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Pocket Talk: Building Design Communities8:05 with Gearóid O'Rourke
Building Design Communities: A HybridConf Pocket Talk
[SOUND] So if you guys were here yesterday, 0:00 you would have heard Dez talk about this thing called the keyboard crouch. 0:03 This position that we've all assumed and how we interact with the world around us. 0:09 It's one claw on the mouse, one hand on the keyboard. 0:12 And I remember thinking, not quite as eloquently as that, but 0:15 something similar four or five years ago when I went to London. 0:18 That this is a really terrible way to get to know people and 0:20 to interact with people, and a very terrible way to find a community. 0:22 I was thinking something vaguely along these lines, maybe not quite this. 0:26 I suppose I was the only designer at my startup. 0:31 And I didn't know that many people in London. 0:35 And I worked really hard, I worked a lot of hours. 0:37 But I really wanted to meet other people who did what I did. 0:39 And talk to people who were interested in the kinda things I was interested in. 0:41 And Twitter just felt weird, and Dribbble was kind of awkward not about being really 0:44 good, not really about talking. 0:48 And so, I wanted to do something about this. 0:49 I suppose what I was kinda searching for 0:52 was like a human connection to other designers that wasn't about machines, 0:53 that wasn't about typing at keyboards and being really considerate in what I wrote, 0:57 but more about just hanging out and as well as you would say having the crack. 1:00 And then, I faffed. 1:03 I faffed for two years. 1:05 I kept thinking about this and having this conversation with a few people I did know, 1:06 and kinda saying I really wanna do something about this. 1:08 And then, not doing anything. 1:10 And I made all these excuses we make to ourselves, like after the next contract, 1:11 or when I've got that new client, or when I finish this project I startup. 1:15 And for two years I did nothing. 1:18 And then, one Friday afternoon in the company I was working at, one of the guys 1:20 who joined the design team, Sam, was like, oh, you always talk about this thing. 1:24 Why don't you just do it? 1:27 I was like, okay Sam, let's do it. 1:28 And we did. 1:30 Oh, we did it. 1:31 And we made a thing called DESIGN+BANTER. 1:32 Which is a terrible name, but it was the name we chose. 1:35 And what is the thing? 1:38 The thing is a community of designers for [NOISE] community designer is for 1:40 people that live in London, and is structured around a monthly event. 1:44 And it started off like this, which is a very small and 1:48 sweaty karaoke room to the side of a bowling alley underground in London. 1:51 And this is possibly one of the hottest days of the summer. 1:55 That year in London [LAUGH], I've chosen this photograph because it's the only one 1:57 where you can't see the sweat patches on my shirt, [LAUGH], at that event. 2:00 It was really terrible. 2:03 But then the event grew to a slightly bigger room with a bowling alley, and 2:05 it grew to a bigger event space, and it grew to a bigger event space, and this one 2:07 actually caused a fire hazard, [LAUGH], the fire brigade came and said, caution. 2:11 But it kept growing and growing and I felt like we were doing something right. 2:15 And we're going to our third year now of doing this event and 2:18 building this community up and reflecting a little bit, I feel like we did do right. 2:21 And one of these principles we've all sought, both myself and Sam, 2:25 is the idea of us and not them. 2:27 Like, when you're building a community you're building an us. 2:28 You're building a group of people that identify together around an interest or 2:31 around something. 2:33 But you've gotta be very careful not to build a them. 2:34 So we wanted, Samban should be incredibly accessible 2:36 to be somewhere that everyone felt comfortable. 2:39 We didn't want this other track of people who are like speakers, or 2:41 sponsors, or other cool kids in the corner people didn't get to interact with. 2:44 So we did things like we didn't have a stage. 2:47 There was never an elevated stage. 2:49 We always made sure we had first-hand speakers coming from 2:50 actual audience members of previous events. 2:53 We made sure that we, as organizers, spoke to everyone in the room, 2:55 greeted them at the door, checked them in. 2:58 We made sure we responded to emails, tweets. 2:59 We made sure that, like, everyone felt part of the us. 3:01 That there was people just going to consume. 3:04 We also did things, and it's a basic thing, just being a little bit silly. 3:06 Like, I take the piss out of myself a lot bit on stage when I'm doing the MCing, 3:09 that's all I do. 3:12 But if you're silly and you're doing that publicly and making a bit of a fool of 3:12 yourself, people in the audience don't tend to feel so silly. 3:16 We also were very lucky in that, we kinda had a purpose with starting out, 3:19 and it was an easy purpose, we wanted this event to be fundamentally social. 3:23 We want it to be a place to make design friends. 3:27 We weren't trying to redefine what the design industry meant. 3:29 We weren't trying to be earnest. 3:32 It was a place for you to build relationships of people to do what you do, 3:33 to find your peers. 3:37 And again, we took conscious decisions around the event. 3:38 We had the community that made that happen. 3:41 So keeping the content really, really short and focused. 3:43 Three seven minute talks. 3:45 But a lot more time for socializing. 3:47 Making sure that there was always an activity. 3:49 Whether it was bowling at the start, or 3:50 we've had [LAUGH], we've had random competitions with finger puppets. 3:52 Ask me about it some other time. 3:55 But make sure there's something that you can do that can engage us. 3:56 Because I know people get uncomfortable and 3:58 they want to focus on something that's not just trying to network. 4:00 We also do maybe slightly creepy things. 4:03 I don't know. For example, there's all this area for 4:06 the socializing. 4:08 We always make the area slightly too small for the amount of people there to 4:08 force people to bump elbows, to be a little bit in each other's space to talk. 4:11 You can't hide in the corner. 4:14 We make sure that when people enter the actual venue space itself, 4:16 they can't sit down. 4:19 We rope off the chairs. 4:19 So you can't just go and sit and be on your phone. 4:21 You gotta go socialize with the other people. 4:22 And we make sure there are friendly people around the event to make that happen. 4:24 You've also got to take diversity seriously and 4:29 I also think there's an entire talk in this and this would take a little more 4:31 consideration and time than I have now, but I didn't wanna build a community that 4:34 was a bunch of dudes hanging out, that Mr. Binger referred to as a sausage fest. 4:39 That's not what I was looking to do. 4:44 And after our second event we had a bit of a problem. 4:45 We'd had two events, we'd had six male speakers and no female speakers. 4:48 And I think that if you're gonna take diversity seriously you've gotta put your 4:51 money where your mouth is or make it cost something to you to not take it seriously. 4:54 So I stood up at the start of the third event and 4:58 basically just laid down a challenge for our community. 4:59 If we don't have female speakers and a better gender representation in this 5:01 event, there will be no more events I don't have the network to do it. 5:05 I don't know a lot of female speakers. 5:08 At that point, I didn't know many speakers at all. 5:10 And I said, look, you gotta help me. 5:11 And amazingly tweets start to fly, emails start to fly, and the next event we had 5:13 two fantastic female speakers who then led to getting other female speakers, and 5:16 also led to a very noticeable shift in demographics of the event. 5:20 The event attendees are about 6,535 male and female which is pretty amazing for 5:23 a tech design event, I think, or from the ones I've been to. 5:27 And we took it seriously. 5:30 We put the event itself, and the community itself, on the line. 5:31 And said, we're not gonna build this community. 5:34 We're not gonna be a part of it unless it's the kind of community we wanna be in. 5:35 And then, I think something I realized very early on, I was really hesitant about 5:38 kind of putting myself forward at the events in the early days. 5:42 Cuz I felt that was a bit weird, being up on stage and 5:45 being the guy people are looking at. 5:47 But communities need organizers, 5:49 there's a reason why the phrase community organizer exists. 5:50 They do need them, but they don't have owners. 5:53 I like the phrase to be organised or 5:55 maybe else, but when we interact some clients with sponsors or 5:58 speakers or recruiters, particularly, they just don't seem to get it. 6:02 They talk about leveraging and monetizing and taking advantage of your position. 6:05 It's like, dude, you're fundamentally not getting this. 6:09 Being a community organiser is a trusteeship. 6:11 You're doing it for the good of other people. 6:13 And yeah, there's probably that like 20% of people who will put that 6:15 effort in to do it. 6:18 But you shouldn't be doing it, I don't think, for financial gain or 6:18 personal gain. 6:21 You should be doing it for enrichment of others and yourself. 6:22 And it's incredibly enriching to build a community and see it flourish, 6:24 but you don't own it when you build it. 6:26 And these are really, really short talks and there's so 6:29 much I could talk about design and banter. 6:31 [LAUGH] When I try to explain my talk to Chris at dinner on Wednesday, 6:33 it took me 30 minutes to spin the talk which freaked me out, so I viciously, 6:37 viciously got into it. 6:42 But just two things I want to say to finish. 6:43 One is an assertion and one is a suggestion. 6:46 The assertion is that the good guys give back. 6:49 And what I mean by this is, if you're a company, if you're a creative director or 6:51 an art director or head designer at some company and you employ designers, 6:55 I think you have a responsibility to give back to the community. 6:58 And I think the caveat there is it's responsibility to give back without 7:02 wanting an immediate monetary gain. 7:05 You shouldn't just go and give back when you wanna hire someone. 7:07 You need to nurture and support the community all the time. 7:10 Cuz that's how, well, to me, yeah, you might get better staff and 7:13 you might get a better design team. 7:15 But I think there's a fundamental responsibility for you do to that. 7:17 And my suggestion is be an organiser. 7:20 I was freaked out initially before I started running that this would be really, 7:23 really hard and really complicated, and I wouldn't be able to do it. 7:26 And I make the analogy that it's kinda like push-starting a car. 7:30 At the start, there is a lot of grunting and swearing and hard work, and then at 7:32 a certain point, it's getting a bit easier, and at a certain point, somebody 7:35 puts their foot on the accelerator, and it's taking off, and you're chasing it. 7:38 But in those initial few weeks or 7:41 few months of that organization are hard but they're not impossible. 7:43 It's doable. 7:46 It's incredibly enriching, and 7:47 I hope that some people will go back to wherever they come from this weekend and 7:48 think about starting something real and tangible in their own areas. 7:51 If you want some help with that, this is my Twitter handle. 7:55 I'm happy to share anything at DESIGN-BANTER. 7:57 I'd love to see more things like it across the world. 7:59 Thank you for listening. 8:02 >> [APPLAUSE] 8:02
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