Last Friday, on the 16th October, me and my team at Creative Tim were hosts for our second design meetup, this time focused on startups. We chose this theme due to feedback from our last meetup and our own familiarity with the subject. This is one of ways we were trying to find out and share the role design plays in startups, the tools people use and the way others navigate life in a startup.
This is the part where we encourage people to talk with one another and present themselves afterwards. Some people are very open to this and some are skeptical. The overall atmosphere resembles an AA meeting where everyone gets a chance to talk about the challenges they face and the rewards that sometime surface.
Sometimes the stories are funny, sometimes intense. I personally got the chance to talk with a lot of interesting people and got to see the process of my own work reflected in others. The struggle to maintain a work-life balance, the battle against time, the satisfaction of doing a good job, the hopes of growth.
By the time we had a break people were familiar with one another, their story and startup. We were pleasantly surprised to see some first year student joining us to find more about the startup life, how they can get an internship.
Morgan Carter was the first of our speakers, talking about his extensive experience in startups. Although he was talking about the Australian startups he has worked with, the experience seemed very familiar for people listening. It seems the process inside a growing company follows the same patterns. What place does design have inside this patterns and how can you make it valuable?
His own perspective on the matter depends a lot on the way you handle conflict and the way you manage yourself. The work you will be doing depends on how you handle the initial, inevitable conflict. There will be points you should stand for and things you will let you; this will turn into the way things get handled.
If you are in a startup and you’re doing design, do that! Do the best design you can and fight every battle; you’re not there to make your boss happy or make things pretty. If you want people to see you as an authority in your field, know your shit. If you can’t explain the process underneath a design, you are probably just swinging it. If you have your designs are turned down, you are probably not solving or understanding the problem at hand. How do you learn? Besides design theory, you learn by following and listening to others. Really listen, ask questions until you get to the bottom of it and then apply what you know best.
The thing that stuck with me is that the space for design comes from struggles, knowing your niche and understanding the design is not yours to keep. If you want a copy of the presentation, you can check out Morgan’s site, subscribe and he will send you one.
Denis Todirica, one of the most popular people at the meetup, was our second speaker. Talking from his experience as a founder he dived into life advice, building great products and the design behind them.
One of the things from his list was walking to the end of the Earth for your idea. You may live and learn, you may crush and burn, but you are the only person who will ever be able to carry out your vision. It’s worth every step. Surround yourself with people that know what they are doing in this process, they will help you grow. And make sure you are having fun, because if you have stopped having fun, you will start looking for ways out.
The thing that struck me about the speech Denis held and the questions he answered is that he got the audience on his side in a matter of minutes. People are usually dismissive, they’re concerned with the problems they are facing themselves. The initial reaction to his presentation was ‘What problem are you solving for us?’. By the end, people were offering suggestions and thinking of ways they can interact better on the social platform he is building. That’s huge! If you want to find out more about him and what he’s building, check out his app or social profiles.
So, coming to the end of our meetup and trying to see note down the silver linings: in order to build a successful startup with great design you need to know your stuff, go with your gut, follow the people that already rock and have fun. Simple enough, huh?
Here is a list of startups and pages that presented themselves at the meetup. Show them support if you have the time: