PROJECT

Design Buddies Community

Founder & Design Lead | April 2020 - Present

PROJECT

Founding a Community of 10,000+ People

In April 2020, I founded the Design Buddies Community. Since then, 10,000+ people have joined. You can join, too!

Skills

Leadership

Product Strategy

Marketing Design

Tools

Discord

Figma

Notion

My Role

Founder

Design Lead

Team: Brian Moon, Nadia Le, Jess Lam, Sara Georgas, Maggie Iglesias Pena, Marissa Liu, Derek Mei, Yashar Hoang, Kimberley Chong, Calum Mills

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

Design Buddies was built on 3 problem areas:

Approach & Impact

Design Buddies is an active design community.

Process

I work closely with my admin and moderator team to implement and improve our community.

Leadership

Admin Team Leadership

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

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 social media. We also focus on:

  • Feedback: Defining needs through qualitative and quantitative feedback. We collect feedback through our focus group meetings (top 20 active members), 1:1 chats, and surveys.
  • Empowering others: I identify top contributing members in the community and enable them to lead clubs and host events based on their interests.
  • Playful and welcoming branding
  • Fulfilling a need (demystifying path to design, social connections, and a more casual community) and being inclusive
  • 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.

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

Design System

We made sprites as components.

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.