The interview series with Scott Belsky, Adobe’s VP of Community and Head of Behance, continues here from part two.
Throughout this year’s Adobe MAX conference in Downtown Los Angeles, speakers illustrated their creative processes and their cutting-edge approaches to making a difference. At the “Community Inspires Creativity” keynote, renowned illustrator and writer Maira Kalman, Humans of New York photographer Brandon Stanton, designer and writer Elle Luna, and Award-winning film director and screenwriter Baz Luhrmann all encouraged the community to follow creativity and passion.
Focused on projects that advance the continuously growing and evolving creative professional community, Scott Belsky discusses the importance of inspiring innovative creativity. He reveals how pushing limits, following one’s passions, and experimenting with new approaches can produce impactful work:
Lauren Cullen: How has the creative community of Behance evolved from when you first started this innovative online portfolio platform?
Scott Belsky: It has evolved quite a bit. It has grown quite a bit. When we came into Adobe in December of 2012, we had around a million members. Juxtapose that with almost six million today. Meaning [the growth] is in the fives. The platform has grown dramatically over three years.
It’s also, interestingly enough though, become simpler. We have have fewer features in Behance today than we did three to five years ago. The reason is because our team is getting better. We know what needs to be optimized, what features should be removed to really just streamline the experience for the customer. That is allowing more people to engage with it.
It’s a real lesson for me and [for] building a web product. You try to accommodate everyone, and then you end up making it difficult for everyone. The more you simplify and remove, the more people get engaged with it.
LC: I really enjoyed the keynote today. How are the speakers for the “Community Inspires Creativity” keynote chosen? I know that Elle Luna was at the 99U Conference this year for a workshop.
SB: Yes, as a workshop. Sometimes we test people out in other places, I guess. We get to know them in other venues and that sort of thing.
We have a team of folks, including myself, at Adobe that get together and talk about every year – what are the themes that we want to have throughout MAX. In specific, on day two, what would everyone appreciate hearing.
This year it was really about pushing the boundaries of creativity – this notion that everything we create comes from something else. It also comes from a lot of challenge and questioning the status quo, and overcoming our own biases and the pressure of society around us to conform. I think that we captured a lot of those themes today.
You look at Brandon’s story – he defied what people were telling him. He was just focusing on something, and then it blossomed into something impactful and meaningful. He had to tune out everything else and just focus on his craft.
Then you have Elle, who is reinforcing that with this notion of do what you must and not what you are supposed to do. Baz kind of said the same thing. I think one of his lines was the only times he has struggled was when he started doing it the way or the strategy that people were telling him that he was supposed to use. When we conform to others is when we almost lose our path.
I think the test of a good curated set of talent in a conference setting on a stage is whether they pick up and reinforce each other’s points. I think it did that today, in its own unique way.
LC: Yes, there were definitely overlapping themes.
Are there any additional projects or ideas that you would like to discuss that you are currently working on making happen?
SB: There is always a lot going on. I think we are trying to really push people to explore what their creativity can be on mobile. One of my insecurities is that we show these great potential workflows and all of these new possibilities, but then people still go back to their default way of doing things. So my rallying cry these days is: get away from your desk, stop always coming back to your safe spot and how you create.
Creativity, everyone says, is always about going beyond your comfort zone. Well, not only in your ideas but also in just the way you work. If you are so comfortable with a mouse, then try something else because that is how new genres of creativity emerge.
I am hoping that, a year from now, we see the utilization of our mobile products – people doing unexpected things and an unexpectedly high percentage of their creation on mobile. That would be a really exciting thing to see. That is something we have to continue to drive and really tell the story about. That is one thing that I am focused on.