Whatever I've done online, I've always been part of a community. Tuts+ has an active community and there are many ways you can take part. Here I talk about community, what we've been doing, and how you can be a part of it.
What Is a "Community"?
I've always been active in the vector community, whether it’s been to talk about vector art or just to socialise. Many a night I used to be found online, in a chat room with fellow vector artists, discussing the latest trends, sharing links to artists we'd recently come across, or saying what pizza topping we were ordering.
Whilst others may have their own preconceptions of what a community is, to me, a community exists when there is a platform of communication. Communities can be complex and have their own forums and systems, or they can be as simple as a conversation thread on a tutorial, similar to what happens here on Tuts+.
Being Part of a Community
Being part of a community can reap many benefits, especially within creative fields.
There is the obvious benefit of being able to “network” and get your name out there in the circles you travel in, but it’s not just about that. Being part of any community, you come across like-minded people, and perhaps meet people you end up forming great friendships with.
I firmly believe if it wasn't for the vector community, I wouldn't be doing the job I am doing now. The experience I've gained and the connections I've made have all given me essential skills for being part of Tuts+.
However, all this being said, you can’t just join a community and expect a job and someone to advise you on pizza toppings. Most creative communities will welcome you with open arms… new members are always welcome. But what you get out of the community depends on you. Some communities may be harder than others to be a part of, but don’t let that stop you!
Whilst you can take part in discussions in the comments of tutorials, there are other ways you can be part of the community. Within the Design & Illustration section, we often post community projects.
I love community projects as they're a chance for everyone, regardless of their skill level, to exercise their creative muscle or simply show off. I always make sure I take part in our projects as I need to keep pushing my own skills. It's been great seeing "Team Awesome" take part in these challenges also (Team Awesome is the name I give to the Design & Illustration Instructor team, and you'll find out why in a moment).
"Team Awesome" is the name I give to the regular Design & Illustration instructor team. I call them this because they simply are awesome. Their willingness to take part in projects and themes and to help the community make them a great group of people to work with in providing quality content to the wider community.
Tuts+ has its own community, and it’s been great being part of it as a reader, then an instructor, and now an editor. What I've especially enjoyed taking part in are collaborations. Collaboration and community go hand in hand, and this has worked well with our instructors. Whether it’s been collaborating with an instructor from another section of Tuts+ or within the same area, the end results are always impressive.
What usually happens is, there is an event coming up (such as Halloween, the summer, winter, someone is ordering a pizza), or someone from the community wants to learn something specific. This idea is then passed to the instructors to see what they can come up with.
Team Awesome are always happy to take on suggestions from the community, especially when it leads to collaboration. In "real life" situations, especially in larger projects, you'll find more than one person is part of the creative process. So why not bring this into tutorials?
Two Artists Enter, Both Leave… But There Is a Winner!
Over on art community websites, such as deviantART, “groups” focused on vector art brought together the community further, and made it easier for people to share new work with each other. As these groups became more complex, the level of interaction increased. This led to “Vector Battles”.
Vector Battles are when two artists go head to head on the same theme, within a set amount of time. The community (aka the people within the group) then vote for their favourite and a winner is decided. No prize is won other than bragging rights.
Earlier this year I was brought into a conversation about community and it got me reminiscing about Vector Battles and the benefits of taking part in one. You've got the camaraderie aspect of it, but there’s also the competition aspect. When you’re in a competing frame of mind, you want to bring your best work to the table. It pushes you to be the best you can, and it may even force you to dig your heels in and be more creative, given you’re working towards a fixed theme.
Two Instructors Enter, Both Leave… But the Community Wins!
The concept of design battles in general is not a unique one. I’ve seen it happen on many platforms, so how about bringing it to Tuts+?
The Design & Illustration instructor team we have are not only very talented, but they also socialise together. They actively participate in Community Challenges, they talk to readers in comments and help them with any questions they may have, and away from Tuts+, they’re sharing each other’s new work and even gossiping with each other on Skype.
So I asked whether they’d be interested in doing Vector Battles… and a couple of months later, we finished our first battle.
The premise was that they were given a theme, they wrote a tutorial, and the end result had to follow the theme. They were both paid as they would usually be for their content, and we went through several rounds of voting. There were three rounds to be precise: an Editor vote (me!), a Guest Judge vote, and the Community vote.
Initially there was going to be an instructor vote and a community vote, but to me, the instructors are very much part of the community, so why differentiate between them? We’re just as active in comments as anyone else is.
Join the Tuts+ Community
There are many ways you can take part in the community. It can start by simply engaging with our instructors in conversation threads on tutorials. If you want to take it that step further, join in on our Community Projects. And if you think you can kick it up a notch, why not consider joining our regular instructor teams? I may see you soon as part of Team Awesome!