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Design, Dribbble and Greatness

Your Dribbble metrics are bullshit.

A few days ago, a Reddit post was made called “Is Dribbble raising the barrier to entry into this field?

I guess my main issue is that having a Dribbble account doesn’t necessarily mean you are solving real problems for clients. It simply means that you’ve created something that appeals to another designer or even worse, you were able to grab an invite from someone you know who just had some leftovers. There is essentially zero correlation between having a Dribbble account and actually being a quality designer.

Design is about problem solving, right? It’s clear that our jobs are becoming less and less about how pretty our pixels are — and more about the meaning and impact that our designs solutions have. Good design is effective, useful, and powerful. Is someone who is able to design a great looking interface, but doesn’t take into account data from research and user feedback — a good designer? The product is not for that designer, but rather for the audience, and if that designer is not designing for them, is he good?

For me, herein lies the problem of Dribbble. On the service, I can find a plethora of pretty pixels, that are simply answers to problems that others have solved. What we see on Dribbble is the empty aesthetic of a window into a solved problem. I can’t see the research, process, strategy, wireframes and comps that went into a project, so how can I know that this answer is the right one? How can I tell if this person is a good designer? Good design comes about by trial and error, learning from mistakes, doing things the wrong way and too much thinking.

Another problem that I see, is that just like any social network, the number of followers you have does not ensure quality content. It’s as easy as a tweet saying “help me get to 500 followers on Dribbble” to increase a follower count. And because it’s social, as humans we care about the people we like. I have followed and liked the work of so many designers because I consider myself friends with them, rather than just because I thought their work was good. Does having lots of friends make you “great”?

What about design that the world can’t know about? When you work for a large company or sign an NDA for a project, sometimes your work either amounts to very little visually or can’t be released prematurely. Are those designers “not good”? It’s unfair for anyone — especially other designers — to judge designers based on the ownership of a Dribbble account or the numbers of likes and followers on the elitist network.[Of course Dribbble is a showcase for design, that’s what it’s always been. However, recently I have seen that clients and peers have been judging designers based on the fact that they have Dribbble accounts, and the statistics on said accounts. (8/27)]

Being considered a great designer shouldn’t be defined by follower count. It should mean that you produce good work, give back to the community and help others — in an ideal world I guess.