Enriching the Creative Experience

January 23, 2013

Behance founder and former CEO Scott Belsky is now vice president of Creative Community & Behance at Adobe
Behance founder and former CEO Scott Belsky is now vice president of Creative Community & Behance at Adobe

In December, Adobe announced the acquisition of Behance, the leading online community for creatives to showcase and share their work. The New York-based team officially joined Adobe last week.

This acquisition accelerates Adobe’s strategy to bring great community features to the Creative Cloud, making it the ultimate hub for creatives worldwide. Beyond providing a showcase for creative work across industries and disciplines, Behance also powers the portfolio display for thousands of other websites, including AdWeek, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and The Smithsonian National Design Awards.

As Behance has grown, it has evolved into a destination where creatives forge connections as well as find work and market their unique skills. In the past month alone, portfolios on Behance-powered sites have received more than 90 million views, and today there are more than 3 million projects hosted on the Behance platform.

Behance founder and former CEO Scott Belsky is now vice president, Creative Community & Behance. Life@Adobe spoke to Scott about what Adobe and Behance will do together for the creative community.

Life@Adobe: Tell us something about the history and character of Behance that we won’t have read in the press release or on your website.

Scott Belsky: First, I’ll say that the team is thrilled to join Adobe.

We believe that, in a few years, we’ll all look back and wonder how people managed to create in isolation. We’ll think, “How did we open up Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator and not have the integrated ability to engage with our peers in real time?” So we’re excited about making that future possible.

Behance came about, in 2006, from a desire to help organize the creative world in some way.

The creative community is such an amazing thing. If you think about it, just about everything that makes life interesting or amuses us is made by a creative mind. But this world has lacked organization and meritocracy. So our mission was to connect and organize the creative world and empower creative careers.

There’s a great video called “An Ode to Creative Work” on the Behance site that summarizes what the creative world is up against. I’d encourage everyone to check it out.

L@A: What Adobe + Behance synergies can we expect to see?

SB: We’re excited about integrating the Behance community functionality into Adobe tools.

Think about what it will mean for the experience of anyone using Creative Cloud tools to be able to showcase their work in progress seamlessly. Currently, you have to go to a community site like Behance, upload your work, select what you want to do, give it a name and push it manually to a group or the public. We look forward to making that a seamless part of the Creative Cloud experience.

Behance also offers much more. It helps community members discover the creative work of others. When they discover something they like, they can follow that Behance member, appreciate the work, comment on it—and even buy the artwork or hire the creative professional.

It’s exciting for people to get that feedback. The more followers you have, the more traction you get, and the more likely you are to create, I believe.

There’s a complete cycle around the creative process: creating, showcasing, discovering and engaging. Together, Adobe and Behance connect and enrich those four parts.

L@A: Tell us about your team. What do Behance employees bring to Adobe?

SB: Having been a boot-strapped startup for five years, we’re particularly agile and fast. We’ve learned how to test in lean ways, for example.

Behance has been at the forefront of metrics-driven community development—connecting people and increasing engagement and network density. Adobe hasn’t had community tools before, so we have a lot to offer in this area.

We’re a design-centric product team. The way we build products and iterate them is unique, and we’ll be able to share ideas there, too.

But we also look forward to learning from Adobe employees. We’ve been focused on what to do with something after it’s been created, so we have a lot to learn about the creation process. We’re in awe of all the talent in the product teams at Adobe.

L@A: Now that you’re part of the Adobe family, what has been most surprising to you about the company?

SB: I’m very surprised—pleasantly—about how open Adobe is to change. From the outside, I’ve seen the success Adobe’s enjoyed with its very strong legacy businesses, but I don’t see the company resting on its laurels.

The board’s openness to the role community can play in Adobe’s future—its willingness to introduce the Creative Cloud in the first place as a brand new business model—is really encouraging for us. It’s why we decided to join Adobe.

L@A: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

SB: I often talk to other executives about how to bust bureaucracy in order to make things happen. One image that resonated with me is that bureaucracy is like guiding a large ship through an ocean that’s about to freeze. If you sit in the water, you’ll freeze. If you keep moving inch by inch, you’ll get where you want to go.

The best advice I’ve received on how to keep that ship moving and make bold changes is to ask questions, even if they’re tough questions. And to ask again, if you don’t get a response. And then to follow up again, if nothing is happening.

L@A: What’s the best “mistake” you’ve made in your career? What did you learn from it?

SB: I’ve caught myself pursing too many new ideas at once, thinking “Let’s try multiple things and see what sticks.” In practice, you may have multiple things that stick, and then you don’t allocate your resources appropriately.

I’ve learned that it’s better to concentrate on one strong idea. These days, I try to narrow my focus and put 100 percent of my effort into that one great idea.

L@A: Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?

SB: I want to be more protective and directed in how I manage my own time. Everyone struggles with this: We fill up our calendar, and then we don’t have enough time to think and execute. I want to focus on moving forward the projects that will make the biggest impact.

Follow Scott on LinkedIn and Twitter (@scottbelsky).