Building A Design Community In Africa

Blessing Orie

Blessing Orie

Mar 30, 2022 0 MIN READ

Being a designer is super fun. Using the power of your mind to come up with beautiful designs can leave you feeling awestruck at what you can produce. Now imagine if you had a group of persons with similar interests to yours who can give you more ideas on how to create more goodness. Yup. We’re talking about a design community. 

A design community is a place where a bunch of designers comes together to discuss design, ask for input, encourage one another and arrange meetups. In a design community, you are free to access a wealth of information and it feels quite different from having to learn on your own with no guides. Are you someone who has a passion for design and would like to have a community but doesn’t know how to begin? Or you may have started building your own design community but you feel lost? Not to worry, this article will walk you through the processes you should take to build a successful design community

Benefits of Being in A Design Community

First off, let’s set some things straight. Why should anyone join a community? Why should someone even build one? If there were no benefits, no one would talk about communities. In this case, there are numerous benefits that come with being part of a design community. You already saw a few. Now let’s dive deeper.

It Gives Publicity to Your Works

Being part of a community lets you show your work to various persons who can appreciate what you’ve done. Many designers started out being shy to show their works out there but having a community of supportive individuals does a lot for their confidence. In no time, they get comfortable with letting the world see what they’ve been up to. Many many people have also gotten their first gigs through a design community. You never can tell who is going to be absolutely smitten by your work and think you’re the right fit for a job.

Learn from Each Other

It’s a great feeling meeting people who do the same thing you do. They understand your pain points because they’ve probably gone through them too. A community presents you with a wealth of knowledge in the form of human beings. Experience, they say, is the best teacher. Same goes for design. You don’t actually have to go through some tough design problem before finally getting the hang of it. Those who have experienced such before you can easily guide you through. You also have the opportunity to share your knowledge as well because community is about giving back even as you take. 

Meet Experts

As mentioned earlier, a community is a place where various designers come together. Do not be surprised to have a few notable designers in your community. How cool is that? Pretty cool right? Thes top designer guys are approachable too. They’re enthusiastic to help out with solutions to tough problems. Don’t hold back from asking questions when you see such persons in your community. Feel free to pick at their brains. Respectfully though.

Opportunities to Collaborate and Solve Bigger Problems

To be part of a community is awesome. Want to know what feels even better? Solving problems together! It is exhilarating to know that you are part of something bigger than yourself and as a team, you achieved something worthwhile. There are competitions online that designers can be a part of but as a team. These are good opportunities for your community to jump in and make a difference in the design space.

Improve Your Portfolio

Many people will simply not do what they know has to be done unless someone pushes them. Maybe you’re one of those whose portfolio is as skinny as nothing, joining a community will be more than good for you and your portfolio. Communities challenge members to be better and improve themselves. This is true also for a design community. Members are encouraged to create more personal works that will build their portfolios. Besides, seeing what others are doing to improve their portfolio will give you the boost to do the same. In the end, you’ll be grateful for letting the positive energy flow through you.

Inspiration to Improve by Watching Others

As you improve your portfolio, you generally improve yourself. Watching others who are better than you in the design space, will give your morale a boost too to be better. By aspiring to be like them, you’ll work harder because a feeling of accountability has been generated already. A design community is a safe place where you can talk about your weakness and frustration points in design. You’ll be encouraged and pushed to try new things. Your community gives your confidence a boost and when you feel that you’re stuck and not getting it right, remember that you have a family who’ll be more than willing to get you back up. 

Learn New Things

As stated before, being part of a community feels different from learning on your own through tutorials, blog posts or books. None of those come close to having a conversation or getting advice from people with experience. You’ll be surprised how much more you’ll learn from your community. Being open to other people’s ideas makes you grow faster too. You can find mentors who will be interested in your growth.

How to Create A Design Community

Now you’ve learned about the benefits of having a community and being a part of one. You’ve seen more reasons to go ahead and create one. Below we’ve outlined important factors to building a design community

Find People with Like Minds

The world is a pretty big place, you know. The fact that you saw the need to create a design community means that you’re not the only one who sees the need for it. You only have to search the right places to find people who share the same values as you. First, start with your friends, and people you know. Share the word by mouth to get your first members. Getting your first members should be done with care as these ones will lay the foundation for incoming members. How the tone is set from the beginning will go a long way to influencing how your community will be. Get passionate people who will see the community as theirs and will be willing to put the effort in to see it grow.

Make Your Community Accessible

Opening a closed group of designers isn’t the best. Make it open for people anywhere in the world to join. Let it be known that this is what you’re doing. You’ll only be limiting the growth of your community if you make it only accessible to a particular sort of people. This doesn’t translate to accepting every single person in. But do avoid racism and the sort.

Give Out Value

Let people know that joining your community is good for them because of what they'll be gaining. It should look attractive to outsiders. Persons will join your community when they know you have something reasonable to offer. Members will not hesitate to leave your community if they don’t get anything useful from you. 

Have Good Communication Skills

By creating a community, you’re the leader by default and good communication skill is a very important leadership trait. You’ll be leading people and talking is how you’ll do this. Handling people is a sensitive duty and the way you communicate with them will either improve relationships or ruin them. The way you welcome new members should be warm and friendly. Communicate with members on a regular basis. You should not distance yourself from group discussions. Talking is how your family gets to know you.

Be Encouraging and Enthusiastic

So you're the leader of your community which means you basically drive it. It'll depend on you a whole lot on how your community will be. The vibe your members get from you is the same vibe they're most likely to give you too. Don't be a dull and boring leader. Be enthusiastic! Enthusiasm can be contagious. Spread it to them. The more you feel about something, the more you'll talk about it. Your members need to feel that you're totally into the community. On the part of being encouraging, there are some members who may not be doing so well in engagement or contributing, it is your responsibility to motivate them to come out of their shells. 

Build a Team

Being a leader doesn't mean you'll do everything in the community yourself. Not quite. You need a team to share responsibilities with. Sharing power is necessary to have a healthy community. Giving responsibilities to other persons makes them more committed to the community and you'll see these ones put in more work for the community. To set up your team, look out for those who contribute the most to the community either by answering questions, asking questions, engaging others or giving their time. Having a good team can bring relief to you when you start feeling that there is simply too much for you to handle. 

Set up a Structure

How do you want your community to run? How often will you meet online and in-person? Have a plan to follow daily, weekly or monthly. This helps everything run smoothly and will make you look very prepared. Without a proper structure, your members can feel that things aren’t going alright and you won’t be taken seriously. There are tools you should consider using to make your community run more successfully like Slack, Discord, Telegram, Whatsapp and others.

Partner with Companies

As your community grows, you'll see you need funds to carry out some projects. These funds may not be readily available and this is one reason why you need partners. They help to shoulder burdens like these among others. Approach companies you want to partner with. Have a detailed description of what your community is about and what the company will benefit from patterning with you. 

How to Sustain A Design Community

Now, you've successfully built a community. To begin a journey as this may seem tough. However, it is even tougher to keep the interest of members. Many communities have been built only to die off in a short while. What are the things you need to do to ensure your community thrives and continues thriving? You don't relax for once after building your community. You continue working and working if you want to see it get to where you want. Let's see some tips to follow to sustain your community.

Create and Share Value

No doubt before you join a group anywhere, you've probably thought of what you'll gain by being a member. That's how it'll be for anyone who wants to join your community. They'll look at what you're offering, and what they stand to gain by joining your community. What made them join your community in the first place? Don't quit giving it to them, and more. Continue making them see why being a part of your community is one of the best decisions they ever made. Conduct beneficial sessions and give challenges regularly. Don't stop creating and sharing value. A plus side to giving out value is that people would want to give back to the community. And when this starts happening, you can pat yourself on the shoulder because you’re doing something good.

Make it Inclusive

Accommodate other design aspects that are not in your niche. UI/UX or a product designer can also be in your community if you were a graphic designer. There are insights you can get from them and once in a while, you may need their help in a project you’re working on. Since they’re in your community, you don’t need to look far when such a situation arises.

Have Retrospective Sessions

Retrospective sessions should be regular. It could be weekly, monthly or quarterly so you see how far you’ve come. These sessions should be between your team members and the whole community. While you and your team are constantly looking for ways to make the community better, getting input from the whole house can be beneficial too. Google Forms can be shared to gather ideas on what the community needs to grow, pain points can be shared, how their experience with the community has been and polls can be conducted. Accommodating their observations will create a sense of appreciation for your members because they’ll feel valued.

Put your Members in the Spotlight

Putting your members in the spotlight will make them feel that they matter. Celebrate their achievements and let them know you’re proud of what they’re doing personally and for the community. When you do this, you create opportunities for them to grow in their career.

Give Responsibilities

Yes, you have a team in place with their duties to carry out. Nevertheless, you can assign little tasks to non-team members. The tasks can be rotated so all members feel included.

Finally, being a community leader is a journey that doesn’t have an end. You’ll learn a lot, make mistakes, have trying times, and feel like giving up. Don’t though. The good times you’ve had should keep you going. Be patient, offer the right value, learn from your mistakes, and always have a backup plan. Having a community is a fun experience and with dedication, your community will blossom and continue to thrive.

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