Web Service Review: Behance.net Part 1

Category: Tech Writer

I'm no photographer and unlike most people with a DSLR, I don't associate the size of my camera (or the price of the camera) with photography skills. My idea of taking a good action photo is webbing the camera to a wall and setting the automatic timer while fighting bad guys . . . but I recently decided to scrape enough dollars to buy a better camera than my aged point-and-shoot Canon.

So there I was reading camera reviews over at non-photography sites and generic sites such as PCMag, CNET, and PCWorld. Now, I like a good technical discussion as much as the next guy but what I quickly noticed in the camera forums was everyone either had "camera-envy" or thought they were "The God of Photography 2013". My beloved Physics professor and my Philosophy of Aesthetics instructor would turn over in their graves if they found out so-called "photographers" argued more about types of sensors, brands and lens kits than about how to take a picture or how nice a photo looked. You can tell the hobbyists from the real photographers not by how pedantic they were but how a contributor adds a link to their photos or portfolios. Most of the "photographers" focused on explaining how X lens were awful or Y brand was better, but a serious ILC/DSLR user would provide a URL with a gallery of photos using different types of hardware and under different conditions.     

This is what sites like Behance.net is for. To show, not tell. Unlike the 80s (and even 90s), hardware and software is infinitely more affordable - anyone can buy a Wacom, a decent ILC and learn Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Anyone, including your 79-year old grandma, can learn vector design or digital photography and claim they are illustrators, designers, or artists.

Instead of paying for rent space in a mall or expensive gallery, however, people use the Internet today to showcase their work. If you're a designer looking for your next job or project, a digital portfolio has more efficacy than a well-written resume.

LinkedIn and Adobe

There are advantages to choosing Behance over other digital portfolio sites. The two most obvious reasons to select Behance is its association with Adobe and LinkedIn. Regardless of how you feel about Adobe's recent changes to their business model, most designers and professionals use Adobe products despite the prohibitive price and occasionally dodgy releases (FrameMaker cough!). If you're already subscribed to Adobe's cloud service, then Behance can only help promote your work.

Behance is a standalone networking site for media and digital professionals and is more than enough if you want to connect to advertising companies and media agencies as well as independent professionals. Users can add their work experience and skills in their Behance profile and follow industry professionals from established advertising agencies and even artists from Marvel Comics. However, your professional horizons expand tenfold if you link your Behance account with LinkedIn, which allots space in your profile to display your published work.

If I was a design professional or digital artist, I'd stick with Behance and forget about LinkedIn. Behance works because of its strong ties to the professional community and advertising industry. Unlike LinkedIn, which can be annoying, overloaded, and misleading, Behance focuses on what the user can do and not how many people the user knows or professional associations the user cultivates. After uploading your projects to Behance, you can provide your Behance URL link to other professionals or add it to your business card. Even if no one "follows" your portfolio, views your work or gives you a thumbs up, you have a digital portfolio you can call your own that you can refer to during interviews, art festivals, and when trying to impress that goth girl at the art museum.

Interface and usage

Behance has a similar interface to most DYI blog or website providers with options to add text, change backgrounds, add tags and specific details about your work. I noticed that Behance is surprisingly slow compared to other services and once crashed when I tried to cancel an upload of an image. In addition, uploading a cover of a project can be frustrating since the service doesn't automatically resize the image but has a specific resolution limit (which you have to crop anyway). Otherwise, the experience is straightforward and non-threatening. Although the uploader accepts different types of files, Behance works best as a visual medium, not that layouts and ebooks are totally out of the question.

It's very, very easy to "cheat" when working with digital tools and media (hey, that's what machines are for). I'm one of those people who admire artists who still work with traditional media like oils and pastels. However, I also know that it takes time and real effort to create complex bitmap and vector designs. Times have changed and browsing through the images in Behance proves just how creativity has evolved due to technology. I'm very easy to impress when it comes to digital art and design and it was pretty rare that I found any work on Behance that I found disappointing (except when I look at my own page).

Unlike other digital art sites I've visited, the members of Behance are generally very supportive. Criticisms are constructive perhaps because it's a professional community and not a free-for-all type of social networking. Users actually manage their behavior very well and filter their own works too, making sure that the works they upload are their best.

Continued in Web Service Review: Behance.net Part 2


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