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  • To tutorial or not to tutorial?

    Just about every artist uses tutorials although probably not all of them like to admit it. However is it okay for someone to use a tutorial in their commercial work or portfolio?
    A few years ago when I was a recent graduate I was invited to an ďinternship mixerĒ with a high end studio in the US. For privacy, I wonít name the studio, but itís internationally recognized - it has multiple offices around the globe including London, NYC, and LA and many of the artist flew in from all over the world to attend this mixer.
    Anyway, the recruiter brought us in to a room to meet us and go over our portfolios. There were about ten artists and we all took turns presenting our work in front of each other. Everyone had extremely impressive work but I noticed one of the artists had a few tutorials that I recognized from my favorite youtube channel. Now Iím the first to admit that I use a tutorials all the time and Iím not claiming there is anything wrong with that. But what bothered me was that he used the tutorial in his portfolio and passed it off as his.
    In the end, I didnít get the job and Iím not sure if he did either. I was already employed at the time and the pay was low (it was a paid internship) I so I didnít really care. I have since worked with other companies although not quite as prestigious as this one. I personally believe success depends on the artist and not the companies he or she has worked for but sometimes I think about that internship and wonder where it could have taken me.

  • #2
    A tutorial is just a step-by-step set of instructions on how to recreate someone else's artwork for the purpose of showing a student how it was done using various tools. It's certainly not something that should ever be in anyone's portfolio (except for the person who created the tutorial, I guess).

    As for me, I've never found tutorials useful. When I've gone through them, I can't really remember what steps I went through because it took no real effort to follow the instructions. For me, about the only way to learn is to dive right in, get stumped, try to figure it out, search out the answers, jump back in, rinse and repeat until I start getting the hang of the whole thing. I think it's me having to figure things out that firmly implants it in my memory. Tutorials just don't do that for me.

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    • #3
      Did this person claim to have created the tutorial itself or did they create something by using the techniques in the tutorial?
      Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.

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      • #4
        I have used many tutorials however I've never used them to recreate exactly what the tutorial is creating. I've never been a fan of downloading the presenter's files to try and make what they're making (even when I was a lynda.com member). I've used tutorials to try and achieve an idea that I already have but do not know how to achieve it.

        I'm in the same boat as B; I don't retain much of the information of the tutorials. In fact I've had to watch the same tutorial multiple times till I finally got it down because I couldn't remember certain steps.

        For the past couple years I find myself using tutorials less and less and trying to figure things out on my own. There are times I'll search online for the best way to do something, but I rarely anymore sit and watch a 15 minute step by step or read some really long blog. Once I actually figure something out myself it becomes easier to remember and I feel better about myself. I feel more accomplished because I've used what I've learned throughout the years to solve my design problems.

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        • #5
          I might go to a tutorial once I've failed to figure out how to use a particular feature on my own. I haven't needed to for graphics as much as I've needed to for code or setting parameters.

          Regarding new software features in recent years, I haven't needed to learn much. Most of the new features I've seen in the past decade are evolutionary at best, and rarely (if ever) revolutionary. Most of the new features seem to be just different (not much better) ways of doing what I already know how to do. Often the interface (skin) changes without changing the underlying function. That's good for newbies; but for someone who's been using the same software for decades, it often amounts to unlearning and relearning for very little (if any) benefit. And for freelancers, there's the extra expense of upgrading software for the new features, and hoping that you don't have to spend even more money to fix incompatibilities with the OS or the hardware.

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          • #6
            I use them if I want to recreate a fancy effect for my own projects, but I don't copy everything in the tutorial and I certainly wouldn't pass it off as my own. Kitch Witch brings up a point though, perhaps the person presenting them was the creator? At the level your describing that sounds plausible, but crazy things happen.

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            • #7
              KitchWitch We were in a large meeting room (about ten of us). We presented our work to the group. He didn't outright say it was his but he it was in his portfolio - 2 vector designs I recognized from a Youtube channel I've been following for several years. He changed the design SLIGHTLY - changing some of the colors and shapes but altogether it was exactly the same as it was in the tutorial.

              salsa The artist was from China. He, along with several other Chinese students flew in for the mixer. The host of the Youtube channel is American and based in Colorado. This Chinese artist had a thick accent - no way they were the same person.

              I could have called bullshit on the artist but I'm not that kind of person. Not to mention, I already had a job at the time and I wasn't looking forward to an intern's salary although I would be let go a few weeks later from it.

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              • #8
                Maybe it's just me but it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I understand you were competing with this individual so obviously you're not keen to him using that design. However, even if he followed a tutorial he did do the work which at least showcases his ability in someway. It may not showcase his ability to think creatively, but some established design firms may be looking for more direction followers than creative thinkers when it comes to the entry level hiring process.

                Not to say that I think it is ethical of him to do that, but this guy flew half way around the world for a mixer! He's trying his best to make sure his portfolio is better than his competition. This also may be his only shot at becoming an American citizen (or at least being in the US on a work Visa) which is something many Chinese hope for because they don't have the same freedoms in China.

                If the design looked good then it tells me two things; 1. He has a good eye for design 2. He can execute the instructions of the tutorial well indicating familiarity with the software and some talent. These two things hold some value.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Protagonist View Post
                  KitchWitch We were in a large meeting room (about ten of us). We presented our work to the group. He didn't outright say it was his but he it was in his portfolio - 2 vector designs I recognized from a Youtube channel I've been following for several years. He changed the design SLIGHTLY - changing some of the colors and shapes but altogether it was exactly the same as it was in the tutorial.
                  Okay, so he has a piece in his portfolio that is the result of a lesson from a youtube tutorial. I don't see the issue. I would equate this with having a piece in his book that was an assignment in college. He did what he was instructed to do (followed the tutorial to its end project result) and used the piece in his book. Maybe he's self-taught. Maybe his portfolio was thin and he bulked it up with some self-assigned pieces. He can claim the work is his because it is. If he was claiming to have created the YT video or invented whatever process he used, that would be something I'd take issue with. Otherwise, who cares? My two.
                  Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by calebninja
                    Maybe it's just me but it doesn't seem like that big of a deal.
                    Originally posted by KitchWitch
                    Okay, so he has a piece in his portfolio that is the result of a lesson from a youtube tutorial. I don't see the issue.
                    I'm puzzled why the two of you feel that way.

                    A portfolio piece produced by following a step-by-step tutorial is dishonest in that it implies that it was conceived and designed by the person showing the portfolio, which isn't the case. At best it represents only the ability of a beginner to successfully complete a tutorial.

                    I suppose if the person was honest and said, "Here's a piece I put together by following a tutorial," that would be fine. But for him to imply that he designed the piece and had the expertise necessary to produce it on his own is dishonest and a deliberate misrepresentation of his actual abilities.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Protagonist View Post
                      He didn't outright say it was his but he it was in his portfolio
                      We don't know the explanation he may have provided later on. Maybe he did say he saw a tutorial and followed it.

                      What I'm simply saying is I don't think it's a big deal coming from an entry level standpoint. B wasn't it you who said new grads are going into their first design jobs with a level of arrogance? Maybe it's because they are being held to the standard of someone who's been in the industry for several years, by requiring their portfolio to contain completely original work that's been 100% thought of by the student. Perhaps this level of pressure being placed upon entry level designers is resulting in them reaching for other means to produce quality portfolio pieces.

                      Personally I'd hire this guy on the spot if he flew half way around the world for an interview. You can teach someone Photoshop but you cannot teach that level of desire and dedication.

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                      • #12
                        Like I mentioned, if he was honest and said that it was the result of a tutorial and not his original work, I'd be fine with it. If that was indeed the case, that's a different story, but my response was based on my assumption that he was trying to pawn it off as his original work.

                        As for student work in general, design schools encourage original solutions to problems, so the work in a student portfolio -- even though it's student work -- does indicate the student's basic design ability that goes a bit beyond simply following a step-by-step portfolio to learn a software application. Even with student work, however, in an interview I expect the designer to indicate what is student work and what isn't.

                        I see quite a few portfolios, and I've seen more than several attempts to pass off work as something that it's not. There was one time, I even saw a copy of one of my own layouts in an applicant's portfolio. It was changed a little, but not nearly enough to hide where the guy had copied it from.

                        If I spotted a piece in a portfolio that I recognized as being the result of a tutorial, I'd ask the designer to expound on the piece. If he answered in a straight-forward manner that it was the end result of a tutorial that he'd completed, fine. I'd give him a point for honesty, even though I'd discount the portfolio piece as just a tutorial exercise. If the designer made up a story that failed to mention that crucial bit of information, I'd immediately thank him for coming in and terminate the interview; it wouldn't matter whether he flew all the way over from China or drove in from the other side of town.

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                        • #13
                          But what if the piece was nicely designed? If it was then like I said before it would showcase the designers eye for good design and ability to follow instructions. I am in total agreement with you if we're talking about hiring a senior designer, but we can't place the expectation on entry level applicants to be ready made designers.

                          The OP mentioned he had changed the design around a bit, which indicates some thought process.

                          Let me explain myself a bit in regards to the dedication the individual showed. One of my primary functions at my last job was interviewing and I did this job for several years. Now the interviews were not design related but I saw many related aspects when I finally began interviewing for a career in design. One of the things that seemed to be a trend is that the interviewee was expected to have ready made answers and be a ready made product. Little care was given to the individual's personality or desire for the job, and I always hated that about the interviewing process. Many times people were hired who were not very pleasant to work with or who slacked off significantly, because they provided the "right" answer in the interview.

                          Now I know I am speaking from my own experience, but I have a greater appreciation for someone who shows that type of dedication than if someone is a ready made product (speaking from an entry level hiring standpoint). I want to know that I am hiring someone I can rely on, someone who's not going to call in sick constantly, someone who has a good attitude, someone that is teachable.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by calebninja View Post
                            But what if the piece was nicely designed? If it was then like I said before it would showcase the designers eye for good design and ability to follow instructions.
                            If the piece was nicely designed, it would have been because the designer of the original piece designed it that way -- not because someone following the step-by-step instructions managed to reproduce it. If the tutorial was one in which the student had to come up with his or her own design, that's a bit different, but the few tutorials I've seen are just step-by-step instructions on recreating something already designed. And judging by the original poster's comments about recognizing it, I'm assuming that's exactly what it was.

                            Again, I have no problems with a beginning designer including student work in a portfolio, as long as it's clearly portrayed as student work. For that matter, I don't expect much other than student work in a recently graduated student portfolio. I'd even be OK (maybe less than impressed, but still OK) with a student putting in a step-by-step recreation of a tutorial piece as long as the student told me that's what it was. For that matter, if it was an isolated piece in a bigger portfolio showing greater potential, it might even help indicate to me that this student was a worthy intern candidate since he or she could successfully follow instructions.

                            What I'm specifically saying is that a designer -- student or seasoned professional -- should not place something in his or her portfolio and portray it as being something more than it actually is.

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                            • calebninja
                              calebninja commented
                              Editing a comment
                              When I was a beginner designer I couldn't produce something that looked great; even if I followed a step by step tutorial. I understand where you're coming from and you have more experience in the industry than I do, so I'm sure you've encountered this from time to time.

                          • #15
                            calebninja I can't be sure if he mentioned to the staff before or afterward. It wouldn't make sense for an artist to show his work without mentioning this then later tell the Creative Director and Staff "hey remember that piece I showed you earlier, that was actually a tutorial."

                            For the record, these were complex illustrations. That is how I recognized it immediately, if was too complex for it simply be an design coincidence.

                            In my opinion tutorials are great. A few months ago I used a tutorial to design a pattern for a woman's shorts. I already design the illustration but I looked at a few tutorials to see how other artists created this particular pattern. If someone uses a tutorial to aide in their OWN design, I think that's great. But in this particular instance the artist simply completed the tutorial, slightly altered the colors and shapes (probably to make it less recognizable), then mixed it in with his portfolio without telling anyone it was a tutorial (during his presentation). Where I went to school I would have been blasted by both my peers and professors for this. He might have been an entry level applicant but so was everyone else that applied to that job.

                            This was the first and only time I met the other artists competing for the same position and saw their work. If, out of these ten artists one used a tutorial, how many other artists out there do this? Passing off tutorials as original artwork may not be that uncommon. This doesn't just apply to jobs but to college applications and competitions as well.
                            Last edited by Protagonist; 10-08-2016, 12:09 AM. Reason: spelling

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