Design Buddies Community

In April 2020, I founded the Design Buddies Community. Since then, 8,500+ people have joined. You can join, too!

Role: Founder and Design Lead

Skills: Leadership, Product Strategy, Marketing Design

Tools: Discord, Figma, Notion

Team: Brian Moon, Nadia Le, Jess Lam, Sara Georgas, Maggie Iglesias Pena, Marissa Liu, Derek Mei, Ivy Lee, Kouthar Waled, Yashar Hoang

Strategic Advisors: Jonathan Javier, Jerry Lee

Mission Statement

Design Buddies strives to connect and support designers from all backgrounds. All our programs are free to be inclusive.

Timeline

Problem

I felt out of place in other design communities with my engineering background. I felt intimidated and judged by some for not being in a design degree program. This inspired me to start my own community for anyone interested in design. Anyone can connect without feeling judged.

During the pandemic, there was also a growing demand for designers to interact.

Approach

Design Buddies is an active design community. We have over 50 channels ranging from the categories of resources, general discussions, topic discussions, showcase, critique, engagement pods, off topic, and voice channels.

Program highlights: Mentorship, online workshops, Ask Me Anything (AMA), panels with industry leaders, book and game clubs, portfolio reviews, resource sharing, and virtual meetups. 

Impact

In 5 months, Design Buddies has 7,500+ members globally. We hosted 15+ events with an average of 100+ attendees each. Weekly, an average of 400+ members join and 2,400+ visit. We have also helped a handful of designers find jobs and freelance roles. 

Process

Leadership

Admin Team Leadership

I lead a team of 10 admins. I placed each in separate roles based on their interests: Community, Social Media, Design, Logistics, Events, Finance, and Content Creators.

I was also in charge of hiring and letting go of admins.

I facilitate a series of administrative meetings:

  • Team standup (weekly)
  • Office hours / critique (weekly – drop in and get feedback on anything)
  • Content creators (weekly, hosted by content creators)
  • Focus group (monthly)

Our team organizes everything on Notion:

In the beginning, I made the mistake of taking in everyone who wanted to help out to be on the admin team. I didn’t have a vetting process nor set expectations from the start. It resulted in admins feeling confused of what to do. We were also a small team struggling with balance.

I then wrote roles with descriptions and opened up admin applications. In the roles, I was specific about the responsibilities and expectations.

Our applications were open in July with under 2,000 members in the community. In 1 week, we had 70 applicants. We interviewed 11 from those and took on 4. By having members apply for specific positions, the expectations were clear.

Roadmap Sample

Partnerships Management

I also manage our external collaborations with other organizations through partnerships. Our complete list of partners is in the appendix.

In the beginning, I made the mistake of saying yes to all organizations who requested to partner. Many of them looked for free design work and “shoutout for shoutout.” We let some go and made sure all partners have a mutually beneficial relationship. We set clear roles and expectations. We focus on quality over quantity.

Marketing Design

I design all the marketing and social media posts for the community using our branding and tone. Here are some highlighted works.

Guest Speakers

Community Meetups

Panels

Partnerships

Growth

Our growth comes organically through members and admins sharing about us on their social media.

  • Playful and welcoming branding
  • Fulfilling a need (social connections) and being inclusive
  • Feedback: Defining needs through qualitative and quantitative feedback
    • 1:1 “Fluffle” chats
    • Focus groups (top 20 active members)
    • Surveys
  • Maintaining a healthy community with clear rules and moderation
  • Public roadmap: Keep members excited

Events

Events drive community engagement by providing a way for members to meet each other and also drive post-event discussions.

Our types of events

  • Ask Me Anythings (AMAs): Provide value for both the audience and speaker. The audience can ask their questions and speaker doesn’t need to spend too much time to prepare. We have invited design leaders and design instructors on.
  • Panels: Themed panels to get different perspectives on a topic. We had a design intern, graduate school, and game UX panels.
  • Workshops: The audience gets to learn a new skill and the speaker gets to share their services or product. We had a portfolio language and a Uizard workshop.
  • Virtual Meetups: A way for the community to get to know each other through video or voice chat. Sometimes, we’ll go on a shared Figma file (examples in appendix). We’ve used platforms that enables both group and 1:1 conversations. Discord video, Zoom, Icebreaker, and Run the World are ones we’ve used.

Program Highlights

Mentorship Program

With Amazing Design People List (ADPList), we have built our mentorship program.

Mentors from Design Buddies can sign up to receive their own card on ADPList after going through a vetting process. Mentors are part of a mentor community and are invited to give talks to the community.

Mentees may reach out to mentors on ADPList after reading through the Mentee Guide Brian and I worked on.

Hop Land Community File

As part of Camp Figma, I teamed up with Nadia and Marissa from our admin team to build Hop Land – a game design system that utilizes design systems in Figma.

Make your own Hop Land here

Hop Land enables anyone to create their own level inspired by 2D platformer games using components as sprites. We currently have galaxy, environment, and Candyland as our themes.

Design System

We made sprites as components.

Examples of levels built can be found in the appendix.

Future Plans

High Level Roadmap:

Lessons Learned

  • Focus on needs leads to growth. We focus on building a beginner-friendly community and fostering social connections during COVID-19.
  • Listen to feedback. We have an anonymous feedback form and suggestions channel for server improvements. We act on ideas from members of the community.
  • Inclusivity and diversity. We focus on creating a safe space for everyone by establishing ground roles and enforcing a disciplinary action to those who are disrespectful or scam.
  • It takes a village. I’m grateful for everyone who has reached out to be an admin. It is impossible to handle growing and maintaining a community by myself.
  • If you try to satisfy everyone, you will satisfy no one. We focused on a target demographic at first (college students), designed for their needs, and expanded from there.
  • The best way to complain is to make something. Design Buddies all started because I didn’t feel like I fit in as a beginner in other design communities.

Appendix

Our partners

Event Figma Community Files

In meetups, we enable attendees to design something of their own on a shared Figma file.

Hop Land Levels