Design Dinner Conversations

For the past year, I’ve been organizing dinners for working designers to get together and share our experiences.

The goal is to create a space where we can have deeper conversations that might not happen at work, at meetups, or conferences.

It’s a group of friends-of-friends that are all working designers. It happens once a month, and we have a rotating host each time.

What I’ve learned

  • It’s very rewarding to create a time and place for people to gather and support each other.
  • I’m encouraged to continue organizing when so many have offered to host a dinner and refer their friends to events.
  • There are so many designers in NYC that I haven’t met. I’m not sure there’s a better way to make connections.
  • I’ve never thought of myself as an event organizer, but that’s what I’ve been doing for the past year.
  • The hardest part of gathering people in NYC is finding an event space.
  • There are certain activities and event formats that help facilitate more conversations. There’s a sweet spot of how structured an event can be for people to meet others and enjoy a flow of conversations.

A different place for converations

These dinners feel very different from a meetup or a conference. During the first couple of dinners I co-organized with Linda Joy, we had the intention to make them different enough to create a place for conversations that we were interested in having with others. By organizing and experiencing the dinners, I started to see how these differences manifested themselves.

  • Different from a meetup because everyone is a friend of a friend
    • You get to hear and meet a lot of speakers at meetups, but you don’t really get to know the audience.
    • A meetup feels like a public space, so it’s not clear who can support you or vice versa.
  • Different from a conference in size of event and pace of conversations
    • Similar to a meetup, it’s a public space.
    • There are so many people at conferences and the event only happens once a year, so you might optimize for the number of connections instead of depth of each connection.

What’s Next

  • I’d like to experiment with additional event types and segment of designers. One of the event types is for design managers, and another one for new designers. If you would like to be a part of one, or help organize it in May, June, or July, please send me a message, I’d like to see who else is interested.
  • I’m inspired by two other interesting places of conversations

These dinners feel like another way to ask:

How do we build support structures to completement the one you have at work?

How do you take some of the best parts of going through a formal education program and extend it after you graduate?