Why designers need meetups

Photo courtesy of BrendaCastroPelayo

I’m Luis, and I ran my first event last night.

Have I ran an event before? No, but that’s not important.

Having moved to Sydney (from London) in January, I forced myself to seek out design meetups in an attempt to make settling into a new city that little bit easier.

One of the first events I found on Meetup.com was Design Feedback Jam, ran by BrendaCastroPelayo. The Jam is a place where designers can turn up and present work in progress designs in an attempt to garner constructive feedback from the community.

In August, I asked if I could run the 4th meetup, and was given the keys. With our previous event only attracting 3 people, I was a bit concerned that it was up to me to make or break the meetup.

Why is feedback important?

At work, we’re rarely given the opportunity to receive feedback from fellow designers. More often than not, our projects are led by senior management, marketing teams, or techies, so receiving validation on core graphic principles is something that just doesn’t happen in small / medium sized companies.

This is why I really wanted to give Design Feedback Jam a push - to extend the opportunity for (Sydney based, for now) designers to receive that important validation and questioning from like-minds.


It’s amazing how many companies are willing to help you run an event when you say that it’s for designers.

I met Gigg at a previous event, and the company she works at, Safety Culture, offered to host us for free. They even threw in free beer and pizzas.

Before our space was secured, I posted the event on The Designership Slack channel, and was offered spaces at the Freelancer.com and SapientRazorfish, despite having not met anyone from these companies before for more than a hello at previous events.

As my dad always says, If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Benefits, benefits for all

What’s apparent, after going to four or five design events and now ‘hosting’ my own, is that feedback meetups are a fantastic opportunity to step out of most people’s comfort zone (public speaking) and also to unearth previously unknown talents.

Unearthing talents

Public speaking is a skill that transcends industry.

A good friend Rob, a scientist, presented his investor document for a biotech startup that he’s currently working at. Having previously had no design experience, he opened the floor for us to all provide him feedback to take back to the team on how he can improve the presentation and ultimately ease the pitching process. Although he attended the event in the hope that he’d achieve some valuable feedback on his pitch (he did), he was also encouraged to present more. We were all engaged in his pitch, despite the fact that no one else was a scientist and the subject matter was foreign.

Growing as a speaker, is growing as a designer

With the design industry shifting to incorporate UX (whatever that means nowadays) into the bedrock of all design jobs, taking a hold of your own concepts and being able to explain them clearly is invaluable.

It’s not just about getting up and speaking though, as being confident in your opinions on other people’s work validates your own expertise. After all, we’re hired to be experts, not passengers on the train to Revenue Street.

In last night’s Design Feedback Jam, I tried to encourage everyone to have a go at providing feedback. Although open sessions usually lend themselves to the loudest speakers, when you place no pressure on the boundaries/format of feedback your group can jot micro notes on a post-it and discuss when they feel comfortable.

Meeting like-minds

When was the last time you met someone who does your job, outside of work itself? I’m going to assume it’s a long time ago, unless you are a student or a superhero.

What meetups encourage is meeting people who actually think like you. Yes, it’s corny, but unfortunately we’re all struck by crippling imposter syndrome most of the time and being able to vent to someone in a similar position is all we need to stay sane.

Not only do meetups allow you to chat to similar minds, it also extends your network for future ventures of opportunities. At last night’s event, we had a few recruiters pitching an idea for their latest social marketing campaign. It just so happens that we also had a designer looking for a new position, and this connection just wouldn’t have happened without the event.

Validate your billion dollar ideas

I have a new ‘business’ idea every day of the week. How many have I made? Around about zero, but one will stick I’m sure. I pitched a new idea last night, and it was abundantly clear that the concept (right now) is probably too niche to grow. Not only has this saved me countless hours and dollars building something that people just might not use, it allowed me to work out key faults in my early thinking before I’ve properly started to run with it. I’ve now worked out how to simplify the idea based on the feedback I’ve received.Free user feedback is better than no feedback.

Market your workplace

Remember how I mentioned that I was offered the workspaces of various companies to host the event at? Well, it’s a win win for everyone. The company hosting is given free marketing for their product and their internal culture, and can receive feedback on their own features should one of their employees decide to pitch. The cost of hiring testers is something that most teams don’t account for, so if you can pitch your own work in progress ideas in your own office to a bunch of keen critics, why wouldn’t you? The cost of the beer and pizza is easily justified.

Hey, you also get to snoop around where everyone else works.

So. how’d it go?

Very well. We had around 15 people turn up, and 4 pitches in total ranging from website ideas, to Christmas themed apps, to presentations and marketing gifs.

Not only was the work varied, but the attendees too. We had designers, coders, salespeople, scientists, advertisers and product managers. It’s this variation in jobs and experience that pushes ideas and us as presenters to work out how to summarise concepts particular to our industry.

Thank you and goodnight.

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