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Team Culture

Shaping the Future: 7 Predictions for the Creative Community

What are the key shifts in technology, trends, and workstyles that will shape our future? We reflect on the road ahead for creative professionals in 2011.

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.

In the past, resources for finding and managing top talent were extremely limited.

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 future of ‘distributed creative production’ starts with finding great talent wherever it may be.

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, 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.

Not too long ago, creative professionals across industries relied solely on their ‘book.’

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.

7. We Will Display Our Work in More Private Ways

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 in-depth 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

Scott Belsky is a general partner for Benchmark Capital. Previously, he was Adobe’s Vice President of Community and Co-Founder & Head of Behance, the leading online platform for creatives to showcase and discover creative work. Scott has been called one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company, and is the author of the bestselling book, Making Ideas Happen.

Comments (65)
  • Valerie Parizeault

    I think this is spot on, esp. #1 (also, hoping for #2!) Thanks for your insights.

  • Momchil

    I absolutely agree that the advertising industry will become more global than ever and the future of design process belongs to outsourcing. About the crowdsourcing I think they will always have their niggardly small-biz clients. Happy New 2011 for you all!

  • Matthew

    You paint a tantalizing picture Scott. Behance has done well in creating a beautiful ‘connected’ portfolio. I can also feel this positive change coming to the creative industry, in no small part due to your leadership. Thanks.

  • Scott Belsky

    @Artsurfsoul – thanks for the encouragement. Our team feels we’re still in the first or second inning…

    We look forward to an exciting 2011. Best of luck with all of your endeavors!

  • Matthew

    Your welcome, and thank you. 2011 is looking great so far… Jan 1, I sold my first painting and got commissioned for another. I’m pretty stoked.

    As always, I’ll be looking forward for more lip smackers from Behance and the99percent.

  • Christina Blust

    Oh I do hope you’re right. I’m quite curious about how #6 goes — mixed media partnerships are so necessary. As a print-trained graphic designer who recently discovered I love the challenges that come working with code, I’m continually appalled by functional interfaces that don’t get used because they’re ugly and beautiful interfaces that don’t get used because they don’t really work. I learn from both sides of the field. Excited for the new year.

  • Guest

    Great article to start the new year. I found the #7 as a quite interesting point. There has always a fine boundary between how openly one wants to share, and how closely one wants to keep. To have options/control over with whom I want to share dialogues with on the displayed works can certainly help strike a merrier balance.

    thanks for writing,


  • Kevin S. Kaiser

    First off, great points. I agree with you, particularly about the future of the agency model. We’ve been experimenting for the past couple of years with using best in class teams that we assemble for specific projects. I think the in-house “maven” model is giving way to one led by a sort of polymath individual fluent (or at least conversant) in creative direction, project management, and branding who can then lead teams with deep expertise in a needed area. It’s worked well for us and we’re now trying to figure out how to make the process work even better for us.

    Cross-discipline collaboration (#6), I think, will be a significant trend over the next couple of years. There are several of us here in Nashville that are beginning to meet to “cross pollinate” and share ideas. We’re intentionally trying to pull in people from different viewpoints and spheres of influence. Only good things can come of it.

    Thanks for the predictions. I hope you’re not far off. Happy New Year and all the best with your projects in 2011!

  • Scott Belsky

    I also appreciated the 100 list of predictions that Fred Wilson ( @fredwilson ) posted on his blog; definitely worth checking out:

  • Jeff Gates

    I enjoyed this article very much. Two examples come to mind for two of your predictions. For “Credible Mass,” take a look at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Fill the Gap, where “citizen curators” decide which artwork will fill an empty spot in an open storage display case.

    For “Creative Collective” there is Dribbble, a collective of web design professionals who come together to comment and critique each other’s work.

  • Tom Boatman

    Thanks for that. No.5 is very interesting. On the other hand, No. 1 has been the norm in Japan for 15 years.

  • John McDougle

    Great post. Perhaps agencies can learn from the film industry or theatre or jazz bands as they all function by using talent brought together for specific projects.

  • Robyn

    Great Post. I’m looking forward to number 6: The rise of creative collectives and mixed media partnerships. I look at everyone in the creative industry as an ally, I want to continue to do this in 2011. When we work together there is nothing we cannot do.

  • JuanEB

    Great, insightful article. It’s always interesting to think of what opportunities the future will present us.
    There is only really one thing that I would question about this article and this is the assumption made in prediction #3 that the opinions of professionals should be considered more important that those of a great majority of “random people.”
    While I believe that this certainly should be applied to the creative process and the production of mass media products, we cannot forget that in the end, most of our work, as creative professionals is aimed at the general public and it is its opinion which matters in the end.
    I’ll be the first to say that it is a great misfortune to see defiant, creative, and, in a word, good, television shows be canceled year after year while the virus that is American Idol keeps spawning off even shittier bastard shows after each of its “final, final seasons.”
    What needs to be done to help alleviate this is not to ignore the opinions of the masses, but to try to offer better products that will change its views based solely on their own merit. We need to become better at what we do in order to educate people to trying different types of entertainment and making their viewing preferences based on the worth of the value that it presents to the individual instead of just blindly following the mass and consuming something just because that’s what everyone else is doing.

    Thanks for all your insights and for your continued hard work and inspiration.

    -Juan EB

  • Ralf Lippold

    My prediction is that transparency and real-time information tracking will increase due to more and open collaboration across the globe.

    Today I have communicated with Beirut (Lebanon), Stockholm (Sweden), Bonn (Germany) – and this all with only one intention: to cross-learn about creating the future together!

  • Ralf Lippold

    … education will move from the school house to the web, faster than we expect, overwhelming for teachers, parents, and the companies (with leaders of the age beyond our kids’ teachers who will be surprised by the change that the web will bring from Facebook, Twitter, and Co. to the corporate floors).

    What I have seen at BMW Plant Leipzig in 2005 already, using the pre-Web 2.0 tools like Sametime, Netmeeting, Contacts! (a form of company-wide LinkedIn), and more will emerge into what I would call “Emergent Blended Learning” (….

  • Ashley

    Your thinking is very much on the money – I’m starting my own agency ‘Hybrid’ in this mode- what’s also interesting is the connected technology world also enables a lower cost of entry for new businesses- and accessing creative talent as effectively as classic agencies. The winners will be those who prosper the best relationships,thinking and organisation wherever they are
    Ashley @Hybridcomms

  • Tifa

    you have a contradiction here Juan, it’s exactly because of mass opinion that shows like American Idol are still here while good shows got canceled (due to low viewership).

  • David Belden


    Thanks for a very thoughtful article. The design of new organizational structure is one of the most important challenges in the coming decade. Yes, we will definitely be more virtual and global. Yes, we will have to completely rethink office real estate, and we will all be challenged to find our own discipline to complete the projects we have.

    Thanks for making Behance a large part of that.

  • Stephen Smith

    This is a very interesting article. As the manager of a brick-and-mortar business I am intrigued about how I can apply these concepts to a “non-creative-professional” type of business.

  • sharon

    Independent teams of designers and technical collaborators is happening, but as you say there needs to be better collaboration resources and a better method of collectively networking to find the right professionals and potential clients. Great article.

  • Bulletholes

    Besides #4, aren’t you really just describing the Internet? Everything either overlaps and for the most part has been around for five or so years.

  • Fabio

    Totally agree with number 7. I don’t feel comfortable to give real feedback on work in progress (WIP) because only few does it. Behance could do something like an “anonymous comment for improvement” or a portfolio section dedicated to WIP where constructive comments are encouraged.

  • Stefanie

    I would be excited to see the last point develop. I recently joined Dribbble, and love posting there, but don’t find it very productive to my projects. I feel like I’m marketing for myself, rather than getting good feedback. I’d love to have something similar to Dribbble, where you post work in progress to a very limited number of critics that I could choose. I would very much value their opinion and a more in-depth critique.

  • Lindsay

    This is a rather interesting article. As someone who has a growing design firm and a large studio, I am always trying to figure out the best way to find new talent. The one thing I have learned is that, although the internet can connect me to the best in the world, I would most often rather work with the best in Connecticut.

    No online collaboration tool in the world can take the place of in-person collaboration across disciplines. We have tried working with people in the web dev. discipline who came highly suggested and it just fell apart because of the online collaboration. I would much rather take someone with a slightly lower degree of experience that is local and can come into the studio than someone who has a lot of experience but needs to communicate over the web.

    That being said, cross discipline collaboration is necessary and anyone who is avoiding it will be left in the dust..

    I do like the idea of a more private feedback forum, but feel this will not happen because of the egos of these artists who post publicly. Sure, plenty of people will find value in the private feedback forums, but the ‘rock stars’ of graphic design will never take it out of the public eye.

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