If you answered yes, get ready.
Thoughts on the Road Ahead for Creative Professionals
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 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.
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.
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.
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?