? Are they inherently more productive?
SB: Our only criteria for granting invitations is that the prospective members must be creative professionals—that is, they must practice their art for a living. Some members are more productive than others. It is always interesting to watch members take steps to present themselves more professionally. The smartest members take time to build their own network within Behance and join “circles” of other professionals with shared interests. After building such a network, new projects are seen by many more people and new opportunities are more likely.
JCR: Do you think creatives are more scattered than they were, say, five or ten years ago? What’s changed?
SB: Yes, I do think that creative professionals are feeling less obligated to join big companies or be geographically confined. The “freelancer” or independent designer is starting to act more like a business than an individual, and this is enabling them to act independently.
JCR: Tell us about your “action” notebooks. Can a notebook really help someone get more done?
SB: Our team believes in the power of design for boosting productivity. The use of design in project management—how you organize your notes, how you prioritize, and how you keep track of ideas is very important. There needs to be a process to capture the action steps behind the ideas that you generate. As creatives, we are passionate people easily swayed by our emotional connection to our work. We are only likely to stay loyal to a system when we are attracted to it. In turn, ideas are more likely to happen when we consistently use an intuitive method that emphasizes action.
We first developed the product for ourselves. We found that brainstorm sessions were a waste of energy without a system to capture the action steps and manage them over time. What started as a simple tool for our team became a methodology practiced by artists, entrepreneurs, and leaders in many fields you wouldn’t expect. Our hope is that the products help people focus on taking action.
JCR: What are your plans for expansion?
SB: We have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline—all designed to help connect creative professionals and boost productivity. The “Creative Index” will be a very unique sort of search engine for the creative world. We’re also making some new additions to the widely used “Action Method” line of products and services. And we have a few exciting updates to the Behance Network in development…
JCR: What would be your advice for creatives who have a million ideas but have trouble bringing them to fruition?
SB: We need to show our ideas some respect. Creativity is a gift, and I think we should all take some responsibility to pursue great ideas rather than generate more and more. Here are a few pieces of advice:
Seek accountability. Share your work, get feedback and put yourself on the line. If people know what you’re up to, they might help you stay focused.
Stay organized, with an emphasis on action steps. If you make sketches in your notebook along with the things you want to do, you’ll never actually capture and follow up on the actions behind your ideas. Exit every creative moment with a list of the actions required to push an idea forward.
Overcome the stigma of self-marketing. For ideas to actually happen, they need to gain traction. You need to find ways to communicate your ideas in different ways to different people. Many people feel uncomfortable advocating for their work, but nobody will represent you better than yourself.
This interview was conducted by J.K. Glei. You can request an invitation to the Behance network here.