Dribbble and Behance are the top self-adulation platforms of the craft. And this serves a very natural purpose.
Web Designer, Between Heaven and Hell
The web designer is a species that lives in between two worlds. At least, many of them feel like that. For one, there are the clients from hell, and on the other hand, there are the noble standards that they believe they have to abide by. There are those that can't judge creativity, but do it nonetheless, and those that support your opinion.
I know tons of clients from hell. Here at Noupe, we have a bunch of cartoons that deal with this phenomenon. Like this one:
Of course, I don't know any client that's as close to the appreciation for good design as my design colleagues. Thus, it is natural that you don't feel like your customer thinks of you as the great creative worker, which affects your self-esteem. Yes, at times, it can feel like casting pearls before swine.
Presenting your concepts on Dribbble or Behance feels so much more pleasant. There, you get the affirmation that your customers don't give you. On these platforms, most of the work will get immediate confirmation in the form of "awesome" or "great" comments. A lot of the time, people will ask if they may use this great piece for this or that purpose. And, look at that, the damaged ego is getting back on its feet.
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Typical Comment Thread on Dribbble. (Screenshot: Noupe)[/caption]
Design <> Art
In my opinion, life between the worlds has a lot to do with the fact that many designers still mistake themselves for artists. And those are known to have a fragile soul. In my agency days, the first thing I told my team was that we were not creating art. New colleagues were often astonished by that statement. Sometimes, I comforted the dazed by saying that we were doing "utility art." But that's as far as I'd go.
Our work serves the purpose of serving the customer's goals. Yes, this is as abstract as it sounds. The client doesn't care about noble standards if they don't affect his goal. Thus, you don't need to go at it with the newest cutting edge technologies or theories. This doesn't solve the client issue any better than the boring default solution from two years ago. This may be frustrating, but it's true.
And thus, after work, you go back to the positive exchange with all the kind souls over at Dribbble, Behance, and other places that can understand your self image, and fully support your views.
Torn Between the Poles
I'm always surprised about how much work that has never made it to a client is shown on these platforms. Huh? Is it not important to sell your time anymore? Dribbble and Behance are so alluring that there are designers that only produce for these platforms to earn their deserved applause.
Generally, I stay away from these services, as I am stable enough to handle criticism. I can also accept when clients ask for simple solutions that are like finger exercises to experienced designers. Sure, it's not making you evolve. Your knowledge from two years ago can easily get you there as well.
If that's not sufficient, you should check your idea of your job. Nobody promised you a garden full of roses. The problem is that the longer and more often you visit these self-adulation platforms, the deeper you'll get into the emotional conflict that will either make you unhappy or unemployed.
Money Has No Smell
I know a lot of the latter kind. They are 40 years old, living in a room at their mother's house, barely earning anything, but always preaching the highest standards, and what a designer has to do even to be able to call himself that. As long as their mother is alive, that may work, but I'd plead for a more down to earth interpretation of your own orientation. Maybe that will get you a customer.
I don't want to go as far as claiming that visiting Dribbble, Behance or other similar services will result in you making less than you could. Although I'm almost close to doing so. The visit definitely doesn't get you any additional income, and no additional knowledge, however. Above all else, you won't evolve on an emotional, and communicational level, as the people on there are as gentle to each other as sheep.
The only way to evolve is the tough everyday life with customers. You better get used to it.