Sydney Designers is a local community for digital designers, sponsored by the biggest tech companies in Sydney. We bring hundreds of designers together every month to chat, network and learn from our influential guest speakers. We also send the best design content daily straight to your inbox.
In early 2017, we faced a problem we never realised existed: hiring designers in Sydney is difficult. I mean, really difficult. We talked to some of our friends — heads of design at other companies who were also trying to scout — and it turns out they had the same problem: they couldn’t find talented designers as easily as they found engineers or growth hackers.
At the time, we didn’t realise the skill gap in Australia for good designers — senior product designers, product illustrators, design researchers, etc — was so massive. It’s pretty clear why though… we’re still at least a few years behind the Valley in terms of valuing design as a point of differentiation.
Hayden discussed the reason for this ad nauseum in his article on how to convince your company to invest in design but we never really understood the gravity of the situation until we had to try to hire designers myself. The problem left us with an idea of a community where designers can learn from and help each other so that we might grow Sydney as a design-focused city.
To do it, we’d have to create something entirely new. Not just another Meetup group or noisy Slack room… an authentic community with real relationships and high engagement that brings people closer. Something that creates real value for designers, that encourages them to explore their passion and make it easier for them to connect and learn from other designers in their field.
Of course, authenticity and quality means you have to sacrifice a bit of growth. Rather than focusing on the numbers, we were faced with questions like “how can we make communication more direct and meaningful?” and “how can we bring lots of people together and make each one of them feel special?”
So, we came up with a series of platforms that would allow us to bring the Sydney design community closer.
We figured if there was a best way for people to gather and talk about what they’re passionate about, meetups would be a great first step. Choosing topics designers are passionate about and speakers they can learn from — for personal or professional growth — would be key. We’ve hosted 5 successful meetups so far and grown to over 1100 members in just a few months.
We also needed a way to cut through the noise of designer news. Designers are inundated with subscriptions to DesignersNews, Muzli, Prototypr and Intercom. While they’re all absolutely amazing resources, we really didn’t have time to keep up with them — even just once a week!
The solution we came up with was keeping the idea of a “straight to your inbox” newsletter but it would be automated, a newsbot that runs around the internet to collect the best content from your favourite sources and sending them to you on a Monday morning.
We’d reached the point where we were able to clearly communicate our message to the community, but there wasn’t much in the way of sharing. We’d given ourself a clear voice and now it was time to give everyone else that same opportunity. A platform to get inspiration, but also more information around the speakers at the meet-ups: a blog, hosted as a publication on Medium where designers from all over Sydney can get more exposure for their work.
We also realised that many people were attending the meetup for one of two reasons: to hire a designer, or get hired. We wanted our meetup to focus on sharing knowledge and meeting like-minded designers, but the fact is that many designers and recruiters need events like these to network.
We considered starting a Slack room for design jobs, but we realised that it could get spammed and polluted pretty quickly. So, we went back to the “modern old fashioned” way of looking for jobs: a jobs board.
We went around to a few of our friends at great companies, asking them if they had any jobs available for designers. Sure enough, they sent the details our way and we had our MVP jobs board up and running. And, having a recruiter in the team is quiet helpful to connect designers with companies and the other way around.
This is just the start for Sydney Designers, but Annika and I excited about what’s next and would love your feedback. We’re working on a few interesting ideas at the moment, such as podcast, sponsorship and “the workspace” but if you have any thoughts or ideas, make sure to drop us a line.
See you at the next meetup!