Will Autodesk buy deviantArt?

Last month, Autodesk quietly invested in the art gallery and community site. We ask what this will lead to.

At the end of September, deviantArt's CEO and co-founder Angelo Sotira announced on his blog that the company had received a substantial investment from Autodesk, with Autodesk's vice president of its consumer group Samir Hanna becoming an 'observer' on deviantART's board of directors.

Angelo didn't disclose much about the investment beyond saying that "there will be no change in control over the community or company as a result of this deal". However, he later told tech industry site Techcrunch that the investment was large enough to make Autodesk his company’s largest investor.

So what does a company that's best known for its professional-grade creative products – whether entertainment-focussed 3D tools such as Maya or CAD packages like AutoCAD – want with a portfolio site that, which including some pro-level work, has a largely enthusiast audience who appear especially enthusiastic about drawing/painting women with limited clothing and unrealistic proportions. Especially as Autodesk already has its own portfolio/community site, Area.

The answer is that Autodesk has for a few years now been desperate to expand into the consumer and enthusiast markets – and has managed to find a lot of success with its SketchBook Pro digital painting software for Mac, Windows, iPad and Android tablets. Autodesk bought the Instructables hacker/maker community site in 2011 to have a community around its home-user-focussed 123D software and apps – and the investment in deviantArt is a similar move.

Depending on what level of integration Autodesk can achieve between its Sketchbook software and the deviantArt community, it may not be necessary for Autodesk to buy deviantArt outright to tap into its 28 million members (it may not be possible either, as deviantArt is still controlled by its founders) – but I'd guess that Autodesk would like to see Sketchbook shown off as prominently 123D is on Instructables.

In the longer term, Autodesk could want to bring together deviantArt and the Area to create a competitor to Adobe's wide-ranging Behance (which an overall purchase would require) – though it might also want to keep them separate as the Area's pro (and aspiring pro) community might not want to be associated with the grubbier side of deviantArt. 

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