The Brief:

Designers learn best by working with other designers. However, modern team sizes mean that virtually all startups can only afford to hire a single designer and an entire generation of designers is emerging that has never had that experience. I wanted to create an organization that would increase the proficiency and productivity of designers by providing them with a chance to do the kind of collaborative design work one might find in a studio based environment.

The Problem:

From the start, I wanted the Product Design Guild to be an organization that great designers would want to participate in. Great designers, by their very nature, are busy people so, as well intentioned as they may be, lower priority commitments inevitably get bumped. I thought that the only reliable way to convince busy people to come was if coming would save them time over not coming. That is, spending an hour designing at the Product Design Guild would be more productive than spending an hour designing alone.

The Solution:

The Product Design Guild holds meetings once every two weeks in the Bay Area and once every month in New York. Each meeting lasts for 6 hours on a weekend with lunch and space provided by a different sponsor every week. Each meeting starts with introductions consisting of:

  • Your name
  • Your project
  • What you’re really good at
  • What you need help with

After the introductions and lunch, meetings are left deliberately unstructured and members self-organize in order to work most effectively.

Membership to the Product Design Guild is open to experienced designers only and I personally vet every single application for the Bay Area. During the meetings, we have three rules:

  • You need to bring work
  • Be intensely helpful
  • People are trusting you, don’t be a dick

From the beginning, the Product Design Guild was deliberately structured to set itself apart from other meetups in a number of distinctive ways, all towards the aim of being a more productive space than solo design:

  • Effective design collaboration requires understanding and trust. By pre-vetting our members, any designer can start working with any other designer and know that their suggestions come from a place of expertise and experience. This allows for groups to form and disband fluidly and rapidly.
  • Our rules set up an expectation of helpfulness and productivity that affects the conversational tone. Because one of the shared requirements is that everyone has to bring work, conversations are started around the project.
  • Each meeting is 6 hours long which allows for designers to fully explore the depth and nuance of a design problem. The timeframe naturally affords in depth exploration.
  • Setting each meeting at a different company allows designers to be exposed to multiple design cultures.
  • During each meeting, I am constantly figuring out who should meet who, trying to maximize the utility of having lots of smart designers being in the same room as you.

These deliberate design decisions have resulted in the steady, high quality growth of Guild membership and transformative experiences for those who attend.

My contribution:

  • I founded the Product Design Guild
  • I run the meetings for the San Francisco Chapter, including finding sponsors for every meeting
  • I am responsible for all marketing & promotion.
  • I lead the creation of the South Bay and New York chapters by finding appropriate local leaders, mentoring & communicating the values of the guild and providing assistance and guidance
  • I vet all memberships for the Bay Area
  • I moderate the private Facebook Group

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